World: Analysis - Coke's transatlantic crossing reverses historic US-UK trend

Mother's first Coke spot will break tradition by airing in the US, Rachel Gardner says.

Mother's debut campaign for Coca-Cola broke new ground when it became the first UK-created ad for the Classic Coke brand to run in the US.

Over the coming months, "I wish" will be screened on both TV and cinema alongside the "real" ads studded with stars such as Penelope Cruz and Courteney Cox-Arquette and created for the American market by WPP's Berlin Cameron/Red Cell.

Despite operating a complicated roster system and with a tradition of airing ads across different markets - a spot by McCann-Erickson Madrid was previously screened in the UK - advertising for the world's largest beverage company has never made this journey before.

Coke says the ad's portrayal of Coca-Cola's brand values, and the positive response it has generated in the UK, spurred marketing managers in Atlanta to import the spot.

Marc Mathieu, the vice-president, Coca-Cola Franchise, says: "One of the strengths of the Coca-Cola system is our ability to share good ideas and creative concepts from country to country. 'I wish' touches on universal human values that are inherent in the Coca-Cola brand and which resonate beyond borders."

Hardly surprising when you consider that the ad, which made its debut during Fox TV's American Idol, was shot in South Africa, bought by a Russian and created by an ad agency in London with a workforce that boasts a healthy quota of overseas talent.

It is one of a handful of UK campaigns to have gone transatlantic.

The Mother partner Stef Calcraft believes that the spot ties in with Coke's global marketing aims. He says: "This ad is the first piece of work for many a year that celebrates what Coke is about as opposed to trying to sit down and sell itself too overtly. Coke understands that you need a global strategy that allows you to run the most relevant work, be it local or global."

As so many multinational corporations are headquartered in the US, it's no shock to discover that ads made in the US for the US market have a strong tradition of being exported for a global market. Among the most famous is DDB's "whassup?" campaign for Budweiser in 1999, and more recently, US ads for Gap have graced UK screens.

Yet, does Mother's "I wish" spot signal a reversal of the well-trodden route from the US to the UK? Will it start a movement for more UK ads to cross the Atlantic?

Following its success in the UK, Bartle Bogle Hegarty's most recent work for Lynx could also be going transatlantic. The overtly sexual campaign is being primed for launch later this year, although under Lynx's more common overseas name, Axe.

John Hegarty, BBH's chairman and worldwide creative director, knows better than most the trials and tribulations associated with conquering the US market: he helped to launch BBH in New York in 1998.

He says: "It's quite difficult for a European agency to sell its work back into the US. You have to understand that there are differences. The things we can get away with on European TV, you can't get away with in the US."

Hegarty refers primarily to the rather puritanical stance towards sexual content in the US, which, for a brand such as Lynx, is key to its strategy.

The latest UK spot, for instance, shows a man who can undress a woman simply by looking at her - just one aspect of the hypnotic Lynx Effect.

You have only to look at the recent furore caused over Janet Jackson and "boobgate" to understand just how different US attitudes are towards anything remotely sexual on mainstream TV.

Take "feeling sexy", J.Walter Thompson's ad for the cream hair remover Veet. It had to be censored before it was deemed suitable for US audiences.

The ad contains a slightly steamy scene in which a woman and her surprise male visitor become engaged in a passionate clinch on the sofa. Although the footage was considered suitable for European viewers, being suggestive rather than explicit, a heavily edited version will run in the US.

Rooney Carruthers, a founding partner of Vallance Carruthers Coleman Priest, spent two years in San Francisco as the creative director for FCB and believes that the US market is a lot more cut-throat while being based on an unfamiliar philosophy that equates "big" with "good".

He says: "Over there, the advertising is built around who can do the best deal, whereas in the UK we go for the image. I think that Mother's Coke work has been chosen for the US because it's a nice, easy, pleasant piece of advertising that has got a bit of a retro feel about it and looks like an international ad."

With "I wish", Coke believes that Mother has produced an ad that taps into the new global culture of entertainment that unites Western culture, while bringing to life what people love about the brand.

Whether US audiences are inspired by it will be the real test of Coke's strategy.

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