What conclusions are to be drawn from the news that two of the
world's most famous brands, Nestle and Adidas, are overhauling their
global ad arrangements?
For Nestle, it's a case of simplifying and better co-ordinating the
activities of its five global networks.
Adidas, meanwhile, is eager to get a global network on board to bring
greater cohesion to its message. Both companies insist their aim is for
better, rather than cheaper, advertising. And, while there's no good
reason to doubt their intentions, Nestle, Adidas and their global peers
have never been under greater pressure to be leaner and fitter and keep
an eye on every penny spent.
Nor has there ever been such an overwhelming need for them to
sensitively and consistently convey what they stand for in a world where
cultures are polarising, but where the backlash against brands grows
ever stronger. The fundamental cost structures must be right.
Agency networks bridle at any rationalisation by big clients, believing
that it rarely works to their advantage. Certainly, the Adidas lead
creative agencies, Leagas Delaney and Amsterdam's 180, will worry that
working with an international network is tantamount to a cuckoo into the
nest. Given the creative track records of both agencies, any fears are
probably groundless and insignificant beside the overwhelming need for
Adidas to achieve greater international coherence.
For all the talk that what Nestle and Adidas are doing isn't about
cost-saving, their actions reflect the widespread concern among clients.
Never has the bottom line been more important, with a consumer-based
recession on the horizon and brands increasingly seen as the symbols of
malevolent corporate globalism.
This creates profound problems for multinationals, but also for
advertising in general, which may come under renewed attack for imposing
uniform tastes, undermining dietary health and creating social
Agencies will have to swallow some unpalatable medicine. As James Best,
the BMP DDB group chairman, told an International Advertising
Association gathering: "If clients can reduce marketing expenditure
without any apparent reduced performance from their brands, then they
will and they are right to."
Prolonged ad silences may become the norm and brands could become
irreparably damaged without their owners noticing. Nestle and Adidas,
with their long commitment to advertising, will not fall into this trap.
Others, though, may deceive themselves that they can do without
advertising and it's under their windows that the ad industry must bang
its drum most loudly.