When Sir Martin Sorrell, the group chief executive of WPP, concedes that "one size doesn't fit all", you have to question how far globalisation can go. The global ad recession has hit some big media brands, with many clients slashing budgets to help them weather harsh times.
But with some signs of recovery, global media brands are in a good position to benefit. Many are extending their proposition to attract a new wave of advertisers, some of whom have previously used purely local media.
The airline easyJet is one such example. David Meliveo, its marketing services manager, says: "Our approach to targeting the business community is usually through local media. Yet we specifically use pan-regional business media as a support to our corporate public relations campaigns. We find these media channels a great vehicle to deliver any corporate positioning statement."
EasyJet's budgets are centrally controlled and revised on a monthly basis.
This allows the airline continuously to monitor and prioritise its marketing activities in line with market conditions.
This centralisation is becoming more common, according to Colin Lawrence, the director of strategy and sales operations at BBC World. "In the past 18 months there has been more centralisation of budgets and that will work in favour of global media," he says.
But global media have suffered due to advertisers ploughing less investment into corporate image campaigns which were a staple of international business media. Newsweek's associate publisher and director of international sales, Rhona Murphy, says pressure on clients to concentrate on the bottom line has shifted their focus from corporate image to product-specific advertising.
This is especially marked in sectors such as automotive. She adds that clients have become more "savvy" about tailoring campaigns for local markets in order to keep local managers happy.
So how are global media brands making up for this shortfall? Many are beginning to work in a more dedicated, solution-based way. Monica Mather, the Discovery Channel's regional director of international advertising, says the channel is looking beyond spot advertising to attract new advertisers.
Discovery works closely with clients to develop more content-based solutions such as advertiser-funded vignettes and even full-length programmes. Johnnie Walker is one example. The whisky brand developed its "keep walking" vignette series as part of a global rebranding drive.
But the costs involved in such exercises means that economies of scale are required to make them viable so, to achieve a worthwhile return on investment, they have to be executed on a pan-regional basis. This is where many global TV networks can come into their own. Bloomberg's head of advertising sales for Europe and Asia, Trevor Fellows, makes the point that: "Pan-European channels are only successful when they deliver something that a local channel doesn't. People aren't necessarily buying all of our feeds. They'll buy one, two or three and put their plan together."
An example of this in action is the bank ABN Amro, which is currently advertising on Bloomberg's UK and German channels. But Fellows concedes that the slowdown has set the pan-European trend back a year or two.
A GLOBAL MEDIA OWNER ON WHY AMERICAN AIRLINES' ADVERTISING CUTS THROUGH
Someone once said that the saying "Getting there is half the fun" became obsolete with the advent of commercial airlines. As someone who spends hours flying, I can understand this view. So how do you sell an airline, when they all seem to have similar offers?
Their ad campaigns often amount to an international trolly dolly beauty contest, with posters featuring idealised examples on the theme of "hostess-with-mostest". Or they feature the fiscal equivalent - digits suggesting an impossibly low price against an unimaginative corporate logo or travel-brochure background.
With its latest print campaign, American Airlines is proffering a new USP - emotional space. The ads feature photographs of people enjoying time to themselves with the strapline: "Fewer seats. More room to yourself." The suggestion is that this space goes beyond the merely physical to allow the stressed-out, dislocated executive a little head-room to get back in touch with himself as he hurtles from place to place. This idea of me-time will cross all language barriers, speaking directly to said suit on a fundamental emotional level.
Photographed by John Offenbach, the ads have the dreamy, homey quality of a washed-out snapshot, highlighted with flashes of vivid colour - there's a young woman with a cracking pair of rather garish pink-clad legs reading a paper under a tree, a new-age man nibbling his noodles on a fire escape, supervised by a lurid orange-breasted bird. The images' quirky little details are attention-grabbing- as you look into them there is more to be noticed. A pervading sense of place and situation follows on from AA's fascinating TV campaign last year, which showed the removed AA seats being put to various everyday uses.
What struck me about the ads initially was the way they manage to generate a little mood-oasis in the middle of my copies of Time and BusinessWeek.
Placed as they are in the rigid black-and-white business sections, these ads stand out as a bit "artistic" - encouraging the reader to take time over them.
The ads are quiet and contemplative. I suppose if one has to spend hours on a plane, this echoes a desirable state in which to pass them. If this approach catches on, how long before we see the first fully functional plane-spa? - Lawson Muncaster is the vice-president of global ad sales for Metro International.