Last week, it emerged that General Motors Europe was speaking with
a number of creative shops, other than its roster agencies, the Lowe
Group and McCann-Erickson Europe, about the multi-million pound
pan-European launch of the revamped Astra (Campaign, 26 September).
Seeking input from non-roster agencies is a course of action GM has
undertaken several times in recent years as a means of determining the
viability of creating pan-European advertising. While the US-owned car
giant has not as yet hit upon a successful means of doing this, one
informed source believes that, with each attempt, it comes closer to the
’Everybody at GM knows that there will come a point in the future where
a big bit of pan-European advertising will appear,’ the source
’It has set up a system for pan-European marketing and its advertising
agencies have been asked to set up a system to match that.
’The culture is to prod to see if something is possible and then return
to reality when it sees it is not. By the time we get to the next Astra,
GM may have made it work.’
GM’s probing in the direction of pan-European executions has
ramifications beyond the possible effect on its agency relationships.
While in the UK it operates under the Vauxhall name, it is known as Opel
across the rest of Europe.
A move to a pan-European approach might conceivably lead in the longer
term to the abandonment of the Vauxhall name which would, by extension,
erode some of the autonomy of the UK operation. Senior management at
Vauxhall are believed to be more than a little nervous about GM’s
GM’s attempt to nail down a workable European advertising strategy for
the Astra is indicative of the choices facing all volume car
manufacturers with a strong presence in the region. Should they be
thinking in terms of running pan-European advertising, with common
executions right across the single market? Or would they be better
served adopting a country-by-country approach?
’We can, we do, we have and we will do pan-European advertising,’ says
Patrick Collister, Ogilvy & Mather’s European creative director on
’If the cars themselves are able to cross boundaries why shouldn’t the
advertising? By and large consumers in different markets tend to be the
same sort of people. If you can produce advertising that works across
all these markets there are considerable cost savings to be made.’
Ford, as with GM, is in the midst of an internal debate on whether or
not to adopt a pan-European strategy. Until now it has opted for
pragmatism ahead of slavish adherence to a pan-European line.
Puma - with its TV commercial featuring the car interwoven with footage
of Steve McQueen taken from the classic movie, Bullitt - is Ford’s
second pan-European launch (the first was for the Galaxy). It was
created not by O&M but by Young and Rubicam, Ford’s agency in Germany
and, paradoxically, draws on American popular culture to attract
consumers on a pan-European basis.
But is pan-European merely about saving money? Toby Hoare, Y&R’s chief
executive in the UK, begs to differ. ’Obviously there are cost
efficiencies in it,’ he says. ’But I don’t believe it’s principally cost
driven. It makes for efficient marketing in every sense.’
Yet efficiency is not necessarily a byword for excellence. Mark Wnek,
the Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper executive creative director who numbers
Citroen and Peugeot among his clients, thinks a ’generally good’
pan-European car campaign is possible. But, he adds, there is the danger
of plumping for the ’lowest common denominator that appeals to everyone
but turns no-one on’.
Launches, where new models come without the baggage of existing consumer
perceptions, are easier to tackle on a pan-European basis than
executions for established brands.
Micro Compact Car, the joint venture between Daimler-Benz and the Swatch
parent company, SMH, launches its Smart car in eight European countries
(but not the UK) in spring 1998. The Swiss agency, Weber Hodel Schmid,
is handling the creative work and common executions will run across the
markets, all bearing the strapline, ’reduce to the max’, to emphasise
the advantages of what is a very small car.
But while there are many similarities between the markets, there are
also some pronounced differences. UK advertising for the Smart car, for
instance, might have been entirely different from its Continental
In the UK, the fleet market is an important factor and, with our clogged
roads and speed restrictions, 0-60 acceleration is of greater
significance than top speed. In Germany, meanwhile, where there are
fewer company cars and sections of autobahn along which vehicles can
travel at unrestricted speeds, top speed and resale value are bigger
’The only way you will produce a pan-European campaign would be by dint
of a huge amount of luck,’ the GM source says. ’But it is something that
will happen in time.’
The creation of more pan-European media and dealership arrangements
taken together with closer EU integration through European Monetary
Union will create improved conditions for campaigns that cross borders.
The temptations for clients are great, and, worryingly for local
agencies, becoming greater.
Leader, page 29.