Universality of ideas needs to be accompanied with sensitivity to local cultures: Lowe

MUMBAI: In a world, where there are new big markets emerging like India and China, brands need to figure out how to communicate effectively to audiences in those countries keeping in mind local tastes while not compromising on universal themes.

This was one of the key points that Lowe Worldwide, CEO, Tony Wright, made this morning at the AAAI Sympsium in Mumbai.

Wright was speaking on the subject, Reach Without Compromise. He noted that in the past, before technology eliminated the boundaries of distance, ad agencies worked in a corporate colonialism way. The outpost in Eastern Europe orLatin America was regarded as a faceless entity. The messages delivered were undifferentiated. Agencies even felt that their customers in different countries were pretty much alike. A Singapore office was felt to be capable of handling communication requirements for the whole of Asia.

Today, agencies cannot afford to have the arrogant attitude of saying that they understand the diversity of different countries from a distance. They can no longer question the merits of investing resources in different countries. "The idea that an idea developed in London can work anywhere without looking to adapt it in different countries is na?ve. It is difficult for a creative agency in Mumbai to comprehend the Indian ethos let alone someone sitting far away in Singapore. In India, the consumer market will be worth $400 billion by the end of the decade."

"To ignore the diversity in this great country is to let go of a huge opportunity. Indians may be curious about to the world but they are still very much rooted in their culture. Agencies need to understand the importance of growing their presence in local markets. That is the question before marketers today."

He said, that, today clients who work with global agencies do not want to choose between creativity and flexibility. Solutions must have global reach and local relevance if agencies want to grow. Agencies he argues do not have to restrict themselves to the confines of a micro network. A micro network which is one ad agency model will offer a global idea but it may not travel well in some countries because the local sensibilities have not been taken into account. A traditional global agency, on the other hand, may have developed a successful local campaign, but, may not have the agility skills to transform it into a global concept.

Lowe has adopted the Lighthouse model. Lowe has 12 lighthouses around the globe. One of them Lowe Lintas, situated in Mumbai. Each Lighthouse leads a cluster of local agencies. According to clients' feedback, more resources are put into a particular lighthouse. "In this way we can tell a European client that it understands the mentality of the Indian consumer. The Lighthouse structure allows you to open up planning and creative resources to work on an idea."

He gave the example of the Dirt Is Good creative for Levers. Basically it used reverse psychology and showed dirt as being something positive. So, in Brazil, the ad featured boy playing soccer and getting dirty. After all soccer is huge in that country. In India, the ad was tweaked for Surf and showed a school boy simply jumping around in a puddle of mud. Also, the Lighthouse structure allows for a greater sharing of ideas. The dirt is good concept did not come from London or New York but from Brazil. It also did a Johnson & Johnson campaign that leveraged the fact that the brands values centre around the eternal relationship between mother and child.

Funny ads for Rexona showed that with the product the consumer is not concerned about the activity as he has the soap. However, the ads were tweaked from country to country depending on how the consumers view activity. So, for Japan, you have a martial arts expert getting dirty. In an ad for a Western country a smart man in a suit gets all dirty while traveling in a bus and cab for a meeting. "This preserves the universality of the idea and the uniqueness of local culture" he says.

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