Collaboration is the new activation

Coca-Cola recently had embarked on a big move to centralise its European marketing operation into a London hub. Joe Thomas of Marketing Magazine (, 20.04.2010) reported that Coca-Cola currently uses a roster of agencies from countries across the region, all of which contribute to its marketing activity. Adding to the complexity, the marketing campaign is decided and activated by marketers at a national level, rather than collectively from a region-wide or global perspective. Not only it results in a total lack of synergy in its advertising in each market, the localised marketing activities and ideas actually create unnecessary costs.

Some may comment that many of the markets in Europe operate, on occasion, purely for their own benefit, without considering a wider regional picture. The Diet Coke TV commercial featuring Duffy was criticized for being an idea that will never going to work outside the UK. Some even commented that as a Welsh singer in a supermarket would not appeal to any other audience. Putting side the fact that I actually quite like the song (and secretly love the commercial), the way it was adapted for other markets by simply dubbing the line and subtitling the song in Austrian, Slovenian, Bulgarian…and so on, it has lost its simplicity. As an idea, it has been diluted as an execution – and it was an execution that cost Coca-Cola money.

Addressing local needs while leveraging on the global platform is one of the key objectives for global brands these days. Creating a truly viable global creative platform and at the same time leaving room for local manipulation, is the real challenge for any agency working on global brands.

Some global brands such as McDonald’s, the fast food restaurant chain, is asking its advertising agencies to adopt a more collaborative approach as it seeks to enhance the effectiveness of its marketing. Under the leadership of Mary Dillon, McDonald’s global chief marketing officer, a collaborative culture has been built among all the different creative agencies working on the business – which includes DDB Worldwide and TBWA, both part of Omnicom Group, and Leo Burnett Worldwide, owned by Publicis Groupe, as well as Cossette, a Canadian independent, and Brazilian shop Taterka.

The multiple-agency scenario which creates inevitable power struggle among the agencies is becoming a norm – and will never go away. In the case of McDonald, DDB could well argue that they do have offices in Brazil, a market where Taterka has the specialist expertise in. But the fact is Taterka has a good reputation in the Hispanic market and they do have a value within the marketing operation of McDonald’s – adding to whatever other political reasons, ‘de-coupling’ them out would not be a wise option.

There is always conflict between the central marketing team, regional teams and then the creative excellence team, which fits into the middle. Projects can come from anywhere in Europe, and the fact that it moves around so much shows they are not clear about what to do. It is overstaffed as a result.

In these cases, a global marketing implementation agency can play a role including:

Centralised agency collaboration: Building a platform for all the agency partners to work together, helping the global client in managing the activities and enhancing the communications among the numerous counterparts. This could be a ‘technology solution’ and/or an international ‘agency activation’ function with staff in each hub.

Creative and cultural hub: Helping each agency partner to roll out campaign originated from that office, turning the locally created idea into a viable global platform by providing a global creative and cultural consultation and adaptation at the idea generation stage. It is already happening that some of the Hispanic market specialist agencies are creating concepts that could roll out internationally, at the moment they do not have the resources to adapt it creatively and making it culturally relevant – plus production related consultation of course. And being in the maze of the multiple agency partner situation, the independent shop, Taterka for example, obviously find it sensitive working ‘with’ DDB. And that’s where an independent global creative resource (like Freedman) is valuable.