A couple of years later, it abandoned Hollywood and returned to Interpublic for more global ads. Then, in came a
new chief executive, Doug Daft, who pronounced that, henceforth, Coke was to adopt local sensitivities in its advertising -- a move that led to a rash of local agency appointments. And now, as new roster appointments suggest, we seem to be back at square one. Confused? Who isn't.
And so to Coke's tie-up with Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, next month's surefire Hollywood blockbuster. The curious thing about all this global/
local strategy debate was that no one ever seemed to mention media in the same breath. It may be less visible, yet media selection, to my way of thinking, is just as important in the context of this debate as advertising strategy. For example, if Coke were to concentrate its ads in programmes such as Friends, ER or Frasier, then I wouldn't think it was being very local. It's like Americans who think that they've "done" England when they've stayed in the Marble Arch Holiday Inn.
At first glance, I confess, I thought Coke's decision to link with Harry Potter was another example of old-fashioned globalism applied to media. You could see why it went for it. It was Hollywood, it was hot, it was youth-orientated and it was global. Global media properties, soccer apart, are few and far between.
But don't be fooled by the headlines and the win-a-walk-on-part-in-the-sequel competitions. As with all sponsorships and tie-ups, the devil is in the detail, by which I mean the local implementation. JK Rowling's great legacy has been to instil the TV-computer games generation with the habit of reading. It is this that has given Coke its sponsorship cue in the form of funding for a schools-based reading scheme, called the Valued Youth Initiative, in which teenagers at the risk of dropping out of full-time education are encouraged to tutor primary school kids. Each participant can choose 25 books, also paid for by Coke, to give to their local school/municipal library and so on, thus thousands of books are pumped into an educational system that desperately needs them. It's neat, worthwhile and totally relevant. Through different schemes in other countries, it also works on a local-global level.
It is easy to sneer at Coke and its often clumsy attempts to show local sensitivity. It's easy to believe that a $100m tie-up with Hollywood Harry Potter could be just another example of American cultural
imperialism. The film itself will be the test of that. But it's also a genuine case of adding a local twist to a global media property. And Coke should get credit for that.
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