Globalisation is everywhere. The Listening Bank is globalising
itself into a set of initials. Heinz is planning to wow us with a global
ketchup campaign and Pepsi is pregnant with a campaign from Paris.
There’s only one problem. Most global campaigns are terrible. And if it
is true, as reported, that the HSBC campaign urges customers to ’live,
eat and breathe the hexagon,’ I’m not holding my breath to see if the
bank will shatter my theory.
But the urge for companies to grow, and for growing companies to want to
build global brands, is unstoppable. So what should globalisers do about
The first thing they should note is that many global brands use local
advertising and use it well. McDonalds and Volkswagen have been singled
out for lavish praise by Campaign for their idiosyncratic English
advertising over the past year. And both are doing well in the
The second thing to note is that agencies are only too happy to mimic a
client’s power structure in offering around-the-world service, but this
is rarely a good structure for producing brilliant advertising.
Big agencies parade their local successes and hide their international
campaigns from awards juries. Even brilliant agencies like Rainey Kelly
Campbell Roalfe have been known to do indifferent advertising in
response to an international brief.
Global advertising also usually takes an unconscionable time
The same DMB&B that has just won Blackthorn cider, in competition with
some of London’s best agencies, has spent 18 months not producing an
answer to an international brief for a drink brand we used to handle
Of course, brilliant advertising ideas, like the Budweiser frogs, can
jump borders with ease. But if you appoint an international committee to
brief an agency, the chances are it will produce a brief without a
solution, sapped by compromise.
So if you want to go global, start local. Find a really talented team
somewhere in the world that genuinely likes working with each other.
Keep the objectives of the brief simple and the requirements for
advertising content minimal. When you have the big idea, unless you own
the company, you’ll need the cunning of Machiavelli and the subtlety of
Stalin to see it through.
Managers like the idea of global campaigns because they want cost
savings and consistency. But a cheap campaign that doesn’t work is as
useful as a cheap pair of shoes that don’t fit. And uniformity has no
value in itself. A computer company boasted recently that it was running
the same campaign in 47 countries and 30 languages. Unfortunately, it
wasn’t saying anything worth hearing in any of them.
Advertising, like all good selling, needs to relate to its audience. If
you wouldn’t consider globalising your sales force, why globalise your
Stay close to your consumers. Let your marketers do their marketing and
ensure they are aware of the best advertising that your company and your
competitors are producing. The chances are it won’t be ’global’.