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Chris Combemale, Chief executive officer, DMA Group

Path to power

 

I am currently the CEO of the DMA Group, comprising the DMA, IDM and TPSL companies. The DMA Group represents brands, agencies, marketing services and technology companies who use data to create trusted long-term brand relationships. I am also the co-chair of Fedma, the chair of Jicmail, and a board director of the Advertising Association, Asbof and CAP.
My career has spanned agency, brand and technology companies starting with Young & Rubicam in New York in 1982. My 12 years at Y&R included five years in Asia from 1989, initially as regional account director for DY&R and then as GM of Wunderman Hong Kong, before founding the Wunderman office in Singapore in 1992. 
I moved to London in 1994 as European media and sourcing director for Franklin Mint before creating my own on-line catalogue company (Living Heritage) in 1998. As global COO and UK managing director of Emailvision (now SmartFocus) from 2009, I helped create one of Europe’s most successful first-generation marketing technology companies. 
During this period, I helped found the Email Marketing Association and led the merger of EMMA with the DMA. Subsequently, I chaired the DMA email council for nine years and joined the DMA board.

 

What has been the highlight of your career in the industry to date?

 

My leadership of the DMA Group has transformed the organisation. Significant achievements include the successful merger with the IDM, creating a customer-centric Code of Practice, and modernisation of every aspect of content, including events, awards, research, PR and advocacy. The DMA’s robust advocacy on the text of GDPR resulted in significant success, with direct marketing recognised as a legitimate interest in recital 47, protecting many business models and jobs. The DMA is leading again in advocacy on ePrivacy and Brexit to ensure free flow of data across Europe is maintained.

 

If you could give your younger self some advice about how to progress in this industry, what would it be?

 

Embrace technology and data.The year was defined in two halves. The first half was about helping the industry to prepare for GDPR with a wide range of guidance and training. The second half was focused on helping the industry to navigate the uncertainties caused by Brexit. These two significant challenges for the data and marketing industry have taken place alongside the increasingly rapid evolution of technology, not just for marketing, but for every aspect of business and personal life. One of the leading challenges across the economy will be finding the right balance between innovation and privacy, a central strategic conversation that is playing out in the media, in boardrooms and with legislators.

 

What do you expect 2019 to be like for the industry?

 

2019 will be another year of major transformation and disruption. UK companies will be challenged by Brexit, ePrivacy, technology transformation, and maturing of markets such as programmatic advertising. The leading discussion will continue to be how to get the balance right between innovation and privacy under the frameworks of GDPR, while continuing to deliver customer-focused marketing and experiences. The DMA understands this shifting landscape and will equip our industry with the knowledge to stay ahead of the curve through specific DMA guides, webinars and events, as well as a full range of IDM training courses, both online and face-to-face. Our advocacy and PR will continue to give our industry a leading voice with legislators, regulators and the media.

 

Talent and skills are always a challenge to find - how are you tackling this in your organisation?

 

Talent and skills are a core strategic responsibility of a trade association. Through DMA Talent we engage with thousands of students pre-career to inspire them to join the industry. Key programmes spanning strategy, creative and data include Creative Data Academy, Summer School, Big Book Crit, Fresh Blood, Mentoring and the Graham Robertson Trust breakthrough award. Our training Institute has garnered a world-renowned reputation for excellence by teaching customer-focused courses that evolve as the sector does, led by industry professionals at the top of their game. We drive the industry forward by empowering individuals and teams with the confidence, expertise and globally-recognised qualifications to advance their careers and shape the future of their businesses.

 

What aspect of data, analytics or their use are you most optimistic about and why?

 

The continued evolution of powerful cloud-based technology combined with quality data will empower every company, large or small, to become intelligent marketers. The democratisation of subscription-based technology enables small companies to have access to the same tools as large ones, leading to greater innovation and better customer experience across the economy.Business and professional services inc. recruitment
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