Multinational Campaigns

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In the early 1900s, Helen Lansdowne Resor of J. Walter Thompson Co., created ads for Pond's for use in Japan and other overseas markets, which were among the first cross-border ads.

Although World War I interrupted early moves such as those across borders, the practice resumed with the end of hostilities. In August 1927, H.K. McCann Co. began to handle advertising for the Standard Oil Co. (New Jersey) in Belgium, France, Germany, Poland, Sweden and Switzerland. In 1928, Squibb's Lentheric Perfumes assigned its French and German advertising to McCann, which became McCann-Erickson in 1930.

Despite the stock market crash of 1929 and the ensuing Great Depression, international advertising efforts continued. McCann in 1929 began promoting the cooperation of its various international offices as a benefit to advertisers. In 1930, it ran a test campaign for Mistol, a brand of nose drops, in England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain and placed ads for Nujol, a treatment for constipation, in medical publications in three European countries.

Boosting interntional efforts

On April 8, 1938, a group of 13 publishers and advertisers, including Packard Motors Export Corp. and Export Trade & Shipper magazine, created the Export Advertising Association to facilitate international advertising. By its first anniversary, the group had 67 members.

World War II slowed multinational campaign development again, with some multinational advertisers, including Standard Oil's Esso, Coca-Cola Co. and American Home Products, shifting their focus to Latin America. But advertisers soon began to wrestle with the new issues that came about as a consequence of crossing borders—standardization of rates, for example, and the need to lower customs duties to make the practice economically feasible.

Translation of ads also became an issue. One Caribbean newspaper ad translated an English ad for Packard, themed "Ask the man who owns one," as "Try to find a man who owns one." Similarly, a fountain pen marketer's ad promising "Avoidance of embarrassment" from leaks and blotches came out in Spanish as "Avoid pregnancy."

At the end of the war, munitions factories began retooling to produce consumer goods. Former soldiers, becoming captains of industry, quickly grasped the advantages of foreign markets as well as the threat of foreign competition

By the 1950s, the U.S. government's Marshall Plan—launched in 1948 to help finance the rebuilding of Western Europe after the war—had sent foreign investment into high gear. In 1953, the EAA was renamed the International Advertising Association, and began an advertising industry movement encouraging self-regulation. The International Advertising Code of Ethics & Standards, published in 1956, continued to be used in the 21st century.

By the end of the 1950s, the concept of creating a European Common Market was gaining momentum. In the 1960s, McCann developed "one sight, one sound" ad strategy to create homogenous worldwide campaigns for Coca-Cola Co. Under "one sight, one sound," each Coke ad looked like and sounded similar to all others around the world.

Following "one-sight, one-sound," a cost-efficient common strategy emphasizing the commonalities between consumers gained prominence. Lintas, for example, created multinational ads for Unilever's Impulse perfumed body spray in which a boy-meets-girl premise was the foundation of the creative, but each country's ads were produced locally, incorporating local social mores and customs behind courtship.

While many multinational companies had been based in the U.S., marketers in other countries, such as France, began to think across borders as well. French brands such as Dior, Chanel and Lacoste began to carry weight worldwide.

Breaking down borders

In 1980, non-U.S. ad expenditures among U.S. companies matched U.S. expenditures for the first time. The development of satellite and cable TV networks such as CNN International and MTV further advanced the notion that marketers could sell the same product in the same way everywhere.

Agencies followed the example of their clients, entering into large, sometimes complex mergers. BBDO International, Doyle Dane Bernbach Group and Needham Harper Worldwide joined in 1986 to form Omnicom; Ted Bates Worldwide merged with Saatchi & Saatchi.

Those new giant holding companies were poised to give the Interpublic Group of Cos. (formed in the 1960s and parent to McCann-Erickson Worldwide and Lintas Worldwide) a run for its money in the global advertising scene. The Berlin Wall fell in 1989, opening new markets in Eastern Europe.

During the 1990s, consolidation became the key. Politics led business, with the 1989 North American Free Trade Act, the dissolution of remaining barriers among the countries of the European Economic Community and trade agreements between Japan and Korea highlighting the era.

At the same time, many of the world's largest advertisers began to consolidate their global advertising accounts, a move that led to huge account shifts, such as the $800 million global Citibank account's move to Young & Rubicam in 1997.

In addition, the Internet made it easier to reach audiences in many countries, further dissolving barriers.

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