LIVE ISSUE/PAN-EUROPEAN CAR ADVERTISING: Car clients back campaigns that cross borders - Car makers are switching from a local to a regional emphasis. By Robert Gray

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).

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

goal.



’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

continues.



’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

marketing experiments.



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

Ford.



’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

counterparts.



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

issues.



’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.



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