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TALK OF THE GLOBE;MULTINATIONALS VS. DOMESTICS;YANKING THE WELCOME MAT UBLIC, MARKETERS EIGH LOCAL PRIDE, FOREIGN PRODUCTS

By Published on .

A `foreign is better" mentality reigns in South Africa, with many goods-even pantyhose-promoted as "fully imported."

"I get a headache whenever I see something that advertises as fully imported, implying it is better," said Brian Sandberg, a clothing executive in Durban, South Africa. Last month, he launched Bayathenga 2000, a private-sector effort to promote South African-made products. Bayathenga is a Zulu word that translates as "All the people buying together."

"I saw, soon after the democratic elections, the door opening and floods of imports coming in.....If we let the tariff barriers come down and we stand back and do nothing to build local enterprise, we run a risk," he said.

To promote a worldly cachet, Peter Stuyvesant cigarettes are marketed in South Africa as the brand that is "the international passport to smoking pleasure."

"That took off because everyone wanted to be part of the world, although we were still isolated," said Reg Lascaris, head of Hunt Lascaris/ TBWA, Johannesburg, the country's third largest agency.

Local marketers often feel like Davids up against powerful, multinational marketing Goliaths from outside their borders-and sometimes, as has happened in India, consumers revolt against those "intruders" as well. (See accompanying story.)

But while most consumers around the world don't resort to violence to protest foreign products-"I'm a great believer in boycotting," said a 67-year-old Canadian woman-others are unhappy about some of the advertising conducted by multinational marketers in their countries.

"Some advertising has a negative impact on you," said Fernando Arvizu Ferrer, a 25-year-old Mexican engineer. "There is one TV ad selling some freshener for the bathroom with a WASP [white Anglo-Saxon Protestant] guy and some stupid Puerto Rican accent. I can't bear it. It's not the guy's image; it's that he doesn't speak with a Mexican accent. It really gets on my nerves."

Another Mexican thinks multinational marketers have an unfair advantage.

"It bothers me that medium-sized Mexican companies don't get the opportunity to advertise on television," said Catalina Lopez, a 25-year-old actress in Mexico City.

"A company has to have a huge turnover to put advertisements on the air," she said. "Multinationals have the money to do it, but a lot of Mexican companies don't. There is no such thing as competition. How can a Mexican company compete with a transnational?"

In Costa Rica, Jorge Monge, general manager of Desarrollo Comercial de Costa Rica, said he has seen resentment among domestic producers who have long been protected by high tariffs that are gradually disappearing.

"These foreign products can cause resentment among domestic producers who don't have the equipment to increase their quality," said Mr. Monge, whose company is a distributor of Tropicana and Frito Lay products and Corona beer.

In general, Costa Rican consumers only resist foreign products or services in telecommunications, energy distribution, insurance and petroleum refining.

Indeed, consumers around the world are often protective of their home-grown products.

"If I can, I'll purchase an Italian product first," said Amalia Ragni, a retired elementary school teacher and resident of Termoli in Italy's Molise region.

"I know Italian brands better and always buy Italian food products and clothes-although I can't live without my Austrian cookies," said Rosaria Donno, a Milan resident and marketing representative with Atec, a cellular phone accessory manufacturer.

Alejandra Paredes, a Santiago surgical worker, said she prefers a Chilean product to an international brand, but that she also prefers McDonald's Corp. restaurants to Chile's local burger hangout "because of the quality."

While in most countries consumers eagerly purchase foreign goods because of a perceived cachet, marketers and their advertising agencies clearly recognize that they must be sensitive to local and national pride.

"I think what happens is every attempt possible is made to be sensitive to [domestic] concerns," said Mary Falbo, VP-media director at Bates Canada, Toronto. "That could include using a Canadian agency and Canadian suppliers to market a multinational or foreign product here."

"It's not a question of forcing something on someone in a complete cultural package," said Bruce Philp, executive creative director of Vickers & Benson, Toronto.

"Let the marketplace drive how you position the client's products; define the demographics, what they read, watch, etc.; and then choose the most effective media plan," he said. "It only starts to fall apart when an office in a distant land tells you to run a television ad from there, when it might not be the right choice for this market."

Protection of a nation's sensibilities-and its products-takes many forms.

"Traditionally, Mexican products were perceived as low-quality in terms of finishing, durability and image," said Christian Fernandez, VP-media, Bozell Mexico. "However, in recent years, the National Advertising Association has been making a significant effort in defending local brands and products. The greater loss of jobs and the negative influence of the crisis in the personal economy are common topics in these campaigns."

In Hungary, there's no backlash against foreign products, but there is a resurgence of local brands. Part of that is due to economics. Cheaper local products have an advantage right now, said Klaus Schumann, general manager of Procter & Gamble Hungary.

In Germany, sensitivities are different, said Bernd M. Michael, CEO of Grey Advertising.

"Germany is in a special situation-we do not dare to have resentments and concerns [about foreign products] because of German history," he said.

"And, so far, most of our French clients have not been faced with the problem" of resentment, he added. "In case of resentments, I'd advise the client, `Keep quiet as long as possible."

Contributing to this story: Amy Barone, Jo Bedingfield, Peter Brennan, Joanne Ingrassia, Sheryl Lee, Geoffrey Lee Martin, Drusilla Menaker, Dagmar Mussey and Lake Segaris.

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