FIA caught up with Will Gilroy, Director of Communications for the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA), earlier this month at WFA’s new Singapore office. Mr Gilroy talked about why WFA is establishing an on-the-ground presence in Singapore and highlighted some of WFA’s key priorities in the region.

FIA: Why has WFA established an office in Singapore?
As with most other industries, the global agenda in advertising is shifting towards Asia. 30 years ago, 55 per cent of the world’s advertising spend occurred in the USA while today, this is less than 35 per cent. Not only are we seeing multi-national companies assign greater portions of their global marketing budgets to the region, we are also seeing local Asian brands become household names.

In the decade leading up to 2020, an additional 330 million families in South East Asia will have moved into the middle class. This emerging affluence drives consumption, so these are our customers of the future. In line with this trend, many of our members are looking towards Asia as a source of growth and it is critical that their interests are properly represented. At the same time, we are seeing the emergence of new Asian brands on the global stage and it’s important that WFA is able to support these brands in the Asia-Pacific region.

Asia-Pacific is a fast-growing frontier for advertising and, as such, it is critical that WFA has a strong foot-hold in the region.

FIA: What are some of the priorities for WFA in Asia-Pacific?
Protecting the industry’s license to operate and supporting best practice advertising self regulation is a clear priority for WFA. Here in Asia, there is less of a tradition of self regulation and a stronger sense of Government influence in advertising and branding practices. WFA helps facilitate dialogue on self-regulation best practice among our members, countries, regulators and the wider industry to help encourage the adoption of these industry best practices across markets to create a media landscape that is conducive to economic growth.

We also have 11 National Advertisers’ Association Members in the Asia Pacific region, who we work with closely to strengthen best practice in their respective countries and provide better support their members.

FIA: What are some of the developments in advertising self regulation in the region?
If we look specifically at the food and beverage industry, 51 markets around the world have now adopted food marketing Pledges. These commitments currently cover more than 3 billion consumers around the world. The most recent of these commitments are at our doorstep and the industry is working hard to develop local Pledges that include local players in other markets across the region.

Globally, we have also seen the move to common nutrient criteria in two regions – the US and the EU – as well as the extension of food and beverage marketing commitments in the online space. While only a small percentage of total food and beverage marketing budgets are spent online, there is growing scrutiny of online marketing practices in line with consumer and parental sensitivities within the digital environment. IFBA’s global commitments, and many of the Responsible Advertising to Children Pledges around the world, now cover both third-party online advertising and company-owned websites. However, devising an all-encompassing methodology for monitoring performance in relation to online advertising is complex, and is still being developed.

FIA: So how is WFA tackling the increased focus on digital marketing?
Consumers can be skeptical about marketers’ motives – particularly in the online space – and, as brands increasingly look to online forums to tell their story, it is critical that they are in sync with what consumers want and expect. WFA has recently carried out research into consumers’ attitudes and expectations for digital marketing and developed a number of insights to help facilitate an ongoing open discussion between consumers and brands. The outcomes of this work can be found on: