Does global marketing require a network agency rather than independent shops? The Marketing Society Forum -

Does global marketing require a network agency rather than independent shops? The Marketing Society Forum -

Cross-border marketing presents its own set of cultural and logistical problems, raising the question of whether brands should enlist the services of a network agency or opt for various independents.


What does 'cross border' marketing mean, and why are you doing it? In the right circumstances, for the right international client business, an agency network can be incredibly powerful.

If set up well, and committed to by both local and central client and agency teams, networks can often combine that holy trinity of creative consistency, commercial efficiency and local consumer resonance.

Yet 'cross border' or 'global' hides a multitude of questions - are we talking across geographies, across cultures, across segments, across categories, or all of the above? The purpose of a network should be to support both business and brand ambition.

Having a detailed understanding of what this is before you start is critical. The only non-negotiable in all of this? That the brand has deep cultural traction in its locality - in other words, its place in culture and consumer life is understood. Nothing 'cross border' should get in the way of this, if long term brand equity is the end game.


Cross-border or global marketing - like any marketing - requires brilliant thinking at its heart. The best thinking is based on insights and truths that frequently travel and cross borders.

Small and single location teams can deliver this kind of work. With the communications and knowledge-sharing technology available to agencies, they are not constrained by geography. Systems and tools allow for work streams to be managed and virtual networks to be created without relying on a traditional network structure. This is why you see clients choosing from a suite of options.

It is often, as it should be, the structure that works best for the client that drives the solution. In many cases clients may opt for a more expensive or slower network option because it can lock in against the client's local sales and marketing teams and help create discipline and more consistent delivery.


I have experienced both options as a car client, and from that background, I would have to say that one network doing the grunt work to 'get the work out' is preferred.

Getting marketers from different countries to agree on anything is like herding cats and if you overlay a bunch of different independent agency folks, you more than double the trouble.

I'm not saying that it isn't sometimes difficult with just one client and one network. Getting an idea to resonate across borders, let alone work, can be a nightmare. However, at least with a network situation, there are just two senior people, one on each side, who in the end declare time and adjudicate any disputes.

Marketing teams are very stretched and it is a simple fact that network agency staff are much more likely to collaborate and support each other, without close supervision, than a mixed bag of independents. Mind you, for high capital-cost categories, my answer would be more complex.


A networked agency does not necessarily equal a seamless approach.

For any brand, a lead strategic agency and a strong creative idea is the starting point and I would then look for the best talent in the local markets to execute it.

A local agency is best placed to understand its audience and to express the local cultural interpretation of the brand messaging.

Whether networked or independent, everybody involved needs to work hard at ensuring good two-way communication, led by the client, with full engagement by all.

There is often a case for a specific campaign being created centrally, but it is successful local delivery that will result in a good outcome.

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