You have hired a creative London agency to work for you across
several countries, because you want creativity coupled with a consistent
But the markets you cover differ wildly. In some places you are the
market leader, and in others a relative unknown. In certain areas, the
fast-moving youth market you target needs off-the-wall ads, and in
others they demand plain speaking.
What do you do? It’s a conundrum that faces many international
advertisers, and it is one that Sony solved for its Christmas campaigns
last year in an ingenious way.
Sony’s agency, Simons Palmer Clemmow Johnson, hired one cast, as usual,
for its Playstation commercials, and set up one shoot. But it had
prepared, in conjunction with specialists from each different market,
three separate scripts.
’In the UK, we expect to have to sit down and work ads out, but in
Germany, if it is too oblique, they will ignore it,’ explains Simon
Anholt, the managing director of World Writers, the company drafted in
to help with the international tailoring of the commercials. ’In the UK,
you have to be oblique to establish your credentials, but in Germany you
have to be straight.’
So, World Writers and Simons Palmer set to work on Playstation.
Differences were most marked in the spots for Crash Bandicoot, a game in
which a masked figure runs rampant among boxes of apples, splitting them
open for use as missiles.
It was decided to retain the same basic message across all three
principal markets - the claim that Crash Bandicoot can change your life.
But the ads turned out very different for France, Germany and the
All three adopted a documentary style, and opened on a supermarket to
which police have been called because of a disturbance.
In the UK version, a single sad freak is inside. He has been playing too
much Crash Bandicoot and is running amok through the apples. The tale
unfolds through an interview with a policeman who concludes by
attempting to play down the news to the public: ’It’s not an
epidemic ... maybe three incidents a week,’ he says.
This was deemed a far too low-key approach for the French and German
markets, where Sony is only a small player.
’It needed to be more of an event,’ Anholt explains. ’If we ran the UK
version in Germany, they would only say ’why are you bothering to tell
me about it if there was only one freak?’’
So, in the German and French versions there are about 100 freaks, all
suffering from the same affliction and breaking open cases of
In these commercials, the cops cry excitedly that this is a phenomenon
that is breaking out all over the country.
There were other changes. The police are also affected by the Crash
Bandicoot bug in the French and German versions. Both of these also have
much more definite end scenes, particularly in France where the cop eats
one of the apples, compared with the more downbeat conclusion of the