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Can tech solve the problem of boring global campaigns?


By Chris Sutcliffe | Senior reporter

October 14, 2022 | 7 min read

It is easier than ever for brands to roll out the same ad in many territories at the same time, but has that ease made advertising too homogenized? We explore as part of The Drum’s Globalization Deep Dive.


Nike and other brands are using tech to avoid the issue of bland, boring campaigns / Adobe Stock

Brands are, by design, instantly recognizable. As international communities travel and share recommendations online, it is important that they be able to spot their preferred products and services at a glance. Coca-Cola, for example, has put significant spend behind ensuring it is unmistakable across different languages and scripts.

At the same time, international campaigns risk losing something. The marketing industry is increasingly coming around to the idea that local expertise is needed to truly appeal to consumers in different countries and cultures. Beyond the horror stories of mistranslated product names, there is the recognition that anodyne and homogenous brands underperform without that local agency knowledge.

So, is it possible for brands to square the circle of making branding internationally recognizable without becoming limp or insipid?

Keith Taylor is director of brand and partner at Emperor creative agency. He believes it is still vital that brands have a global view of their own values. However, he notes that it is often in measuring the effectiveness of ads that requires local knowledge: “While we use that global brand strategy, how we articulate it in those geographies and those territories that we’re in has to come from the ground up.

“[We all know about} global-local, but in that moment, it’s more local-global. And what we tend to do in those moments is make the brand activation different and the measurement behind it becomes local.”

Notably, many of the best-performing ads in The Drum’s World’s Best Ads feature spoke to a universal concern or appeal. While there are obviously countless different views and attitudes globally, brands that appealed to a universal human truth often outperformed the more targeted and specific ads.

Allesandra Pinho, who is a brand strategy officer at Jellyfish, argues that the best global campaigns speak to a universal idea, but ultimately leave it up to the local and regional agencies to translate that to a local audience. She specifically cites Nike as having developed a global brand identity while still speaking to more granular communities.

She tells us: “Nike does this job really, really well, where it develops campaign ideas that are broad enough to be anchored on human insights that are independent of location, independent of culture, independent of the current situation in any geography. It creates the visual identity of that… but it leaves enough flexibility within the execution of it to bring in local creators to give a voice that really speaks to the community in that area. So it is globally relevant in a sense, tapping into that human truth.”

Indeed, Nike’s ‘Dream Crazy’ ad showed solidarity for a global cause while at the same time zooming in on issues specific to the territories in which it was deployed. The ad, featuring quarterback Colin Kaepernick who sparked nationwide controversy by taking a knee during the national anthem to protest race-based police brutality, spoke to the desire to surpass the limitations of society, birth and mindsets.

It is a point echoed by Claudia Stephenson of Jellyfish, who argues: “If the idea is right it is globally relevant, but it needs to be localized to be as relevant as it can be in each market. The brands that are doing that well have that ability to pivot or really adapt into whatever the local relevance of the campaign needs to be – broad enough, but unique enough to be individualized in each market.”

More haste, less speed

The issue of anodyne marketing campaigns is one exacerbated by the speed with which global campaigns need to be rolled out. Social media spend increases year on year, but despite all the audience targeting options the actual creative itself is often signed off at a global level.

Happily, Pinho believes that the industry is getting better at initiating two-way dialogues between executives at a global level and local agencies and creatives. The issue of anodyne ads, which was exacerbated by technology allowing rapid deployment of messaging, is also being solved by communications tech.

Tech is also impacting the development of ads at the creator level. Praveen Moturu, who is vice-president and chief enterprise architect at Mars Inc, believes AI and automation are driving globalization and will be “the fundamental cornerstones of any big solutions going forward and have to be built into the DNA.” All told, it speaks to an industry that is using technology to take a global brand down to the local level, ameliorating the potential for boring and undifferentiated ad campaigns.

Not every ad campaign needs to be as specific as Nike’s ‘Nothing beats a Londoner’ series, but the real concern for brands is that by going global you risk sanding off the elements that make a brand unique. Tech is providing the ability for those brands to set their core values as a North star to which every consumer can relate, while also filtering how those core values are communicated to the public.

For more on what marketers and their partners need to do to succeed on a global level, check out The Drum’s Globalization Deep Dive.

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