The continuing consolidation of advertising agencies into ever
larger groups on the global stage raises certain issues. Does the move
benefit clients and shareholders, and what are its consequences? Will it
lead to more global advertising campaigns, and if so will this lead to a
smartening up or a dumbing down of creative work?
In my opinion there are four factors which mark the evolution of global
Firstly, the export of Americana. US companies, which put a global
perspective on their business opportunities, exported their products,
their personnel and their advertising. I have witnessed this in Africa,
where the US executive is cocooned from the local market by the
provision of air-freighted American beef for his freezer. I have seen it
in Japan, where a new American CEO is parachuted in every two years and
still can’t understand why ’they’ don’t drink coffee. But in most cases
Americana, a la Coca-Cola and Marlboro, did touch a consumer nerve and
the advertising ideas worked.
Secondly, the global village as a way of increasing agency profits. Some
agencies promoted the concept because the creation of a global campaign
using an agency’s most expensive human resource - creatives - in one
place rather than spread out all over the world, and still charging the
client the same amount, does inflate an agency’s profits.
Thirdly, the client needs to save on costs. The logic is clear: produce
fewer commercials and save money.
Fourthly, the consumer case, which also improves agency and client
Here, one is searching first and foremost for consumer similarities, not
differences. Are there any common needs? Are there images that appeal in
similar ways? Can we use sensitive research in different countries to
understand these images, and develop advertising that will - because it
has a global budget - have more of an impact than anything that can be
My opinion is yes. Probably it will need to be developed on a ’modular
basis’. That is, it may not be exactly the same in all markets. The
basic strategy is the same, the basic communication idea is the same,
but the execution is received by different consumers and is still
relevant to them.
However, there are pitfalls. I once saw the notion of cost savings
applied to an international project for chocolate. In the UK chocolate
is eaten between meals as a snack, and in bar form. In Switzerland, it
is eaten at the end of the meal as a dessert. An attempt to produce work
that transcended boundaries failed because the consumer context was
Because a frame, a line, or an image can be crucial to the modern
reality of marketing, the mass market is dead and the global consumer
does not exist. But customers with common needs and motivations are a
reality across the world, and we can find a way of efficiently tapping
into them with a global - yet modular - approach.