Global Marketers Think Local

NEW YORK Worldwide campaigns can be effective and are a necessary strategy for international companies, but only if they’re delivered with a strong sensitivity to local culture, said several marketing executives during a panel discussion at Advertising Week here on Wednesday.

Dubbed “Global Campaigns, Myth or Magic?” Rob Stagno, general manager of Microsoft; Diego Scotti, vp, global advertising, American Express; Chris Goodman, advertising manager, Accenture; and Jim Speros, chief marketing officer, Ernst & Young, offered their opinions about what works and what doesn’t work globally.

“We believe in a global platform with local applications,” Scotti said, a sentiment seconded by the others.

The panelists discussed their mechanisms for making sure the brand message is distributed consistently worldwide. Ernst & Young, for example, has a global marketing council made up of 20 senior marketers from offices around the world that meets quarterly. Accenture has a similar group. Microsoft has found it easier to consolidate its global advertising at a single agency: McCann Erickson.

Trouble arises when local cultural considerations are not taken into account. The executives cited their biggest mistakes. An American Express commercial showing Tiger Woods playing golf in the rain conveyed his determination in U.S. markets, but failed in Latin America and Italy, where people did not understand why he would play in bad weather.

Similarly, a Microsoft ad that featured a man with a dinosaur head did not work in Japan because it looked too much like Godzilla. The same ad did not work at all in Thailand because pairing an animal with a human is considered taboo.

The executives agreed that they were still waiting for holding companies to truly integrate, saying the model was not efficient for creating consistent creative around the world. The rise of the Internet, on the other hand, is adding to the ease of creating global campaigns, they noted.

“With the rise of wireless, technology is no longer location dependent,” Speros said. “What is local now will be a consumer unit, and not depend on geography. The possibilities are exciting.”