I was both frustrated and happy this week to be caught up in the admin’ of helping people move from one office to another. It is a time consuming task all about managing mind numbingly dull and yet hugely significant personal details and arrangements. Bleh! The good thing is we have more people from ‘here’ over ‘there’ and vice versa. Brits to Abu Dhabi, yanks and Canadians to London and Paris and a Russian now splitting her time between London and Moscow amongst the more recent movers.
There are many benefits for the company, employees and clients, but one of the biggest is that we get more and better truly global programming. Let me explain what I mean by that using two of my favourite all time advertising campaigns (because ads are always more simple to explain than PR campaigns).
Singapore airlines’ ‘Great Way to Fly‘ is a campaign built on a globally relevent idea – the romance of travel. Every culture has it’s own version of this thought and the creative expression for this, the Singapore Girl, brilliantly personifies it. A universal idea, built on a globally relevent insight (people want good service on an aeroplane) expressed with a simple and powerful icon. Perfection.
The 2006 TVC.
Surely one of the most stand-out successful campaigns in the UK in recent years is Compare the Market with Alexsander the Meerkat. Comedy advertising genius but built on local insights and delivered through a creative vehicle that relies on a very English taste for puns and not a little national stereotyping. Hugely effective in the UK. Totally useless in China or Spain (not that it tries to be anything other than a UK campaign you understand).
The problem is that many people live in one country all their professional lives and either by choice, ambition or luck end up trading in global programming. Some can indeed make the imaginative leap and do it. Some are sensitive and collaborative enough to do it. The majority are not. If you have lived, as an adult, in another country for a minimum of two years you will have had many of your basic programmed assumptions about life and how people behave broken. It is why living in a foreign culture can be intimidating, disorienting and sometimes lonely even when you are surrounded by people. But if you survive that, and even if you then spend the rest of your life at ‘home’, the chances are you will be better at understanding, delivering and advocating proper global programming.
The irony is that most global campaigns and programmes come out of the US and the UK and yet PR people in both these countries are in my experience about the least proficient in telling their Singapore Girls from their meerkats. Something to do with the scale and arrogance of those PR markets and probably the language? And ultimately, this is why I am happy to be worrying about apartments in Paris, visas in Hong Kong and schooling in the UAE. And my free career advice remains go west or east or south, but go.