That's the key finding of an Advertising Age International survey of top international executives at 40 of the largest U.S.-based multinationals. The survey, the first of its kind, was conducted during the last four months.
Highlights from the survey on advertising, media and marketing strategies include:
* Consolidation of big ad budgets continues to rise, as two-thirds of marketers surveyed use fewer than four agencies worldwide; a majority opt for one or two networks.
Of the 21 marketers with only one or two agencies, McCann-Erickson Worldwide proved by far the most popular, with six using McCann, followed by three each for Young & Rubicam, BBDO Worldwide and DDB Worldwide.
* More ad decisions are controlled by headquarters and dictated to local offices, as multinational marketers think more globally about product launches and brand-building. Despite a centralization trend, few marketers stay faithful to one structure; many opt for a hybrid system of strong central strategic direction and local execution.
* Economic crises in some regions such as Asia and Latin America have pushed U.S. multinationals to focus on more stable markets like Europe and to turn inward to the thriving U.S. domestic market.
* Creating global brands is the rage, but few marketers -- mostly technology companies -- have set up formal committees to facilitate global brand development.
* Regional media are used by the majority of marketers but few are buying globally. They prefer local and regional media for better targeting and delegate most media decisions to local or regional offices.
* Media buying specialists continue to gain favor. Half of the respondents use their services around the world.
* Relatively few (just eight of 40) have worldwide media directors.
* Respondents are slow to take Internet initiatives abroad, in part because the U.S. market is so dominant, with as many Web users in the U.S. as the rest of the world. Difficulties include translating Web sites into foreign languages, government regulations and tariffs and cultural differences.
nSpecialized Internet agencies are the hot ticket this year -- 81% of respondents hire them exclusively for Net work or get that service from their creative agencies. A major weakness cited for these Internet expert shops is lack of international experience.
Respondents to the AAI survey ranged from veteran international marketers such as Coca-Cola Co. to relative beginners, such as Anheuser-Busch International.
In-depth phone interviews were conducted with the respondents. Survey participants were selected from those with the most international sales among AA's 200 Leading National Advertisers. A number of smaller but globally minded U.S. marketers also were included.