CLOSE-UP: NEWSMAKER/CAVE ANHOLT JONASON - Trio in pursuit of good international creative work. Three men want to create global ads that really are credible

'Everyone knows that the biggest growth part of the industry is international advertising. And yet the industry executes these briefs shittily. It's a disgrace,' Marc Cave, a founding partner of the new agency Cave Anholt Jonason, rants. It was set up, he says, to try to inject some much-needed credibility into the world of global campaigns.

'The typical picture of dreadful international advertising is Gillette,' the agency's fellow partner Simon Anholt adds, joining the ever-growing ranks of admen picking on the flying razors. 'It's the classic bland, one-size-fits-all, very American global advertising.' Anholt feels that the success of Gillette is down to its huge media spend and that this could have been considerably cheaper for the company had it had a better quality of advertising to work with. 'On international campaigns, that's when a network seems most pointless. You have 100-plus people in more than 200 offices - and they're not really doing anything most of the time.'

So Cave, the former executive vice-president of the Lowe Group, and Anholt, the chairman of the creative consultancy World Writers, came up with the concept of forming a single-office agency that would provide an alternative supply for the international work. 'We are responding to a real client need,' Cave says.

Well, he would say that, wouldn't he? But then Cave Anholt Jonason is not the first agency pointing to a gap in the international market. Strawberry Frog was set up a year ago in Amsterdam with the same idea of improving previous efforts on global campaigns.

'The process to create global ads has created 'pasturised yogurt',' Strawberry Frog's creative partner, Scott Goodson, says. 'When we started, we set out to create 'fresh yogurt'. Fresh, more rounded, more contemporary advertising.'

'Everybody's favourite ad is always a domestic one,' Anholt says - perhaps letting the recent Budweiser 'whassup?' campaign slip his mind.

'Because it is sharp, because it talks to them. Our aim is to prove that international ads can be as good, if not better than, domestic ads.'

Goodson, however, is quick to point out that the problem with larger agencies is the process rather than the people. 'The most innovative, passionate, creative work has always come out of small, highly focused groups of people,' he says. 'Corporations never create anything. The bureaucracy, the politics, the time, the clutter has all led to advertising which is average.' It has also led, Goodson believes, to a slower reaction time on briefs.

This is where Cave Anholt Jonason and Strawberry Frog have grounded their business proposals. Both agencies say that with a smaller company, turnaround on work will be much faster than the larger networks. Why establish a network of offices around the world, they say, when you can recruit a multi-cultural creative team to work under one roof? Strawberry Frog has 15 cultures represented in its team of 30.

Anholt intends to use the 'cultural mapping skills' that he established at World Writers to ensure that CAJ's work will translate across borders.

'Each culture can be identified according to different axes,' he claims.

'This is a fabulous tool for planning international campaigns. It's a million times more effective than speaking to 1,000 dumb consumers. It tells you the differences between French and German people.'

Sounds reasonable so far. But there are, inevitably, those who question whether the approach of Strawberry Frog and Cave Anholt Jonason is really the right way to improve international ads.

Mike Moran, the commercial director of Toyota GB, has his own misgivings about global campaigns as a whole. 'You get massive corporate disillusion,' he says. 'Economies of scale help companies convince themselves that you can make a universally appealing communication. Most agencies are whores and will say whatever the client wants to hear.'

Although Moran is cynical about international advertising, he seems even more suspicious of the claims put forward for a multi-cultural single office. 'If you are going to produce work that is on the pulse, then you have to be in that country,' he argues. 'Having a network brings the ability to understand the overall brand position, the sort of audience you're trying to reach. I can't see how it would be more beneficial to do that out of one office. There's almost an arrogance in what they are saying. I don't think it's what clients want.'

Trevor Beattie, the creative director of TBWA/London, isn't as damning.

'I wish them well, but they are going to have to have contacts in other countries,' he says. 'It's a taller order than it might first seem.'

Beattie disagrees that international campaigns are necessarily bland and ineffective, and he has a point. TBWA is about to roll out its PlayStation 2 campaign using the same commercial in 20 different countries. And few have described the PlayStation brief as 'shittily executed'. Beattie also cites the success of 'whassup?' as a classic example of highly creative international work.

However, Goodson believes that the advent of Cave Anholt Jonason will further highlight the distinct advantages of a single-office global operation.

'It gives credibility to the idea and helps attract clients that, traditionally, would have given business to a network,' he says.

Martin Jones, the managing director at the AAR, believes Cave Anholt Jonason will cut it as well. 'They will be successful because they are operators in their own right,' he says. 'They have a good reputation and they have an interesting proposition.'

However, Jones leaves the new kids on the block with their fancy ideas of producing better work a sobering thought: 'Although it may sound heretical, work that has been produced is not the reason most clients choose an agency. It's the people and how they get on with them. The work is secondary. Most people don't change agencies because the work is not good.'

Which begs the question: in a global world patrolled by the likes of WPP's Martin Sorrell, will Cave Anholt Jonason have any more chance of securing global accounts than, say, the Boots team at St Luke's?

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