The World: Insider's View - US

The battle for the White House could have far-reaching implications for the ad industry, and the so-called 'global village' that we live in, Al Moffatt writes.

Conventional wisdom says we're all "citizens of the world", a global village connected through international brands, the internet and shared experiences. But this could change as a result of the US Presidential election. After all, every action has unforeseen, unintended consequences, and are inextricably linked one way or another.

For example, the business policies espoused by conservative Republicans have helped to spawn an international proliferation of US and non-US brands worldwide.

But at the same time, these policies have also contributed to the growing gap between the rich and the middle class in the US, since the US doesn't produce much anymore - it just consumes. So long-term wealth isn't built on buying, it's built on producing. As a result of a conservative Republican staying in the White House, the overall buying power and psyche of Americans may well lean toward retreat rather than towards reaching out, which is critical to help sustain the global village.

On the flipside, if a liberal Democrat is elected, a similar phenomenon could occur, but for totally different reasons. US labour unions are the single largest contributors to the Democrats. So there would be political pressure to not just retain American jobs, but also to grow American jobs. But with this, outsourcing and free trade would be restricted and import tariffs imposed.

And if the Democrats control both the White House and the Congress, most US citizens and corporations may see a tax increase and be discouraged from operating worldwide. The result may be a perfect storm of stagflation, reduced buying power and a protectionist attitude.

So, regardless of who gets to the White House, the common experiences we've all taken for granted as citizens of the world could erode.

The global village we assumed would live forever could shrink back into "local hamlets", like the 70s. So brands and marketing would no longer be the things that unite us, but rather the things that separate us.

Should it retreat, the trend of major marketers turning to smart, flexible independent agencies and communication companies would heighten even more as companies would want greater efficiency and more localised solutions. This would not be good for the bloated, top-down agency conglomerates that are rewarded for distributing homogenised ideas around the world.

A number of factors contribute to the sustainability of global brands and the global village, but the Presidential elections will play a big role, if for no other reason than it's near impossible to decouple from the politics and economics of the US.

Keep your eyes on the race for the White House. The next ad you do could depend on it.

- Al Moffatt is the president and chief executive of Worldwide Partners in Denver, Colorado.

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