OPINION: International tasks and big budgets won’t win the day

Worldwide campaigns are bland and big budgets may not be able to beat creative teams from the area. Tony Hogan considers the local versus international debate

Worldwide campaigns are bland and big budgets may not be able to beat

creative teams from the area. Tony Hogan considers the local versus

international debate

How important is advertising? I ask this because I was recently

subjected to what was a thinly disguised agency showreel presented at a

conference on brand management.

Unique selling propositions are a thing of the past, we were told.

Product parity is now a fact of life. Current strategy should be built

around emotional selling propositions.

What made it all the more disturbing was the self-satisfied smile of

genuine pleasure and pride as the presenter took the audience through

more than 30 minutes of his agency’s work.

It was as disturbing as it was irrelevant to the matter in hand. He got

so carried away with the agency’s work, beautiful though it was, that he

not only insulted the audience, but trivialised advertising in the


All this took place at a brand management conference in Johannesburg. As

trade barriers break down and social conditions improve, the future for

marketing organisations there is bright.

The theme of the conference was the key success factors in profitable

brand management. International brands are moving back to South Africa,

so local companies are now coming under severe pressure from the rest of

the world, a situation both novel and dangerous.

There has never been a more crucial role for effective advertising

support. The weakness of the international brand approach must be that,

in South Africa, it will find a complex market situation that will take

time to understand.

In this position, skill, wit, judgment and local knowledge can keep big

budgets at bay.

Which gets me back to my point. How important is advertising? If a

company can outspend the competition massively is it virtually

guaranteed success?

Perhaps. Certainly the move to pan-European and global advertising is

heading in this direction. This can make local decisions largely


But what joy for the so-called ‘local’ agencies as they present superbly

produced international work.

The battles between local and international advertising, and between

creativity and sales (not mutually exclusive) are in full flow across

the world.

I think the big are getting bigger and the quality of thought put into

effective advertising is getting thinner.

As an example, one of the campaigns presented was the latest IBM work.

Beautifully produced, but it didn’t take advantage of the local market

place. How can one ad be ideal for, say, the US, Britain and France and

also be right for South Africa? It can’t and it won’t.

If this doesn’t speed up the trivialisation of advertising then I don’t

know what will.

Advertising is only important when it addresses the needs of the

consumer. How a product or service is going to be advertised should be

part of the planning process from the brand’s inception.

What I’m advocating isn’t particularly new. But it should still be a

vital part of brand stewardship.

Modern creatives look at advertising produced 20 or more years ago and

find it incredibly naive. Yet brands were launched then that are on

shelves now. When did you last see a brand launched that will be going

strong a quarter of a century from now?

I believe advertising is important. I want to see locals winning. I want

it to be affordable for new brands to be launched successfully with wit,

flair and finesse. Because the big battalions don’t always win.

But that’s only my opinion. All this from being presented to by an

agency which confused importance with self-importance.

Tony Hogan is client services director of the Brand Development Company


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