21st Century Sentiments

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The people of Venezuela want to hear nothing about the promise of the 21st century, thank you. In India, though, citizens believe the millennium marks a new era in which their country will emerge as a world superpower. In fact, according to a 19-country study by advertising agency McCann-Erickson Worldwide, consumers around the world have varying opinions about what the future holds for them and their nations.

"On the surface, consumers are shrugging off the millennium as just another new year," says Joe Plummer, executive vice president and director of strategy on global brands for McCann-Erickson. "But when you talk to them in depth, you find that their feelings about it are a lot stronger and more culturally varied."

Indians aren't the only ones who are enthusiastic about the year 2000. Koreans expressed the strongest beliefs that Y2K represents better times to come. Residents of other countries dealing with unstable economies and political upheaval don't have such rosy views about the future. "In places like Russia and Latin America, they don't want to be bothered looking forward," says Allen Bukoff, coordinator of the McCann Pulse, the agency's global consumer insight program that conducted the millennium study. McCann also found that "career builders" in Australia and Canada - young adults just starting out in their professions - worry that the 21st century will result in an "Americanization" of world culture. Career builders in the United Kingdom and Greece voiced similar concerns, citing fears of a "lack of cultural identity."

There are also differences of opinion when it comes to the rise of the Internet and technology. In the United States, "family builders" - young parents raising kids - think that future technology may result in more distant and isolated children. The French and the Greeks fret that a digital world could lead to a loss of traditional art, music, and literature.

Can high-tech companies like Dell and Amazon.com develop global messages that resonate with everyone, no matter where they live? It's tricky territory. "On the one hand, I expect we'll see more global advertising, even if it's the same logo for a brand or product that flashes across TV screens around the world," Bukoff says. "On the other hand, the Internet is going to allow for more one-to-one marketing, so that marketers cannot just tailor to the country but to an individual. It's a juggling act to do both."

For more information about McCann-Erickson's Pulse studies, call (212) 697-6000.

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