The World: Going from great to global is harder than it looks

The Global Effies recognise the work that transcends geographical boundaries, but few ads achieve this.

Final judging for the Global Effie Awards took place last week. Established in 2003 to recognise the world's most effective global campaigns, it's no surprise they've achieved their goal. But what is shocking is how few brands actually meet the criteria to reach truly global status.

Conventional wisdom used to be that the endgame for a global brand was to have a global campaign. That still might be the case for many multinational marketers, but, if it is, few players are getting to the finals.

Over the past four years, the Global Effie has recognised some of the best global campaigns: Apple, MasterCard, McDonald's, Adidas, Citibank and Canon to name a few. These brands have achieved iconic status with campaigns that maintain core values across the globe. The campaigns transcend cultures, geographies and local preferences. They have a message as relevant in Beijing as it is in Birmingham.

Many of the campaigns have slogans and icons that become part of the local lexicon and weave into the fabric of the local culture. But these campaigns are a rare breed. They stand out in a crowded field of entrants that have achieved the goal of crossing a few borders, but fall short of spanning continents.

The Global Effie judges are the cream of the marketing and agency worlds. They have a realistic perspective on what is achievable, and they show unanimity in their reaction to the work they review.

Delight, dismay and disappointment are apt descriptions. Delight in seeing the outstanding global effectiveness that some campaigns achieve; disappointment in the creative under-performance that some "iconic" campaigns achieve when adapting ads around the world.

And dismay that, in reality, so few campaigns stand up to rigorous global standards. It's clear that developing, launching and sustaining an effective global campaign can be a very daunting task.

The almost unanimous observation of the judges is that many campaigns do qualify as multinational, but few deserve to be called "global". Just having consistent global elements does not constitute a global campaign.

When the judges compared the "good" to the "great", it was clear the good global campaign met the basic needs of a global campaign, but the great ones had a powerful underlying insight with universal appeal. Few had a core idea that achieved brand differentiation and multimarket success.

Surprising as it may seem, some global marketers still rely heavily on "adoption" versus "adaptation" when implementing global campaigns from region to region. They seem to adopt, or force-fit, concepts rather than adapt them.

Too many try to "localise" by simple casting changes, rather than taking the essence of the global campaign and reworking it for each market. Economies of scale seem to overshadow the sensitivity of being locally savvy. If the judges saw this, it must be glaringly obvious to consumers in each country.

So what does it take to go from good to great, and from multinational to global? Last year's judges neatly answered this question.

One of them, David May, the director of global marketing at Goldman Sachs, expressed it by saying: "The most powerful global campaigns are those founded on core human values, communicated in an emotionally powerful and intellectually relevant way."

Lynne Boles, Procter & Gamble's vice-president of global marketing, summed it up. She said: "The greatest global campaigns are those that revolve around a simple idea that resonates across all media platforms and geographies."

The entries that rose to the top last year had a simple idea with universal appeal. You could tell easily which campaigns struggled to achieve global penetration and which ones slid into it with effortless grace. Making a global idea simple can be a complex job, but the pay-off can be dramatic.

In respect to the question: "Is a great global campaign always driven by broadcast or other traditional media?" The answer is "no!" Robert Painter, a Global Effie judge and the vice-president of marketing at IBM Global Business Services, made the point clearly. He said: "Some of the best global work extended far beyond broadcast."

Larry Bloomenkranz, the vice-president of brand management and communications at UPS, said: "A global campaign needs to be judged on the strength of its core idea and ability to work across fragmented consumer touchpoints."

It will be interesting to see if the experience of the past four years holds true this year when the Global Effie winners are announced. Indeed, they will be a breed apart.

- Cleve Langton is the chairman of the Global Effie committee and corporate executive vice-president at DDB Worldwide.

Topics