Close-Up: Can global campaigns be effective?

WPP and Ford are backing a global approach but not all clients are convinced.

Blue Hive may sound like an 80s cop movie starring Steven Seagal but, for Sir Martin Sorrell, it's the answer to Ford's global advertising needs.

According to the WPP boss, the offering - which brings Ogilvy & Mather, Mindshare and Wunderman together to exclusively handle the network's Ford of Europe account - not only provides the car company with a more "open and inclusive" way of working but also results in better work.

Sorrell reiterated these comments last week during the launch of a global campaign for the Ford Focus, which focuses on the new model's ability to "park itself".

The campaign is spearheaded by a 20-second TV ad to be run around the world that shows a Focus reversing into a parking space without any assistance from the driver.

Meanwhile, local marketing teams will also be able to select from a range of 50 Focus print and outdoor executions to implement in their market.

"People look at these global approaches and they tend to think it's a question about cost and efficiency. It isn't," Sorrell said. "This is the way that our industry is going to go. This way, the clients will get better work - not cheaper work."

The argument goes that by producing a global campaign with one consistent message (in this case focused specifically on Ford's cutting-edge technology), then it will better resonate with customers and ensure that all forms of communication will tie in specifically with the brand. And with Ford launching a range of cars across all its markets, rather than producing different ones for each region, the company has suggested it feels like this is the time that it is more likely to work.

But it seems that not all clients are convinced that appointing one agency or "team" is the best way to coax out better work. For instance, just days after the Ford campaign was revealed, Dulux, the Akzo Nobel-owned decorating brand, parted company with its incumbent global agency, Euro RSCG, citing a desire to take a more "localised" approach to its marketing.

Inside sources say that Dulux's regional brand managers were uncomfortable at the lack of influence they held when it came to devising a brand strategy, and wanted the power to implement more localised creative campaigns.

"Consumers in different markets around the world vary so greatly in terms of attitudes and culture that it's very rare to be able to devise a creative campaign and strategy that works across all markets," one network creative chief says.

"If it is to work, a brand needs to already be established and have an obvious global consumer. There are some exceptions, but you don't normally find that to be the case."

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CREATIVE - Steve Aldridge, executive creative director, Engine

"If you are in the business of having ideas, you must believe that you will create something original and good, whatever the brief. The rules for creating global work are no different. Have a good idea, believe in it and execute it to the best of your ability.

"There are challenges with global briefs, mainly around the product or service you're selling.

"Some brands are well positioned to create global campaigns and Ford Focus is one of them. The most recent ad is built on a nifty product feature. Sadly, the potential is lost in a pretty staid product demo. It's professional but not engaging.

"The real power and excitement within creating global creative work is the chance to change a brand around the world with one idea, with one roll of the dice."

CREATIVE - Gerry Moira, chairman and director of creativity, Euro RSCG London

"OK, so this Ford work is not going to stop traffic anytime soon but, be honest, what car brand has consistently impressed recently? There are pockets of excellence such as the Peugeot Envy spot and some Audi, but even Volkswagen, that model of devolved executions inspired by a strong central brand idea, has begun to lose its edge (see the recent Passat launch).

"The unstoppable spread of globalisation and the sheer speed of digital communications cannot, like my dear friend Charlie Sheen, 'be processed by a normal brain'. This creative challenge has to be met and there are many examples, especially from youth brands such as Adidas, of outstanding work.

"My own favourite is the original iPod launch. So good, it didn't need a line. Unlike my dear friend Charlie Sheen."

CREATIVE - Tom Ewart, executive creative director, Publicis London

"You can do great work that works on a global scale, but it's all about finding an insight that's relevant all around the world.

"That type of work tends to appeal more to a consumer's emotional side and is arguably slightly more generic.

"I always tell clients that for a global campaign to work, it must have a global narrative but a local story. You can tell the same story and have the same opinion across the globe, but the way you connect that thought to your audience is going to be different in Mexico to how it is in the UK or Scandinavia.

"The global idea mustn't become a straightjacket that you have to try and fit ideas back into. The 'one size fits all' top-down approach doesn't work as it'll rarely fit into all the right cultures."

CREATIVE - Dave Dye, creative partner, Dye Holloway Murray

"It's no harder thinking up ideas that cross borders; it's just harder to sell them to multiple stakeholders.

"Trying to get different regions on the same page is probably where lots of creativity is required. There's always one lot who feel their market has some unusual characteristics, and should therefore be the exception.

"In terms of the work, obviously very simple, visual ads travel well; no bad thing when you're creating an idea for any market.

"The best ideas tend to work globally, anyway, because they are rooted in universal behaviour or insight.

"So I completely agree with Captain Sorrell - global work doesn't have to be bland. I don't think the Ford ad helps my case much, though."