August 10, 2009

The Laziness of Global Advertisers, Part 1

Today we start a 3-part series called "The Laziness of Global Advertisers."

Democracy is messy. It requires compromise. It allows for dissent. It takes time to get things done.

Nonetheless, it seems to be the best form of governance we've been able to devise.

Dictatorship is not not messy. Things can happen quickly. You don't need discussions. You don't have to pay attention to annoying opinions.

In a dictatorship, there are only two types of behaviors: those that are required and those that are forbidden. It's not like democracy where there's a whole lot of grey area in between.

Something similar is also true in marketing.

In business, it has been my experience that the closer you are to the customer, the better sense of reality you have. This is not to say that everyone "in the field" is a genius and that everyone at "headquarters" is an idiot. Far from it.

But if you take two people with equal ability and equal intelligence, the one who deals with customers everyday is far more likely to have an accurate idea of what the marketing issues are than the one who sits in meetings.

And yet, in the world of global advertising and global marketing, there seems to be an irresistible gravitational pull drawing advertising and marketing decisions to the central office. This despite the obvious fact that, as a rule, people "on the ground" have a better understanding of what is needed.

We now have "global" CMOs in New York deciding what advertising will run in Argentina. We have global creative directors in London "adapting" campaigns for Korea.

Does anyone in his right mind really believe that someone in New York knows the Argentine market better than a local? Does anyone in the UK really believe that someone in London knows anything worth knowing about Korea?

So why do marketers do this?

Simple -- it's easy, and they're lazy.

They are too lazy to deal with the messiness of finding the right people on the ground all over the world. It's much easier to just hire a "global" agency and let them worry about it. So they suspend disbelief and buy into the fiction (which creates gales of laughter in anyone who has ever worked at a global agency) about the "integrated worldwide capabilities" of these agencies.

In today's world of strong ethnic identities and powerful micro-cultures, it is virtually impossible to get everything you need done correctly in the city of Los Angeles with one agency or one campaign.

The idea that you can do it globally is preposterous.

Part 2 here.

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