MARKETING MIX: SOAP BOX; Local flavour for a global message is common sense

The fact that Coca-Cola has ‘broken ranks’ with the other global American mega corporations and appointed 30 advertising agencies to bring a creative local flavour to the global message seems to have surprised most seasoned observers.

The fact that Coca-Cola has ‘broken ranks’ with the other global

American mega corporations and appointed 30 advertising agencies to

bring a creative local flavour to the global message seems to have

surprised most seasoned observers.

The fact they are achieving business success with this policy seems to

have surprised observers even more. As a seasoned observer myself, I’m

surprised they’re surprised.

All the best advertising textbooks agree on one thing: that you must

know who you’re talking to if you want to create truly persuasive


This means not only knowing what sort of people they are but what media

they consume, what they feel about products or services on offer and

what they feel about competitive products and services. This information

cannot be amalgamated across a spectrum of national boundaries because,

as I learnt at school, you can’t add apples and pears.

This is why we find the following recent quotes from current and ex-

creative directors of multinational agencies bemoaning the preponderance

of ‘international’ work: ‘London is now handling a tremendous amount of

European work; often bland, lowest-common-denominator stuff,’ and ‘You

do marvellous work even the young spurters at spring-green agencies

envy, but only get assessed on the pan-European stuff that started life

far from home, over which you have no influence.’

The Ecu even seems to be dropping in the minds of battle-hardened Euro

businessmen like Bill Jones, managing director of Disneyland Paris, who

has discovered ‘the European consumer anticipated at the launch of

Disneyland Paris doesn’t exist’. Surprise, surprise.

The US Advertising Age seems to agree, stating in September that

‘sophisticated global marketeers no longer manage international brands

largely by developing ideas at headquarters then exporting them to local


Oddly, the increasing harmonisation in Europe seems to be causing a

hardening of local issues, not only between countries but also within

them. The Times recently stated: ‘It would seem that a loss of national

identity in the EU is inspiring an explosion of reasserted regional


Thus Scotland demands more than the return of the Stone of Scone; the

prosperous Northern League wants out of Italy; and East and West Germany

are squabbling.

Yet there are still massive global agency wins. Colgate pumps dollars

550m (pounds 352m) into Young & Rubicam, IBM commits dollars 400m

(pounds 256m) to Ogilvy & Mather, Fiat and Oz tourism consolidate into

DMB&B. Is it just megalomania, corporate neatness, economic imperialism

or the need for a quick-fix solution or short-term savings? Who knows,

but it doesn’t seem to be anything to do with business success.

Pepsi vs Coke is well documented. Mars is being ‘outmanoeuvred’ by

rivals such as Nestle, which says being too global means you ‘lose

efficiency in communication’.

So maybe we’re returning to an era of advertising common sense - talking

to people we know rather than people we don’t.

Tom Rodwell is vice-chairman of Court Burkitt & Company


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