Global Advertising: The New Globalisation

Globalisation's public image has taken a battering. It's time for a deserved rebrand, Charlie Robertson argues.

Globalisation needs a make-over and repositioning. It should go back to its roots, when pioneers with ideas, ambition and a thirst for the world stage developed awesome businesses. Indeed, globalisation has forgotten its heroes.

Among the forgotten is Tommy Dewar. In 1892, he conducted a world tour, recruiting 32 agents in 26 countries. His idea? To export whisky.

The spirit of capitalist motivation on a supranational scale that he embodied lies at the core of globalisation. Yet it is labelled "entrepreneurialism", which is deemed a good thing. The naysayers have shanghaied globalisation's positioning, making it a pejorative term.

Globalisation conjures up images of a lumbering menace, a creeping, invisible scourge in our lives and an environmental blight. Indian call-centres invade your privacy. Somehow, American investment brokers know where you live. Such practices make globalisation easy meat for the anti brigade.

Witness this online exhortation: "Globalisation must be stopped," a certain Mary Jane I found on the web says. "If economic globalisation occurs, then cultural, political and technological globalisation will follow.

What religion will we all have to be in? What political system do we have to be under? What about those people who are uneducated or not very educated, with little knowledge of technology? If everything were to become globalised, there would be no individualism, no identity and no nationalism. There would be no you! Globalisation must be stopped."

What irony. This individual has the opportunity for a world forum courtesy of the internet, made available at home by giant telecoms companies, and I doubt she is using a home-knitted computer. It's a comfortable place to be - a home globalist with no sense of responsibility for one's own participation in globalisation. In the same online manifesto, she declares the undisputable truth that "globalisation is an undeniably capitalist process".

I think Mary Jane's beef is a fear that corporatism may be running the world. Its leaders are portrayed as fat cats, exploitative mill-owners with modern day jiggery-pokery accountancy - Enronisation. Globalisation has become synonymous with "faceless giant corporatism".

Instead of viewing ourselves as unwilling victims oppressed by the giant beast, could we re-position globalisation? Perceive it as opening up the world for talented individuals, enlarging market opportunities. The "world" is seen as a wholly good label. They sing "feed the world" at Christmas time, not "fe-ee-ed the glo-oh-obe". "Worldisation" is good. The creeping invisible scourge becomes the facilitation of communication across boundaries.

Little companies can beat big companies by international networking. People would view globalisation as the way entrepreneurialism flourishes. It wouldn't take Tommy two years nowadays. And global business means governments collaborate.

The G8 summit of world leaders meets in July at Gleneagles, turning the land of golf and whisky into the reactor chamber from which the media will present to the world images of what happens when proponents and opponents of globalisation interact.

The activist group G8 Alternatives has applied to the local council to conduct a peaceful protest march. Relieving poverty in Africa will be a key theme of the summit. Tony Blair's Commission for Africa recently published its blueprint for helping the continent. Gill Hubbard, the march organiser, says: "The whole purpose of us demonstrating is to show the G8 that we are opposed to their failure to solve some of the world's most serious problems ... we definitely want them to hear us." Where's the discord?

Is anti-globalisation a witch-hunt in a blame culture? Each of us has to look in the mirror to wonder how we fuel global markets and how they benefit us before we start marching in protest. Where will the money come from to begin to solve African ills? The first place to look is the globalised corporations. The trust funds of those made wealthy from world trade follow.

They say money talks, yet it needs a foghorn. There are plenty of brains trying to solve African problems - a raft of initiatives merit recognition.

Yet we do not hear much about the works of giant corporations such as Unilever tackling high child mortality in India by improving basic hygiene.

Wealth creation has a long history of creating philanthropy. Andrew Carnegie rose from humble beginnings to become the richest man in the world.

He operated supranationally, often running his US steel company from Scotland via transatlantic tele-grams. But he spread the wealth around, giving away 90 per cent of his fortune to mostly educational causes, offering the Philippines $20 million to buy their independence. He also furnished public libraries around the globe with busts of Robert Burns,who penned the world's New Year's anthem, Auld Lang Syne.

Social-commercial mutually beneficial strategies will increase. J&J was successful recently in promoting its relationship with nurses. A promotional film in praise of them was given away free to be aired on US TV networks.

It raised morale and recruitment.

Ideas, ambition and a thirst for the world stage are not the preserve of those engaged in pursuit of profit. Tenth-birthday congratulations to the British Airways/Unicef Change for Good initiative. Global clout commands respect when you hear how Unicef can persuade governments to hold a ceasefire to withdraw children from the line of fire. The tsunami relief appeal shows global reach in the face of tragedy - individuals around the globe put their hands in their pockets to help. Long-term problems need different resourcing. Global organisations are required.

It's easy to position globalisation as the devilish exploitation of cheap labour. Rectifying economic imbalances will come with a cost. The prices of goods and services will reflect this.

Paul Walsh, the chairman of Diageo, recently prophesised that in 20 years' time, the Chinese will be eating our lunch. But they'll still be drinking his whisky - a fitting tribute to Dewar, who commissioned the first advertising film for whisky in 1898. May his maxim come back to haunt you ... "Advertise or fossilise!"

- Charlie Robertson is the chief strategic officer of Red Cell.

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