What Marketers Need to Know About Filming Spots Abroad

Here's How to Avoid 'S'more' Trouble Outside the U.S.

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When you've never eaten a s'more before, it shows.

This is among the lessons Hershey Co. Senior Manager-Global Advertising Services Ari Ben-Canaan has learned about global production. This one came from a small town in Canada where people didn't know how to properly handle s'mores for a Hershey TV commercial until taught.

He was among executives who revealed tricks and pitfalls of global commercial production during a workshop at the recent Association of National Advertisers Advertising Financial Management Conference. A big takeaway: Despite the savings that has spurred global production, there are enough major drawbacks that some production may actually be returning to the U.S.

"Canadian talent had never eaten a s'more before in their lives," Mr. Ben-Canaan said. "And you could tell on the film." The lesson?

"When you're thinking of goIt's just one example of how advertisers don't always get what they bargained for when producing commercials outside the U.S.

Take a Kraft shoot in New Zealand, where finding a diverse cast was impossible, said Shelley Landgraf, president of the Landgraf Consulting Group. Kraft thought it could find the talent needed in Sydney, but "really did not fare any better in Sydney in than we did in Auckland."

After years of commercial production shifting overseas, Ms. Landraf has seen Kraft shifting back to the U.S. the past two years, in part because of generous state tax rebates but also because of travel and talent issues and the amount of time required for U.S. employees to oversee the work.

Because rights in the U.S. industry's Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists contract are quite favorable for overseas use, Hershey even recently shot an ad for China, using Chinese talent, in New York, Mr. Ben-Canaan said.

Anheuser-Busch, well known for its cost discipline, generally shoots ads in the countries where they air for logistics, talent and cost reasons, said Mike Stewart, manager-creative development and production. He took issue recently, he said, when a producer wanted to shoot footage supposedly from a small Colorado town in Prague.

Among the tips executives shared about making global production work:

  • Be aware of global regulations regarding import of alcoholic beverages, food or other ingredients. You may need to ship empty bottles of beer.
  • Account for every contingency, including casting, wardrobe and local regulations, in pre-production meetings weeks (not days), in advance of overseas shoots, Ms. Randall said, because it's much cheaper to extend a shoot than start a new one.
  • Be flexible. Nestle had to shoot George Clooney for a Nespresso shot in L.A. (though never shown in the U.S.) because of his schedule. It was cut into 70 versions for the 38 countries where it did run. A Bud Light ad for the U.S. featuring Pitbull was shot in Brazil because that's where he was available.
  • Be aware that taxes on exporting finished creative from such markets in Brazil can add significantly to cost. Negotiate those taxes beforehand.
  • Know what "exclusivity" means overseas. Kraft and Hershey ended up with the same Aukland woman happily spreading cream cheese and Hershey Spreads in separate commercials. "The clients were not happy," Ms. Landgraf said.
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