World: Analysis - Peugeot rises to challenge of running 'toys' in all territories

BETC Euro RSCG targets car drivers everywhere with its 407 ad.

Peugeot's launch campaign for its 407 model is a striking car ad, and not just because it features several garages-worth of life-sized Lego and clockwork toy cars. The 60-second "toys" is one of a rare breed in car advertising - an ad created to run in all Peugeot's territories. Not just its northern European heartland market, but also Latin America, Australia and Asia-Pacific.

The received wisdom, when it comes to car advertising, is local ads for local people. While multi-region, even global, campaigns do exist for car marques, these tend to be limited to general branding exercises; typically, anodyne shots of a car winding its way down the Pacific Coast Highway to a Moby soundtrack. So, when a campaign comes along that appears to ignore this wisdom, it turns heads - and not always for the right reasons.

"The problem that a lot of car advertisers face when they go global is that each market is so different," Steve Tindall, a managing partner at MindShare, says. "Because cars are expensive to buy and run, and because that varies from market to market, people buy different cars." Focus on one feature - say, air conditioning - and you run the risk of alienating a market such as Scandinavia, which doesn't see much need for cold air.

Focus on fuel efficiency and the US will switch off. "When advertising gets that geographically sensitive, you either end up doing 'here's a car on the motorway', or doing something localised," Tindall says. Add to that the potential minefield of creating a commercial that is legally compliant in every territory, and the task is trickier still.

Peugeot's response has been to go in with a big idea; one which the agency, BETC Euro RSCG, believes will find global mass appeal and absolutely steer clear of mentioning any of the features that distinguish the 407 from the other cars in its class.

"I don't want the commercial to be a catalogue campaign," Claude-Jean Couderc, the worldwide general manager for Peugeot at BETC Euro RSCG, says. "The role of the ad is to present the spirit of the car." So the 407 is presented as a grown-up car in a city of toys, turning heads whenever it passes.

The global campaign is a stance and a strategy that Couderc says will continue throughout the life of the 407 campaign and one he's confident will still be in play two years down the line. "We did a lot of research in a lot of markets and we saw that people who were open to this kind of premise from a non-German car manufacturer really liked the tone," Raphael de Andreis, the Peugeot account director at BETC Euro RSCG, adds.

Peugeot is not alone in running one campaign in all its territories.

Saatchi & Saatchi LA's launch campaign for the Toyota Prius, "start now", ran globally but Steve Anastasiadis, the European account director for Toyota at the agency, explains this was later backed up with local ads which directly addressed the concerns of the manufacturer's key territories.

"In different markets the same car means different things," he says. "The vehicle is in different stages of sales development in different markets, and finding a common global theme is a challenge."

It's a challenge that a number of ads have risen to. The famous Audi Quattro "wakeboarder" spot ran in an impressive 51 territories. But Bartle Bogle Hegarty, the agency behind it, didn't set out to make a global ad.

"The question is, can you set out with the task of saying you want one campaign globally?" Martyn Farmer, who worked on "wakeboarder" and who is now the Volkswagen worldwide account director at DDB Berlin, asks.

"I think it happens more by chance than by design, and it would come through the quality of the work."

"Wakeboarder" was picked up by different markets once they had seen the ad. Honda "cog" is a similar case in point - it was created for the UK, with a tentative nod from a handful of European countries, but has now gone international following its phenomenal success.

Nevertheless, de Andreis remains convinced the "toys" strategy is right for its time and for the 407: "Consumers are mature in the way they analyse marketing and they're open to nice stories as long as the product is credible," he says.

The "toys" ad, with its slightly brash "all other cars are toys compared with the 407" metaphor, is a brave move for a manufacturer hoping to woo drivers away from their Audis, Mercedes and BMWs. Will it work? "I loved the Peugeot 206 'the sculptor' ad," Tindall says. "But it's not going to make me go out and buy one. Car markets are becoming increasingly niche, and it makes sense to do local ads."