Exotic ad gets noticed

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As the auto industry has globalized, the marketers have more frequently given the green light to their ad agencies going abroad to make TV commercials. In some cases, due to more global thinking by the car clients, the creative also airs in foreign markets with a few tweaks.

MarchFirst's McKinney & Silver, Raleigh, N.C., went to Morocco to film a trio of 30-second spots for the U.S. launch in January of Audi of America's 2001 allroad quattro wagon.

The agency convinced the division of Volkswagen it needed to go to Morocco for the unique setting it offered to show a woman's adventure and the vehicle's capabilities, says Christopher Wilson, group creative director and copywriter on the account. He says Audi in Venezuela or Brazil also might use the creative.

DOLLARS TO BE SAVED

In addition to the exotic images, there can be financial benefits like a favorable exchange rate or hiring local talent, says Regina Brizzolara, VP-broadcast producer at McKin-ney.

Real villagers were hired as extras in the allroad spots and print ads. A local young girl was paid $14 as an extra. But the lead actress, from Paris, was tapped by British director Andrew Douglas. Despite some savings in talent, Mr. Wilson says, it was probably still more expensive to film in Morocco than in the U.S.

The crew was able to scout locations in Morocco one week and start shooting the next because getting a permit to close a road was simpler than in many U.S. areas, says Bob Ranew, a group creative director and art director working on the Audi account.

McKinney first went abroad in 1998 for Audi to shoot a brand campaign in Germany using historic cars not permitted to leave the country. The agency also went to Australia that year for access to a race course. The spot, which ran in the U.S., is still airing in Australia.

A U.S. actor starring in a typical car launch on network TV probably could collect an estimated $12,000 to $15,000 in fees, says a spokesman for the Screen Actors Guild. He says he finds it difficult to believe the carmakers can produce a commercial more cheaply overseas, especially when all the first-class air travel and hotels for the client and agency are considered.

Nissan North America has been thinking more globally since France's Renault acquired a controlling share in its Japanese parent in 1999, says Peter Goodwin, corporate manager of marketing communications handling ads and marketing at the Nissan Division.

Mr. Goodwin explains that now there's sharing of marketing strategies and methods with his counterparts around the world. Under Renault, Nissan has been studying its global brand positioning, with an announcement delayed until this fall.

HANDLES NISSAN AROUND WORLD

Omnicom Group's TBWA/Chiat/Day, Playa del Rey, Calif., handles Nissan in the U.S. and all major global regions. Mr. Good-win says the thrust of the so-called global brand initiative is for TBWA to help Nissan "sound the same all over the world."

TBWA recently returned from southern Spain, where it created a Nissan Pathfinder sport-utility commercial at a bull ring. The director and crew were from London, where the commercial was edited and special effects handled. "Sometimes it can be cheaper overseas," Mr. Goodwin states. "Sometimes the markups by the production companies offshore are lower than the U.S."

Nissan has gotten a lot of assistance from Ernst Van Praag, the cost consultancy it hired a couple years ago. "They look at the pre-bid stages ... and they may spot trends in markups on production," Mr. Goodwin says. He notes the consultancy has helped Nissan save "millions of dollars" for his ad budget.

General Motors Corp.'s Saab AB, Chrysler brand, as well as Ford Motor Co.'s Jaguar Cars and Volvo Car Corp. have all done global ad campaigns via their U.S. agencies since 1998. In the cases of Saab, Jaguar and Volvo, their U.S. agencies worked in tandem with the brands' overseas shops.

IN AND OUT OF FASHION

Going abroad to make car commercials "goes in and out of fashion," says John Bulcroft, president of consultancy Advisory Group and a former auto ad executive.

He says there are several reasons it happens. Sometimes the agency will convince the client "they just have to have that look" of an exotic location for the car commercial. Or a marketer wants to give a car an upscale, European flavor in hopes of attracting consideration from consumers who previously weren't interested in the brand. Or it's simply less expensive.

A U.S. auto marketer that Mr. Bulcroft declined to name recently made a commercial in Europe more cheaply than in California. "They were using a European crew and they didn't have the unions or have to pay the California Highway Department to close a street," he says.

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