Europe should start selling itself better to its citizens

There's no doubt Europe has an image problem, and nowhere more so than within its own walls. Time for bold words, Moray MacLennan says.

Moray MacLennan is the worldwide chief executive of M&C Saatchi
Moray MacLennan is the worldwide chief executive of M&C Saatchi

There is a perception that Europe has been consigned to the rubbish heap. If we don't act soon, perception will become reality.

In the next two years of my EACA presidency, I will focus on increasing the quality and volume of talent coming into our industry, and the profile and standing of the creative industries across Europe. They hold the key to our emergence from the gloom.

But there is a more urgent task. "The Decline and Fall of Europe," reads the front page of Time magazine. The press presents differing versions of Europe's dire economic status, but the apparent fate is consistent: oblivion.

It is now accepted by economists, governments, companies and even the general public that it is over for the West. The future belongs to Asia, a bit of Latin America, and perhaps Russia. Europe has neither the demographics nor the natural resources. Worse, we don't even have the stomach for the fight - it's not just facts and figures that are against us, but also the lack of self-belief. Energy and optimism are palpable in Shanghai, Mumbai and Sao Paulo, while in Europe we are tired and resigned.

Meanwhile, our politicians are understandably busy walking the tightrope of fiscal prudence, while juggling a melting euro and social unrest. An inspirational long-term vision almost seems inappropriate, but that is what is required. A clear vision for the future, based on insight, which inspires and engages. Sound familiar? This is where we as an industry can contribute - it's what we do.

The dean of INSEAD, the business school, recently said Europe should market itself just like Coca-Cola. He noted that people from outside Europe are positive about it, in contrast to the negativity from those within it; this, he said, represents a marketing challenge, with the prime audience being internal.

Some of you may be thinking that this is biting off a little bit too much - that it's not possible. I can't subscribe to that. Our mantra is "nothing is impossible", the romantic belief that the world can be changed through sheer will; the conviction that an individual can single-handedly make what seems highly improbable actually happen. Add to that the power of the soundbite as evidenced throughout history. Three words - "liberte, egalite, fraternite" - changed the political and intellectual landscape of Europe by capturing the popular imagination. It took only seven more words to create the spark that drove millions to follow their dreams: "Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

Last month, a report by the World Economic Forum stating that six of the ten most competitive economies are European was largely ignored by the media. INSEAD's latest The Global Innovation Index also gives six places to European countries within its top ten - underlined by the fact that eight of the top ten countries in terms of Nobel prizes won are European, as are nine of the top ten in terms of GDP.

It's a matter of setting the agenda and creating self-belief. This is something we can do.

I will be drawing together interested parties from the media, clients and agencies with a view to provoking a debate, creating the message and getting it out there. Sometime in the spring of 2012 feels about right.

Never waste a good crisis, as they say - and the current one presents us with a unique opportunity. If we don't grasp it, it will be too late and Europe will become nothing more than a tourist destination for the rest of the world, forever looking to its glorious past.

Moray MacLennan is the worldwide chief executive of M&C Saatchi.

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