[Editor's Note: This article is a part of ADText.]
The emergence of global brands—that is, of brands that are available in many or even most parts of the world—makes it necessary for advertising to operate globally. Global advertising campaigns share many features with advertising in more restricted markets, but they also occasion some unique issues and solutions.
This unit features interviews with Marcio Moreira, Vice Chairman and former Worldwide Director of Multinational Accounts of McCann Worldgroup, and Shelly Lazarus, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide.
Both Moreira and Lazarus have worked extensively with global campaigns. Few individuals are better placed or more experienced than they to provide overviews of what global advertising is and how it works.
2. Marcio Moreira on Global Advertising
Read the original 1989 interview “The Airbrushing of Culture” with Moreira in Advertising & Society Review.
WMO: It’s been 20 years since we published “The Airbrushing of Culture.” That interview focused on the state of global advertising at that time. You talked about thinking globally and executing locally and explained how things that might look different on the surface can, in fact, be realizations of the same core idea. I remember the Sprite commercial for South Africa that you described. It was shot in a roller-skating rink instead of the usual beach scene that Sprite was using at that time. You explained that many South African blacks were not comfortable swimming and therefore the beach was more about danger than having fun. The execution using roller skating contained the same core ideas of youth, sociability, and having fun— but on the surface it looked really different from the beach scenes. Realizing that surprised many of our readers at the time. Does global advertising still work like that today?
MM: The way global campaigns are executed has evolved tremendously since then—but in the same direction. We don’t talk about global ideas anymore. We talk instead about brand platforms because the strongest expression of a brand comes from designing a platform and making sure it’s executed in a culturally relevant fashion wherever it’s found. In those days we were taking a global idea per se and executing it for use in a number of markets with some rather minor variations. Today we don’t necessarily bother to execute for usage across borders. The work is often executed in country but it’s based on a central brand platform.
WMO: So instead of those commercials that you had been shooting in the ’80s that were meant to work in all kinds of places where the population looked physically more or less the same, like Australia, New Zealand, and Europe, we’ve moved beyond that now?
MM: Way beyond that—unless you’re dealing with something that is so product driven and so dependent upon product imagery as opposed to user imagery. An example would be Gillette. Gillette introduces a new shaving system. Most of the footage would be about the shaving system: what it does, how it works, what the technology involved is, and what’s new about it. Most of the commercial would be dedicated to those things with perhaps one or two or three shots of how it works on someone’s face. That face can be any face. It doesn’t matter if it’s from this country or that country, because you’re so close up that you’re dealing with the beard on somebody’s face as opposed to the human type that you’re shooting. Unless it’s something like that which can still be produced for mass consumption across boundaries, you’re really dealing with a world in which brand platforms are developed centrally, but most executions are developed locally.
WMO: What does a brand platform sound like?
MM: The easiest answer is to give you an example. Just do it is the brand platform that differentiates Nike from its competitors. It has an attitude of its own. Just do it is Nike. It’s acquired a strength of its own in the minds of consumers. It’s more than just a theme line. It’s a strategic brand notion that represents the brand in the way that it wishes to be represented and can be translated into a theme line in advertising communications, digital, or whatever other communication channels you might use. It’s a big brand platform. It’s about one’s ability to exceed one’s self.
The truth of the matter is that if you took a pair of Nikes and a pair of Reeboks and showed them to a Martian, he or she wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. They’re just two pairs of sneakers—but you and I know that people are very discerning about those brands. Some people would not buy Reeboks if their lives depended on it. They would buy Nikes instead. And some other people would buy Reeboks because that’s what they desire to wear. What’s the difference? They’re simply pairs of sneakers with no immediately discernible technical difference. Maybe an expert would say, “This shoe is this way and that shoe is that way,” but to the general public they’re pretty similar. The answer is: they’re brands that have come to represent different things to people. Nike has developed a strategic platform for itself whereby it’s an extension of one’s desire to exceed one’s own abilities. Just do it means pushing yourself to the limit, going beyond your expectations of yourself. That’s a brand platform.
WMO: When you talk about realizing a brand platform differently in different countries, how might this work? If we looked at the commercials themselves, would they seem to be the same all over the world?
MM: I’ll stick with the example of Nike. Most of Nike’s advertising you’ve probably seen has been concerned with running shoes, and yet in Japan all of the brand’s introductory advertising was for soccer shoes. The reason is that soccer is the most important sport in the eyes of the Japanese, so it was the most productive avenue for Nike to march on, if you will, at the very early stages of establishing its brand there. Soccer immediately got the attention of a much broader audience than a running or walking shoe would have. If you look at the advertising, it’s still about exceeding one’s own abilities, pushing the envelope, and going further, but it’s represented in the world of soccer instead of the world of running.
WMO: Does McCann still have a division in New York, like the international advertising group you had in the 1980s that produces commercials for use in several countries or that can be used as pattern advertisements for local production?
WMO: What happened to it?
MM: The people were dispersed across the McCann system. Some of them are still around. Some of them are running other companies and doing creative work in other places. It was disbanded because the need for the so-called pattern advertising of those days ceased to exist. Once you’re dealing with a brand platform that everybody agrees on, the execution can be left to the individual markets, individual segments, and individual countries. You no longer need the central production capabilities that the InterNational Team of the 1980s represented. So we disbanded it and took care of the people.
WMO: So central execution is no longer the way to run the advertising business?
MM: Absolutely not. I wouldn’t have a central group today design actual finished commercials for a brand. I would have a central group that is more strategically driven whose function is to design brand platforms.
WMO: It seems that a major difference between the late 1980s and now is all the talk about brands. Is brand management the driving idea for the differences in approach to global advertising between then and now?
MM: I even hesitate to use the word advertising anymore because there’s such a plethora of new channels out there. These days we talk about “brand communications” because the truth of the matter is a viral message that is put on the Internet and gets a following and attracts a lot of people is not necessarily designed as advertising. It’s designed as a piece of entertainment, or information, or an intriguing piece of communication that grabs your attention, and the public turns it into a message. The public chooses to send it on to other people and thus turn it into a property for the brand. Advertising is only one aspect of what a brand does.
A vital global brand today has to have an array of communications covering a whole lot of approaches for communicating with the consumer: advertising, digital, online, offline, PR, events, promotions, manifestations in the physical space. We talk about manifestations and about communications as opposed to advertising per se because that concept has become too restrictive. That said, when we talk about brands, it’s very important that there is agreement about what a brand is and that’s what we’re talking about in terms of brand platforms. Somebody has to sit down and decide this is what my brand will stand for and therefore any manifestation of this brand in the numerous channels through which we communicate will have to reflect that.
WMO: What is the role of an organization like McCann in formulating these brand platforms? Does the client come with the need to have a brand platform worked out or do they come with it already done?
MM: Some clients come to you already knowing what their brands stand for. What they’re looking for from you is how best to express it, how to expand it, how to manage it over time, across borders, and across constituencies, and how to take it further by using new communications channels. They pretty much know what the brand stands for, but we might help them refine it or express it differently.
In other cases a client says, “Here’s my brand. Here’s what it represented in the past. These are the strengths we believe it has. Here’s how the consumer reacts to it based on our best research. We want you to take it further. We want you to establish a brand platform that enables it to go into the future with a promising outlook.” This calls for a more basic brand-platform development exercise, which we do for them. MasterCard is a great example of this latter approach. The “priceless” campaign, as we know it today, was designed as an exercise that the client requested. In other words, the client came in and said, “Today we believe that MasterCard is positioned as the ‘future of money,’”—that’s the line that they were playing with at the time—“and we believe that we need to develop a much more differentiating, much more unique, and much more powerful brand platform for MasterCard. That’s why we’re here.” So we were given the mandate as well as the challenge to assist them in developing it.
After a lot of work involving both the client and the agency, the campaign that’s now known as the “priceless” campaign was developed. And it was developed on the basis that there are things in life that matter more than others, that are, therefore, priceless; and that this is the card for everything else in life. MasterCard conducts ongoing research on a global basis to discover what things matter most to people so that they can be used in communications about MasterCard. We take them and say, “Those things are priceless. For everything else, there’s MasterCard.”
WMO: Are those things that are priceless different across cultures and nations?
MM: Many of them are the same. Family always matters. Family relationships are always a good place to be with MasterCard because you know that family matters, but it could be the love of an animal or some personal pleasure of one kind or another. It could be discovery. There are a myriad of things that could be priceless. The trick is to uncover those that will trigger a reaction with the audience. In other words, the audience will respond to something and nod and say, “Yes, that is priceless” —whether it’s a sunset at a particular location, or a dialogue with one’s father, or another type of unique situation that people would nod to and say, “That’s priceless.” That is what creates the bond between the consumer and the brand immediately. The consumer thinks, “See, they understand what’s priceless and that’s the card for me, because for everything else I can use the card.” What “priceless” did was create a whole new universe for a credit card to exist in. It’s the card for those who have an appreciation for things that matter. It’s the card for those who know the things that really matter.
There’s a commercial on the radio right now about a guy who installed an incredible new sound system in his car because it matters to him and it made the car a different animal as far as he’s concerned. Therefore, it made it priceless. And you immediately catch on as soon as he starts telling you. It describes his grandfather who lost a filling because of the vibrations from the installed sound system. You can see the enthusiasm with which the guy describes the sound system. And why? Because music matters to him, and the car matters, and so on.
You couldn’t run that commercial in some of MasterCard’s markets. You’d need to be more basic in those markets. You need to address more fundamental needs and issues and things that matter. That’s why there’s a need for research everywhere about what people care about—because you need to identify the things that really matter to them.
The closest thing we have to the old InterNational Team is the central team on MasterCard. They are a group of strategists, account people and creative people. Except for the work they design for the US market, they don’t write and produce commercials for the world. They are the keepers of the premise, the platform. They have a day-to-day occupation, which is to write and produce the US advertising and communications for the brand, but their other function is to vet the work that is designed in other markets. The work that is designed around the world is sent to this group in New York. They decide if the work is true to the brand platform and give it the go-ahead if it is.
WMO: So what happens in these local agency offices, say, in São Paulo and Mumbai and so on, that wasn’t possible in the late 1980s?
WMO: How do they do that physically? Do people from other offices come to New York to work together?
MM: No. They have a basic understanding of the brand platform and the strategy that’s being pursued. They dialogue with the local client as to what’s required. They have the “things that matter” research for their markets that tell them what matters to people. Based on all those inputs, they design their ads and send their ideas to the central group in New York for verification that they are remaining true to the central brand platform.
WMO: What you’re describing is both a more successful way of producing global advertising than in the 1980s as well as a much more decentralized process.
MM: Yes, completely decentralized. The work emerges from the markets, and only then does it come in for verification.
WMO: This seems enigmatic in the context of globalization. Can you say why decentralization works better than centralization?
WMO: That means that what we call global advertising really isn’t a unified practice.
MM: That’s an extremely important point. It’s right for Gillette to be centralized because they’re trying to announce the birth of a new piece of equipment. They know more about shaving and about males on a global basis than anybody. That’s their business. It’s what they’re focused on. They have a Gillette brand platform represented by the line “the best a man can get,” which is about maleness and grooming. When a new shaving system is developed, the guys close to the R & D department are, by definition, the ones to announce it from the center. This way they can let the world know as soon as possible that there’s a new system and that it shaves in this way.
WMO: You talked earlier about showing the razor on the face and that it didn’t much matter who the person in the commercial is. Hair and facial color are not the same everywhere. Does this physical difference need to be dealt with?
MM: If it needs to be done, they’ll reshoot just those scenes. That’s not a big issue. You’re not telling a human story and worried about the casting of it. In this case, it’s just a technical situation. If you need to make sure that the face is Indian for India, that’s easily replaceable locally. You re-shoot that one scene, but the commercial isn’t about that face. It’s about the shaving system.
WMO: Twenty years ago, you described Coca-Cola’s mode for international commercials of never having people speak on camera. That allowed for easy substitution of the soundtrack from place to place. What’s happened to this approach to manage linguistic differences?
MM: That’s all changed. First of all, we still do a lot of work for Coca-Cola but most of it is done locally. There’s no centralized work per se. Offices around the world work on Coca-Cola. I cannot speak for The Coca-Cola Company, but they appear to have a much larger number of agencies working for them now than they’ve ever had. Secondly, they have a much more decentralized system than ever. They’ve tried the regional approach, they’ve tried the local approach, and where they are today is they have their specific brands with specific agencies developing the work almost on a market-by-market basis. Sometimes, on a regional basis, if there is an event that justifies it, like the World Cup, for example, they may look for an idea that can be used across a region like Latin America. They’ve decentralized the system dramatically and that has significantly reduced the need for pattern commercials and global commercials where there are no lip-synch problems. In the past, we needed to re-sing the jingle or completely redo the soundtrack on a market-by-market basis. The best solution then was to avoid on-camera lip-synch problems with images that were shot and approved for global usage.
WMO: That’s all passed?
MM: None of it exists anymore. The net effect is that local Coca-Cola advertising includes dialogue, music, animation, all sorts of techniques, and there’s seldom any expectation that the Coca-Cola commercial that runs in this market mirrors the commercial that runs in that market.
WMO: But Coke’s approach from 1987 was “One sell, one sight, one sound.”
WMO: Why did it make sense to give that up?
WMO: Can you explain that to me?
MM: I don’t work on Coke any longer, but my perception of it is that it’s always optimistic, always fun, always something memorable. It’s something that happens in your life that makes you happy. It’s constructive. “The Coke side of life” is the optimistic side of life. That’s my takeaway. All the executions that I’ve seen play that out: optimism, fun, and a positive attitude toward life.
WMO: You’ve been in the advertising business for a while now. How would you tell the history of the internationalization of advertising? What’s the storyline? How did it develop into its present form?
MM: There were a few crucial stages to it as far as the large international brands were concerned. Stage 1 was all about behaving in the overseas markets more or less like you did at home. What was good for the originating market was thought to be good for the new markets. For example, the Esso tiger was created in the US for the domestic market. It was a great success and the natural tendency was to replicate it elsewhere. There was some merit to that approach when you took something as powerful as the icon of the Esso tiger and transplanted it from one culture to another as a symbol of power and the personality of the brand it represented. It worked. They didn’t expect the executions to remain exactly the same, but to the extent possible Esso wanted to translate the copy or redo the soundtrack in order to use the same work. The ads weren’t designed as pattern ads—that is, not for multi-country usage. They were designed for use in the US and were simply transplanted. I would call that the first stage in the history of internationalization of brands.
I remember a time when IBM would design some very specific print ads and they would come and ask for them to be replicated for use in another market. They wanted the copy followed almost to the letter of what was being published in the market of origin—which was here in the US. I could just say this was the period when the approach was “what’s good for the US is good for the world,” but the truth is that global brands have existed for a long time in other countries as well. Nestlé from Switzerland has marketed its products in other countries for a very long time. Packaged-goods companies tended to be more flexible in terms of making the advertising relevant to particular markets. They never demanded that the same ideas be utilized everywhere. They may have demanded the same product positioning. Nesquik, for example, was always positioned as a milk modifier that’s fun to drink and is also nutritious. That product positioning was always used wherever Nesquik went, but the execution wasn’t necessarily the same.
View a Coke commercial from the 1980s that illustrates “one sight, one sound, one sell.”
Stage 2 occurred when companies decided their brands were really powerful and important, so important, in fact, that they needed to control and manage the image. This was the period of designing and controlling advertising from the center as we did here at McCann in the 1980s for some of our clients. This was the period of “one sight, one sound, one sell.” Many brands believed that was the way to go. Some created, produced, and sent out campaigns to various markets. Some were more successful with this approach than others, especially those associated with very strong corporate cultures that demanded a brand behavior that was all-pervasive across the system.
Other brands delegated a lot of local jurisdiction over the advertising. They didn’t insist on running the same campaign worldwide. For example, the Goodyear tire company made several attempts to run the same campaign everywhere, but the guy who headed up Goodyear in Europe had a marketing plan, certain goals to achieve, certain cultural traits to take into account regarding the European markets. So he was given freedom to design and run his own advertising regardless of what was running in the US.
Stage 3 occurred when brands began designing brand propositions and platforms and creating communications that could be used as inspiration for local markets that were in turn allowed to create, design, and produce their own work. This is the third stage, of which MasterCard is a prime example.
To summarize, in Stage 1 the philosophy was to control communications from concept to execution, centrally. The model, in the majority of cases, was the country of origin. In Stage 2 the philosophy was to create the campaign at the center but allow different cultures to develop their own versions of that campaign: thinking globally, acting locally. In Stage 3 the philosophy is each culture should be the author of its own work, but all work will abide by a centralizing brand platform. There are examples, today, of brands operating in all these three stages, which means that each company chooses to pursue the strategy that best suits its business objectives.
I already see the development of the fourth stage where the consumer dictates the behavior of brands. We are living in an interactive world. Companies don’t own their brands anymore. The consumer owns the brand and the consumer decides whether you’re communicating correctly or incorrectly. So the good old days of a TV commercial that told you what the product was, told you to buy it, and a put pack shot at the end are over. There is no such thing anymore. Consumers reject it. You can’t sell that way anymore. Consumers will completely zap you, not watch you, and you’ll be dead. The world of interactivity demands that you include the consumer in the authorship of what’s being communicated.
WMO: Can you give me specific examples?
WMO: “In story after story, Clay Shirky masterfully makes the connections as to why business, society, and our lives continue to be transformed by a world of Net-enabled social tools. His patternmatching skills are second to none.” Another reads, “Clay Shirky has long been one of my favorite thinkers on all things internet—not only is he smart and articulate but he’s able to crystallize the half-formed ideas (the ones I’ve been trying to piece together) into glittering brilliant insights …”
WMO: “How do trends emerge and opinions form? The answer used to be something vague about word of mouth, but now it’s a highly measurable science, and nobody understands it better than Clay Shirky. In this delightfully readable book, practically every page has an insight that will change the way you think about the new era of social media. Highly recommended.” The book is called Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing without Organizations.
MM: I just finished it. It’s about the power of social network communications today. Are you familiar with Nike Plus? It’s an online communications program where you can do anything from tracking your runs to designing your own shoe, which is then delivered to your house, by Nike.
WMO: That’s incredible.
MM: That’s what it is. That’s happening with communications. People are writing and producing commercials from home and sending them in to advertisers. The consumer has decided to take a role in the communications process.
WMO: Is this what we saw with the Super Bowl when there were consumer-written commercials?
WMO: Is this the wave of the future?
MM: It’s the wave of the present. It’s happening as we speak. Consumers can kill a brand if they want to. An advertiser today that doesn’t have, in addition to traditional communications, a digital campaign is shorthanded. That could include a viral idea that’s put on the Net for nothing and becomes extremely powerful overnight because people send it to one another. It relies on the power of multiplication by the consumer. It doesn’t have a physical manifestation of one kind or another like a painting on the side of a building. It’s a stroll in Central Park or some other major event that generates consumer response that gets filmed, put on the Internet, and sent to other people by consumers, not by the advertiser. An advertiser that doesn’t have a series of programs that are completely out of the traditional media world is not communicating properly today.
WMO: In this context, what becomes the role of an organization like McCann?
MM: We sit down with the client and design all of that. I know what you’re thinking. You remember a time that we would design a television commercial, produce it, get a commission for producing it, and put it on the air and get a commission for that.
WMO: That has been the model.
MM: That model is gone. We are all working on man hours now like lawyers or consultants. And our lives now have to do with designing the most effective ways of communicating, whatever the channel may be. And we have an entire company here dedicated to strictly digital communication inside McCann Worldgroup called MRM. That’s all they do—customer relationship through the Net.
WMO: So what’s the future? Where does it go from here?
MM: The consumer is now in charge. The consumer used to be a target. We used to use expressions like target group, audience, stuff like that. It’s no longer the case. The consumer is an author now. He’s authoring with us. He’s participating in the communication dialogue through social networking, or YouTube, or whatever. People can upload anything they like.
WMO: And it’s all there. Now there are critics of advertising who would say this amounts to an even greater cooptation of consumers than ever before because instead of them being outside advertising and being able to say no to it, they’re now so entangled with it that they get the responsibility and the blame for making things the way they are. What’s your response to an argument like that?
MM: My response is that we’re only just responding to what hit us. We are figuring it out and designing communications that work in a very new and unfamiliar environment. Business as usual is an inadequate response to brand communications in the digital era.
WMO: But that’s the answer advertising has always given—that it’s responsive to forces outside of advertising.
MM: That’s not true. This is not about forces. This is a direct result of the impact the Internet has had on our lives over the past decade or so. Many are still struggling with how to make money on the Internet. Many are still trying to figure out how to operate things through the Internet—and decide the degree to which they should be involved in it. All of a sudden they woke up and the consumer was in charge.
Read about “salesmanship in print” in ADText.
WMO: This harkens back to the century-old definition of advertising as salesmanship in print that argues that technology is what drives the possibilities of advertising. The industry had to face newspapers, billboards, magazines, and, later, radio and television. Advertising made use of these things and evolved as it adjusted to the possibilities that they offered. You’re saying that Internet is another one of these technological changes that occurred outside the business but has enormous ramifications for what happens within it. It’s a revolution, if you will, that started elsewhere.
MM: You and I are dialoguing on different planes. And the reason is words are still being used like advertising and technology in communications. I am trying to refer to a world where the consumer is ahead of what the traditional advertising business is doing. To go back to the line I used before: The consumer is in charge. The consumer will make you live or die depending on how he decides to react to the way you communicate. If you communicate in any way that is hard selling or uninspired or doesn’t contribute to his lifestyle or doesn’t appeal to his sensitivities, you won’t succeed. The consumer is now the coauthor. The work that you put out can be modified by the consumer and sent on to somebody else.
WMO: In the ’60s, it was said that consumers voted with their pocketbooks, which was a way of talking about how the consumer can respond to what was said to them. Occasionally consumers would write in when they were really aggravated about something or really loved it, but that doesn’t happen very much anymore. Now you’re talking about a very different way of interacting.
WMO: What should it be?
MM: People. The word consumer assumes that it’s a person with an act—the act of consuming something. It’s a person who’s going to consume something, who’s going to buy something to consume. Brands no longer exist in that universe. They exist in the universe of opinions and feelings. Somebody may not even be in your traditional target group but will have an opinion about you. That person can express it on the Internet and send it to 200 friends who themselves have 200 friends, and, lo and behold, within a day you could have millions of hits of something about the brand that you have absolutely no control over. That person wasn’t in your target group to begin with. He simply disliked the way that you sounded, or what you said about yourself, or whatever.
WMO: So what do companies do to minimize this?
MM: They try to understand people and be part of their lives by existing in the same means of communications they use. Companies want their brands to be a part of people’s lives. They offer ideas, perceptions, entertainment, and virtually all kinds of possibilities that consumers can latch on to. Hard sell no longer works because it’s a one-way communication. Even the MasterCard “priceless” campaign is interactive. It’s organically elective. It says, “Ski lessons, $50.” Then it says, “New skis, $350.” Then it says, “Hotel room on the slopes,” and pauses. What’s a person’s first reaction? He’s going to try to guess the price of that room, right? The pause is there to get your brain working with the commercial.
What’s the priceless moment going to be about? It’s going to be about skiing or being where skiing takes place. I’ve dictated the tone of the conversation from the beginning. So if I end the commercial by saying, “Snowball fight with your family, priceless,” I’ve completed the commercial for you. What happened? I hooked you with ski lessons for $50. I kept you going for three more items at least while you were guessing the price, and I hooked you with the priceless moment, which is going to have something to do with family. You didn’t leave me. You didn’t change channels because I had some interactivity with you in this conversation. I wasn’t simply saying, “Take your MasterCard and go out and get some ski lessons, new skis, and a room, and then gather your family and have a snowball fight. MasterCard.” That wouldn’t have worked because it has no interaction in it whatsoever.
The point I’m making is that consumers are now used to getting a response from their involvement with brands—once you go on the website, once you make an 800 phone call, respond to anything, you expect an answer. Interactivity is with us to stay. It’s not going to go away. Consumers don’t expect monologue. They expect dialogue. And if that’s true, this is a sea change in the way that brands communicate. You can’t afford to be on the wrong side of people and you can’t afford not to supply people with answers and entertaining ideas and things about the brand that they will emulate and they will respond to. It’s as simple as that.
3. Shelly Lazarus on Global Advertising
WMO: What does it mean for a brand to be global?
SL: It means figuring out what is universal about the brand—those things that transcend where it happens to be manufactured, or where it started, or where the founder lives. For American Express, the brand universals are: highest quality service wherever you go, the experience of excellence, and a sense of being somewhat exclusive. As the invitation to get the card says, not everyone who applies is accepted for membership. There’s nothing geographic about any of this. These things are true for the brand no matter the country. You expect high quality, excellent service, and a product that is really defined by the people who use it.
Dove is another wonderful example of the universal. Dove was introduced in 1955 and was marketed only in the US for nearly 50 years. It was first marketed outside the US only about 19 years ago. Now it’s the top-selling personal care brand in the world.
What Dove stands for can travel everywhere, and we were able to develop a global campaign for Dove on this basis. It’s about real beauty. It isn’t about the overly hyped, overly made-up, and exaggerated artificial beauty that a lot of cosmetics brands promote. It’s about a woman’s real beauty—only better. Enhancing whatever those wonderful things are that she was born with and grew up with and making them as good as they can be. There’s nothing that links Dove to a particular geography. There’s a universal truth here. It’s expressed in different ways in different countries and cultures, but the brand’s truth is universal and constant.
The advertising needs to be different in the Middle East where most women have their heads completely covered from, say, what is appropriate for France. In the Middle East, a woman, who’s wearing a head covering, talks about how Dove Shampoo makes her feel. And a woman in France talks about how she feels about Dove and how she feels about herself while she has her hands running through her hair and all that. The universal truth of the brand is the same. It’s the way you execute it that sometimes needs to be different.
WMO: You’re arguing for the notion that people everywhere are pretty much the same—they want the same things, they have the same desires and needs, and they respond in similar ways to the products and brands that are offered them.
SL: Absolutely, but there will always be surface differences as well as the deeper universals. As Dove went global, we observed universal truths as well as cultural differences. We used “real” women in every country, but we found that there were certain countries where a woman’s sense of how she assessed her own beauty is a function of how men feel about her, while in other countries it’s much more about the way she feels about herself. One might argue this is a significant difference, but there is still a universal truth that remains at the core—how a woman feels about her beauty.
WMO: Does it follow then that the same ad can be used everywhere?
SL: Companies that have the most sophisticated thinking about global brands, that understand their core ideas, don’t necessarily think that their advertising can or should be the same everywhere. The right answer is usually that some of it can and some of it can’t.
Some expressions of a brand are universal, and there will be others that are powerful only in certain geographies. For example, IBM believes that the way people use technology and the way services drive businesses are pretty similar all over the world, at least that there are many more similarities than differences. Therefore, with a little bit of shading and maybe changing how the people look and things like that, IBM can approach their communications globally. The same ad can be used practically anywhere.
We produced a spot for IBM that is based on a system that they have installed in Stockholm to ease traffic congestion. Sensors monitor the traffic and calibrate the traffic lights to ease congestion. Although the story comes from a specific geography, it’s something that is relevant, interesting, and important to the lives of people everywhere in the world.
WMO: Do you see us as moving toward a really homogenized world, one in which we find that all of a sudden we have similarities with others we didn’t think we had or maybe didn’t have before?
SL: I wouldn’t look at it that way. I think we’re moving to a world that is individualistic—one where individuals can tailor their own communications program depending on what they’re interested in, whose word they trust, and whose advice they want. The starting point is that everything is available to everyone now.
Visit the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty message board.
Consumers are speaking up and talking to one another as well. Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty didn’t dictate a standard of beauty. Rather, it gave women themselves a say about what is beautiful. The Campaign started a global dialogue on the Dove website where women from all over started to talk to each other on the subject. It was, it still is, quite extraordinary.
WMO: What about all those people around the world who don’t participate?
One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) is a non-profit project to provide low-cost laptops to children all over the world, in rural and urban areas.
SL: I’m optimistic. This situation calls out for those $200 laptops. If you can make them somewhat available in a village—because everybody doesn’t need his or her own—all of a sudden you go from zero to sixty in a minute. You go from “I wasn’t communicating with anyone outside the three miles around my village” to “Now, because I have access to a computer in my village, I can talk to the entire world.” I think it’s really exciting. Now all we’ve got to figure out is how to get a laptop in every village in Africa. We’re trying to open the world to them.
WMO: Is all this globalization a good thing?
SL: I don’t think we should make value judgments about the choices people make. The good thing is that there is choice. People have and partake of choices—about drinks and food and conversations they can have. They have choices about the places they can go to get information. I think the thing is to make it all available and then let people make their own choices.
It’s rather condescending when someone says that people who live in rural areas in Asia are now drinking Coca-Cola rather than local products and that’s somehow a bad thing. Maybe they like Coca-Cola. Maybe they like the way it tastes. Maybe its quality is much more consistent. If the Chinese like KFC—if it is new and wonderful to them and they like the clean and bright environment that the food is served in— then who are we to say that that’s a shame because they used to eat in small places that served locally indigenous food? I’m not in a position where I can make that statement. I just think that if you put the choices out there, people will choose what they like.
Read about KFC in China in ADText.
WMO: Is global advertising run out of a few centers, like New York, London, Paris, and Tokyo?
SL: At Ogilvy, our leadership, our centers of excellence, our creative ventures—they can be anywhere. We ran Motorola for a few years out of Beijing. We now run Lenovo, which is a Chinese company, out of Bangalore.
People ask: Why not run Lenovo out of China? The reason is that India is the place where Lenovo has been most successful since they purchased IBM’s laptop division. That business is focused in Bangalore. The client came one day and asked, “What if we run the whole thing out of India? We have these people who understand the brand so well. They’ve done a fantastic job. They come from everywhere in the world. Why don’t we just run the whole thing out of Bangalore?” And that’s what we are doing.
Lenovo calls this world sourcing. It means figuring out the smartest place in the world to center something, and we’ll figure out how to run it out of that place. This is how global advertising works nowadays.
We’ve been running Pond’s out of Thailand. Parts of Unilever have been headquartered there for a long time. The choice was simply a function of who had been most successful in marketing the brand. That’s the place the multinational company will look and say, “Why don’t we run it worldwide out of there?”
WMO: What does it mean for Pond’s to be run out of Thailand? Are they sending pattern advertising to other countries and asking them to use it or remake it for local markets?
SL: It’s just as you say. First of all, it’s the group in Thailand that discovers the universals of the brand. Then they develop a communications program that they believe is a model for what should be done globally. Having said that, Pond’s still gives freedom to any particular markets to say, “We can use that 100%,” or “We could use that with a few modifications.” There will probably be one or two or three countries that will raise their hands and say, “We buy into the universal truth for the brand, but we don’t think that whole execution will work here at all, so we’re going to make a big change in it.” There are very few countries that will take that last approach.
When everybody works together and comes up with a large idea that really encompasses the brand, experience shows that about 80% of the countries will go with the global campaign or some slight modification of it, because it really catches what’s universal about the brand. Another 10% will say, “This just isn’t working for us,” and do work that’s completely off the mark. Another 10% will go off and do different work that is excellent and often takes the entire campaign up a notch.
WMO: Books about doing business around the world are filled with cross-cultural faux pas. Are these just small mistakes in otherwise large successes, or do they deserve the kind of attention they sometimes get?
SL: They’re usually just small mistakes, but here’s the thing that I don’t understand when I hear about such things. We would never run anything in any country that didn’t actually get looked at first and evaluated by people who are in the local geography. We want to make sure it’s as powerful as we think it is.
We’re always asked by clients whether we really do need people resident in every country where we advertise. Why don’t you just send the ad out from the center? Why do you have to have people who catch it in each country and fiddle with it a little bit? Wouldn’t you be better off actually with less fiddling? It would save us money if we didn’t have to send it to people everywhere.
My answer is that as much as I believe in the universal truth of a brand, as much as I believe in global brands themselves and global communications programs, there’s always room to take what is created at the center and make it better. There are people in the local markets who understand their culture and geography better than the people at the center. They can adjust and reinterpret the message to take it from 100% to 150%.
WMO: Where are we headed in the future?
SL: First of all, the formula for communicating with consumers has changed. When I came into the business, you needed to run two television commercials and three print ads every year and you were done. We can’t even talk in terms of traditional advertising in the mass media anymore. The question now is how you put together a communications program that makes use of everything that’s available these days. This introduces a degree of complexity and localness I would argue that we didn’t have to think about before.
The question is how to engage consumers and communicate with them in ways that build brand awareness and preference and ultimately purchase. It’s so much more complicated now and will even be more so in the future. We constantly have to rethink the right resource mix for every brand. It’s a time of enormous change.
WMO: In addition to the brands Ogilvy represents that you’ve named, which other brands are doing a good job of marketing themselves all over the world?
Read about Starbucks’ emotional branding in ADText.
SL: Starbucks has been a great example. It developed its brand so creatively. I remember walking in the old town in Zurich in March last year. There were all those lovely outdoor cafés but nobody was in them. I walked along the main street and there was a Starbucks. It was mobbed. People were standing outside in line to buy coffee. The coffee was the same and the pastries were exactly the same—lemon cake with lemon frosting, marbled cake, and so on—as you find at every Starbucks in the US. It was nowhere as nice as the cafes. If you think about it, what Starbucks did was to recreate the European coffee house experience. And it seems that Europeans now prefer it to the actual coffeehouse experience right next door. That’s an example of a global brand where they got it right. They got all the touch points right (although the weakness of the economy is definitely challenging them now).
DHL is another great example of a global brand, but unlike Starbucks their market conditions are so different by geography that this drives a different kind of communications program. The core message of DHL is excellent customer service all over the world. In Europe you use DHL as a verb the way you use FedEx as a verb in the US. In Europe people will just say, “Oh just DHL it.” In the US many people had never heard of DHL, so we had to build the awareness of a brand in the US that was already so well known in Europe that it had become a generic verb. This called for a communication program differentiated by geography because of market conditions. If you used the same ads in Europe that we used to reintroduce the brand in the US, people would laugh, “Of course, we know DHL!” So to communicate the core of the brand globally, we needed to make the advertising different by geography.
WMO: We haven’t mentioned brand experience and 360 Degree Branding® that are so much a part of Ogilvy’s approach.
SL: If you get down to universal truths of a brand, then you know what the brand experience should feel like. You know how the brand should be vetted every point of contact. Once you talk about BP as being Beyond Petroleum—that it’s a brand that cares about the environment, a brand that is green, is willing to try to do things differently from the way the oil industry in general has always done things—then you know, for example, that it should feel different and look different at the convenience store in the gas station. You know that the coffee should be good and you know that the sandwiches should be fresh. We designed the cardboard coffee cups you find there to deliver a conservation message right on the cup. It’s important for a brand to have an organizing principle. Beyond Petroleum defines an attitude. When you know that, you let everybody loose to figure out what kind of sandwiches they have in the local convenience store. But you know it’s got to feel like sandwiches that no other oil company in your country would ever have thought of bringing to the public before.
WMO: Why did it take so long for advertising to start talking like this?
4. Major Trends in the Development of Global Advertising
Read “A Brief History of Advertising in America” in ADText for a fuller context.
Both Lazarus and Moreira spoke about the history of globalization as they had experienced it in their own careers. It is helpful to link their observations to the general trends that took place, first in internationalizing and later in globalizing American advertising. The following timetable outlines major trends in this development.
Several key points emerge from the information provided by Moreira and Lazarus. They are:
• Global advertising is not a single or unified phenomenon. Rather, its specific practice in particular campaigns is shaped by such factors as clients’ goals and wishes, available media, budgets, cultural characteristics of the various markets, as well as the specific attributes of the product itself.
• Global campaigns require an understanding of what is universal about the brand.22 The essence of a global campaign is communicating these universals across cultural, linguistic, and national borders. This may require superficial differences in ads for different markets.
• Not all global advertising operates out of a central office in New York or Chicago. Rather, global campaigns for particular brands tend to be run out of offices in countries where the brand has been especially successful. Central monitoring, wherever it occurs, is concerned with being sure that communications do not violate the principles of the brand.
• Contemporary global advertising operates in an environment of greater interactivity with consumers than ever before. Consumers have more freedom than ever to choose which ads they watch or read, which brand environments they enter, and whether they will engage interactively with the brand.
• The cultural faux pas that are frequently reported in newspapers, by word of mouth, or Internet postings are actually rather infrequent occurrences and suggest that appropriate research had not been conducted before going public.
William M. O'Barr is Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Duke University where he has taught since 1969. He holds secondary appointments in the Departments of Sociology and English. He has been a visiting professor at Northwestern, Dalhousie, and Oxford. He has been recognized for his outstanding undergraduate teaching by both the Duke University Alumni Association and Trinity College (Duke University). His course Advertising and Society: Global Perspectives is one of Duke';s most popular undergraduate courses. His seminars include Advertising and Masculinity, Children and Advertising, and The Language of Advertising.
He is author and co-author of ten books, including Culture and the Ad: Exploring Otherness in the World of Advertising, Rules versus Relationships, and Just Words: Law, Language, and Power. He has conducted anthropological research in Brazil, China, East Africa, India, Japan, and the US. In addition to his interest in social and cultural aspects of advertising, Professor O'Barr has researched law in a variety of cultural settings.
In 2000, he founded Advertising & Society Review and served as editor from 2000 to 2005. He is author of ADTextOnline.org, which will consist of 20 units published as supplements to A&SR.
Shelly Lazarus is Chairman & Chief Executive Officer at Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide.
Shelly Lazarus has been working, as she would say it, “in the business I love,” for more than three decades, almost all of that time at Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide.
She started at Ogilvy when the agency’s legendary founder, David Ogilvy, still walked the halls and preached that the purpose of advertising is to build great brands.
After rising through the ranks of account management and playing a pivotal role on many of the agency’s signature accounts, She left the general agency to become the General Manager for Ogilvy’s direct marketing unit in the US. Her success there led to positions of increasing responsibility in the worldwide company, and was named CEO in 1996.
Most importantly for Ogilvy, working in both advertising and direct marketing cemented her belief that building brands requires an integrated communication approach driven by a big core idea. This philosophy has been at the heart of Ogilvy’s business practice called 360 Degree Brand Stewardship®, and has guided successful campaigns for most of the largest brands that Ogilvy handles, including IBM, Dove, Kodak, and American Express.
Ms. Lazarus has been a frequent industry honoree. Advertising Women of New York selected her as Woman of the Year in 1994. She was honored by Women in Communications with their Matrix Award in 1995, was named Business Woman of the Year by the Partnership for New York City in 1996, and Woman of the Year in 2002 by the Direct Marketing Association. She has appeared in Fortune magazine’s annual ranking of America’s 50 Most Powerful Women in Business since the list’s inception in 1998. She was also the first woman to receive the Columbia Business School Distinguished Leadership in Business Award.
Ms. Lazarus serves on the boards of several corporate, philanthropic, and academic institutions: General Electric, Merck, New York-Presbyterian Hospital, American Museum of Natural History, Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy, World Wildlife Fund, and the Board of Overseers of Columbia Business School, where she received her MBA in 1970. She recently served for five years as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Smith College, her alma mater. She is a member of Advertising Women of New York; The Committee of 200; Council on Foreign Relations; The Business Council; Women';s Forum, Inc.; and Deloitte & Touche Council for the Advancement of Women. She has also served as Chairman of the American Association of Advertising Agencies.
Marcio M. Moreira is the Vice Chairman of McCann Worldgroup. As Vice Chairman, Chief Talent Officer, Global HR Director of McCann Worldgroup, his responsibilities encompass global human resources, including recruitment, deployment and compensation, as well as oversight of McCann’s worldwide training and development programs. He was named Vice Chairman of McCann Worldgroup in 2000. His previous title was Vice Chairman, Chief Creative Officer and Worldwide Director of Multinational Accounts. He had assumed the creative title in 1993 and added the account post in 2002. From 1994-1998, in addition to his creative role, Mr. Moreira was Regional Director of McCann Asia-Pacific, the largest western-based ad agency system in the region. Earlier, he served for five years as Vice Chairman, Chief Creative Officer-International, and from 1991-1994 his responsibilities included heading the McCann NY creative department. Mr. Moreira began his advertising career with McCann Brazil in 1967. In 1980, he came to New York to head InterNational Team, then the agency';s multicultural creative taskforce. He was named Executive VP in 1982 and International Creative Director in 1984. In 1987 he took a one-year leave of absence to serve as Worldwide Marketing Coordinator for Columbia Pictures, then a Coca-Cola subsidiary. Over the years, Mr. Moreira has led cross-border creative development on such global accounts as Coca-Cola, UPS, Nestle, Goodyear, General Motors, Unilever, MasterCard, and Interbrew—and has won hundreds of awards, including Cannes Lions, New York Festival, Clio, Mobius, and Andy awards. He is also the recipient of The Paul Foley Award, the highest creative honor bestowed by The Interpublic Group. Mr. Moreira was named Brazil's Advertising Professional of the Year (1988), of the Decade (1990), and of the Century (2003). He has served as a judge for every major creative festival and as Chairman of the Cannes Festival. Fluent in Portuguese, Spanish, English, and French, he has authored two books (in Portuguese): one a collection of poetry, the other a series of short stories. He became an American citizen in 1990.
1. From the author’s collection.
3. Courtesy McCann Erickson.
4. From the author’s collection.
5. From the author’s collection.
6. Courtesy McCann Erickson.
7. Courtesy McCann Erickson.
11. Life, July 23, 1965.
12. “1965 Esso & Tony The Tiger Ad Italy,” Ebay. http://cgi.ebay.com/1965-Esso-Tony-The-Tiger-Ad-Italy_W0QQitemZ320300749317QQcmdZViewItem?_trksid=p3286.m20.l1116
13. Courtesy McCann Erickson.
15. Clay Shirkey, Here Comes Everybody: the power of organizing without organizations (New York: Penguin Press, 2008).
16. From the author’s collection.
17. Courtesy McCann Erickson.
19. ©2007 Mark Schäfer
20. Courtesy Ogilvy & Mather.
21. Courtesy Ogilvy & Mather.
22. Lazarus referred to these brand universals as “brand truths,” while Moreira spoke of them as “brand platforms.”