Making meaning for everyone

How do you create a successful global campaign that means something to every market? Campaign asks three network creative chiefs to share their experiences.

Always: aims to change girls’ lives by championing their confidence
Always: aims to change girls’ lives by championing their confidence

How Leo Burnett used 'creativity without borders' to produce '#LikeAGirl'

When a group of creative people with radically different life stories and perspectives come together, you tend to uncover insights that resonate with a global audience. That’s precisely what happened with the "#LikeAGirl" team.

Our aim is to always create work that transforms human behaviour. It’s a big feat that requires extraordinary talent, teamwork and client partnership.

That’s why we deployed our "creativity without borders" operating system for Always’ "#LikeAGirl". Developed in 2012, "creativity without borders" is a creative approach we have applied to global clients including Samsung and Coca-Cola.

"Creativity without borders" allows us to unite speed, culture and our global network to create interesting and bold ideas that feed society’s need for engaging and rewarding content. The borderless approach will set the benchmark for cultural communication, and it opens up possibi­lities for the way that we operate as an organisation and, ultimately, deliver for our clients. It is our unconventional approach to solving our clients’ business challenges on a global platform.

Procter & Gamble, similar to our other multinational clients, is a global business that operates and communicates across borders. Working as a global business requires global minds.

P&G came to us with a brief: Always wanted to change girls’ lives, one girl at a time, by championing their confidence. We wanted to take the work to a higher level to solidify Always as the market leader and to ensure that it lives its brand purpose. Removing our own internal barriers to enable collective brilliance for this work seemed the right thing to do.

So we unleashed our world-class talent from London, Toronto and Chicago on this assignment. The idea was born in London and brought to life through the teamwork of Chicago and Toronto.

When the team from London presented their "#LikeAGirl" idea to the full team –including Judy John, the chief creative officer of the campaign – the feeling it evoked across the room was unanimous. This was a powerful, profound insight that perfectly aligned with Always’ brand purpose to "rewrite the rules".

With more than 90 million YouTube views and counting, this campaign has captured the imagination of people around the world and shattered the stereotypical image of young girls.

The internal work process broke boundaries too. The success of "#LikeAGirl" is a result not just of the creative thinking that went into the campaign but the creativity that went into the organisation and agency structure. Our work required outstanding leadership, a shared passion for achieving excellence, seamless collaboration and fearlessness in stepping outside of comfort zones.

Our work on "#LikeAGirl" had a profoundly positive impact on a societal issue and our client’s brand reputation. At Cannes this year, it took home 14 Lions, including a coveted Grand Prix, a Titanium Lion and an inaugural Glass Lion. Overall, it has won more than 100 awards, including a D&AD black Pencil.

But outside of the campaign itself, it has proved that activating "creativity without borders" could be the operating model of the future for agencies. It’s an effective approach in creating human value on a global scale and driving transformational business impact for our clients.

We live in a world where the intersection of technology, data and creativity continues to expand while the world continues to shrink. Hence my charge to the Leo Burnett network is to come together as one, to operate as one and to connect to the larger world. We aim to be the best in the world bar none, which means that we find the right people to come together and create globally relevant ideas that transform our clients’ businesses for the better.

L’Oréal: the ‘worth it’ theme underlines the brand’s purpose to empower women

Global campaigns are dead. Make meaning instead

I wasn’t around to get the background scoop when McCann created our first global campaign about 85 years ago. But I’m pretty sure that those pioneers would be surprised to learn that what they think of as global campaigns are – well, to put it bluntly – really a part of the last century. The so-called global campaign is not really how we connect with people around the world today. And it’s not how we build global brands any more.

Discussions about global campaigns have tended to focus on efficiency of exe­cution. One ad everywhere? Or adapted?

Or something in-between? But building a global brand is about something much more fundamental than the nuances of executions and even more specific than just being about a good, solid brand idea.

What we do in our global (as well as local) business roles – and "we" includes creative and strategy – is to help figure out the meaningful role that brands can play in people’s lives. We uncover and provide meaning, not just make global campaigns.

Given the ever-evolving landscape that brands need to play in, we can no longer rely only on the traditional approaches to advertising to earn entry. It is essential that we help brands contribute value. When we get this right with an insight that is universal, then coming up with the global communications is the easy part.

Brand growth is driven by what the brand can actually help people achieve. That’s why there are also some major global brands that continue to expand even if they’re not advertising themselves. Think of Facebook. Its mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected. That drives everything it does and it’s clear to Facebook’s users what the benefit is to them. No real global campaign. Just the global delivery of brand value.

However, even among the world’s major advertisers, the global campaign is only as good as what the brand can help people achieve. L’Oréal Paris’ success is founded on the meaningful role the brand plays in empowering women. Of course, L’Oréal’s global advertising contains the long-running "worth it" theme, but the brand lives beyond the tagline. If you took away the line, it would still be recognised as the brand that champions women and instils value. And staying true to this commitment is what guides innovation and communications excellence, as evident from L’Oréal’s Makeup Genius app – a big winner at Cannes this year.

MasterCard, similarly, is a global brand famous for its advertising. But, at its heart, the "priceless" idea highlights the role that the brand plays in enabling meaningful experiences. What started as a campaign has transformed into a strong brand proposition, a way of working and being for MasterCard as opposed to just a campaign. It is manifested by creating real priceless experiences, such as the Priceless Cities and Priceless Surprises programmes. How­ever, these are not just branches of a global campaign. They are unique programmes that engage consumers around the world in ways that are consistent with the brand’s commitment.

In a technologically advanced social environment, how a brand acts in one market can impact it everywhere else in the world. With so many avenues to connect to people today, it’s considerably more complex to align a global creative idea to local executions. Brands that are global still have to appear local. They have to earn their way into people’s lives and into local cultures.

Establishing a meaningful role in people’s lives beyond just a single campaign idea or execution is how successful global brands operate in the era of deep globality. What a brand does on a global stage is also reflected in how it creates real meaning for individuals on a personal and local level.  

MasterCard: the ‘priceless’ idea became a brand proposition and a way of working


Small World


We just finished a big, huge global campaign for a big, huge client. All our offices around the world were involved and they added their stereotypical local flavour to the project. When I say "stereotypical", I want to be sensitive to conjuring up "stereotypes". I mean, that would just be insulting. Right?

The idea originated in the US. Well, actually, it was an old idea that came from a tiny developing-world market a couple of years ago, but the American creative team had seen it in the Global Creative Council and claimed it as their own, eventually selling it to the client and forcing it down the throats of the entire network.

The UK office hated the idea and said they could do way better. They changed the brief and totally redid the campaign, stripping out the humour, adding a lot of long copy and making it very, very earnest. The client didn’t like the changes so the UK pulled out of the project, citing "creative differences with everyone on the planet but themselves".

Brazil eliminated the brand from the work entirely, gave it to a fake pro bono and built the most brilliant case study you’ve ever seen in your frickin’ life. The campaign unofficially saved hundreds of women, children and animals in a small, secret Brazilian village and won 17 gold Lions at Cannes.

Despite the client having no media dollars allocated for print or outdoor, India did a bunch of posters with no copy and big, beautiful illustrations. I can neither confirm nor deny whether the small dot in the lower-right-hand corner was a logo.

There was some sort of protest going on in France, so they were taking the month off.

Singapore created a wicked app. Amazing functionality, intuitive interface, flawless user experience. Unfortunately, it only worked on Singtel prepaid burners, servicing .00001 per cent of the world’s population (mostly criminals).

Canada was on one of the calls… I think.

The planner from China didn’t think the campaign would translate well in their market. Something about it maybe working in Hong Kong but not the mainland. Then something about social media being against the law. Then our office got shut down for a while by the government. Now, I think they’re running a 15-second TV spot with a famous celebrity and sales are up 400 per cent.

The Germans set up frequent conference calls and were impressively prompt on dial-ins. But even the poor sound quality of the German speakerphones couldn’t hide the fact that any progress would be buried in a year-long process of over­analysis and minutia obsession.

The Japanese team politely nodded and smiled a lot at the idea. The interpreter said they were eager to get started and that they would make it work for the Japanese market. The final video looked like a game show, had a lot of screaming and ended on a strange audio mnemonic. Low and behold, it worked for the Japanese market.

The Swedes created a long, dark manifesto that featured a lot of snow, a lot of beards and a lot of EDM. An astonishing 94 per cent of Sweden tuned in.

Argentina took the campaign viral with a music video laced with uncomfortable sexual tension and Latina women in beaters and Daisy Dukes. When the client asked if it was on-brand, the creative team was struck with a sudden inability to speak any English at all, responding: "Ahhhh… sí, sí, sí."

Korea took the whole thing mobile – which, frankly, none of us understood. Including the client. But it’s selling like gangbusters over there.

Spain, Portugal and Greece haven’t been able to afford Wi-Fi in the office for a while, so their activation against the campaign has been spotty at best.

The jury’s out on whether this campaign fails or succeeds, but the Russian planners – all one of them – seem optimistic.