Thursday, July 30, 2009

GLOBAL CAMPAIGN - FACT OR FICTION?

4Ps B&M's Monojit Lahiri examines this new phenomenon, loaded with contradictions

Grab this. On the one hand, today more than ever, we reside in a global planet. On the other, the cute something-for-everybody and one-size-fits-all solution is simplistic, na├»ve and hopelessly obsolete in year 2009, right? No man is an island, is another view countered immediately, substantiated by the fact that man is ultimately the product of his roots and environment and therefore his version/vision of life is bound to be influenced and informed by it. God, so what gives? Is a global campaign – attempting to speak in one language across countries and people in a charming, persuasive and effective manner – a load of bullcrap? Or is it eminently possible if the basic lingua-franca of cutting-edge advertising (clarity, simplicity and imagination) creatively leveraged?

Ad Guru John Hegarty sets the ball rolling by rooting strongly for it and offers solid arguments. “If Hollywood, music and Picasso manages to do it, why can’t advertising? Aren’t we supposed to be specialists in a business mandated to bring brands and people together? Physical borders are man-made. The skill of truly great advertising practitioners is to generate ideas that are border-less. The real communicator looks at areas that unite – not divide – people,” he says. He admits that there will always be (political, ethnic, religious) differences between people, but when it comes to consumer behaviour and responses to brand messages and what they want out of it, amazingly, the similarities are stronger than people care to believe…! Another Dada Simon Sherwood endorses this view full-on and says that “unfortunately agency networks, mostly, are structured in ways that lend credence to the fact that different markets are different from each other. This creates confusion in both perspective and focus.”
 
Do our Ad guys agree? Sanjay Nayak, the Delhi-based President of McCann, believes this is a debate that will continue forever. “It’s like this. If basic human needs – food, shelter, incomes, relationships – are addressed in an imaginative way, then there is little scope for confusion and conflict.

However, there are products and services which, despite a strong central idea at the core, need execution that embraces local sensibilities. Glocal would be a more appropriate approach, I think.” Priti Nair, the dusky Managing Partner at BBH, agrees. “Think Global – Act Local remains my signature mantra! No matter how ball-bustin’ the creative idea is, unless it is coloured, infused and dipped in local nuances, it’s unlikely to rock! Take the classic case of DAAG ACCHE HAI. The basic brief DIRT IS GOOD – which came from the West – had a completely different connotation and one we couldn’t possibly plug in a country where mothers go bonkers cleaning their kids’ clothes. We had to fuse charm with logic and sell the idea that if the cause is good, dirt is okay.” Santosh Padhi – Paddy to the Adbiz – is up next with his take. He believes it all depends on the category. “If it’s something like Jeans and the target is youth, then global is definitely possible because of basic shared concerns. Youth everywhere, share the same anxieties about growing up, relationship with parents, conflict with school, establishment and authority, love, future… if one can strike at these strands, then chances are, they will succeed. However, as Priti pointed out, in most cases, local renditions are a necessity because it’s this local flavour and insights that are the main connectors.” Agnello Dias (Head honcho of TAPROOTS along with Paddy) reckons that if a campaign manages to address its constituency, across the board, effectively, nothing like it. It saves everybody from the trauma of cross-over and big buck expenditure… and that’s the main reason for the existence of a global campaign. One doesn’t have to, repeatedly, do localised versions, in every port of call. “Unfortunately, most people go about it the wrong way. It can never be done by design. One has to see how it holds up against different cultures and accordingly adapt – or if necessary – do fresh work that embraces the local milieu. Nike is an outstanding idea of cutting-through work that resonates, globally, without problems because it (consistently) simply, imaginatively and powerfully celebrates their iconic JUST DO IT spirit for different markets in a manner that is understood locally. It is global brand-building at its best,” avers Dias.

At the end of the day, universal truths remain universal truths. If conventions exist everywhere, so does creativity and the challenge is to recognise, understand and endeavour to connect with the growing plethora of opportunities in a shrinking world. Ultimately, the final truth that defines human communication remains writ in stone… If you really want to talk to millions of people, learn how to talk effectively to one. The rest will come naturally. 

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