August 11, 2009

The Laziness Of Global Advertisers, Part 2

Yesterday we began a series called "The Laziness Of Global Advertisers." I wrote it as a 3-part series, but I condensed the final two parts into this one.

Here's a good laugh from The Wall Street Journal:
"For a global marketer...There is a whole infrastructure that you need to adapt and change ads (emphasis mine - TAC) so you can successfully market around the world," says Robert LePlae, president of the North American operations of McCann Erickson..."
Yeah, right.

The "infrastructure that you need to adapt and change ads" is just the infrastructure of laziness.

If you talk to a "global advertiser" she will tell you that the reason they have a global agency and do global campaigns is that they want a global brand.

This is just typical brand babble. The reason they do it is because they are too lazy to do what's right.

It is perfectly possible to have a hugely successful "global brand" without having "globalized" advertising.

Cultures are different, tastes are different, buying habits are different and people are different everywhere. There is a lot of business opportunity in leveraging these facts.

It is either a credit to the sales abilities of the big agencies or an indication of the naivete of big marketers that this nonsense has become accepted practice.

According to The New York Times, Quebec is one of the only places in the developed world where Pepsi dominates Coke. Pepsi's share is about 30%, Coke's about 12%.

For the past 25 years, Pepsi has created advertising specifically for the province of Quebec*. It has not used French language advertising from elsewhere or shot French language "adaptations" of its English language Canadian advertising.

It has assiduously not "changed and adapted ads."

It has recognized the specific culture and behaviors of the people of Quebec and incorporated these understandings into the advertising. It has not tried to create something so general and non-specific that it "works" everywhere.

It is certainly true that Quebecois are more different from their English-speaking Canadian counterparts than Iowans are from Nebraskans. Nonetheless, if you are not lazy, you can usually find leverageable cultural and behavioral differences among distinct geographic populations.

Is it a coincidence that the one place Pepsi does not "change and adapt" its general ad campaign is the one place it dominates Coke?

I don't believe in coincidences.

I have seen thousands of ads that were too general. But I’ve never seen one that was too specific.

On several occasions I have mentioned that, in my opinion, the two most important words in advertising are “be specific.”

The perfect ad would be so specific that those outside the target would not understand it. The perfect ad for golf equipment would be incomprehensible to non-golfers. The perfect coffee ad would be meaningless to non-coffee drinkers.

Unfortunately there are very few perfect ads. And there are very few perfect advertisers.

Probably about 95% of all advertisers don't have the financial resources to address all their segments with that degree of specificity. It's expensive to be specific.

Which makes the laziness of global advertisers -- who do have the resources -- even more incomprehensible.

If you had the resources to create advertising that is culture-specific, why in the world would you want to run an "adaptation" of advertising from somewhere else?

I can understand why agencies sell this idea -- in some cases largeness is their only differentiating characteristic. But why would any sane marketer buy it?

Of course, there is only so much slicing and dicing a marketer can do before he runs out of money.

But it seems like the current ideal among global advertisers is not to achieve as much specificity as possible, but as little.

*From what I can reconstruct, Pepsi Quebec has been handled by BBDO Montreal, part of Pepsi's global agency, since 1997. But the strategy of not utilizing the "global" campaign was initiated by JWT when they handled the account in the 1970s.

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