Y&R Geneva takes pan-regional road

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The Geneva, Switzerland, office of Young & Rubicam has a pan-regional approach that is paying off for the agency as its clients expand campaigns into multiple European markets and seek improved efficiency.

Y&R Business Communications, which primarily serves b-to-b marketers in Europe, is a hub for clients that are launching campaigns in different countries but want to centralize advertising services and maximize dollars spent.

The agency, one of 36 Y&R offices in Europe, began centralizing services about five years ago, hiring account professionals who are proficient in 19 languages and acting as a one-stop shop for clients interested in reaching audiences across Europe.

Approach wins business

The approach has won the agency new and repeat business from clients including DuPont, Adobe Systems Inc., Computer Associates International and Caterpillar Inc.

It also, however, sets up competition between Y&R agencies. Until 1997, for example, Y&R’s London office handled Adobe’s European advertising.

Peter Isaacson, director of worldwide brand marketing for Adobe, said, "We were not satisfied they had the interests of our other European offices in mind. We felt we wanted someone to be looking out over Europe as a whole, with specific in-market knowledge to address the cultural nuances."

From a resource perspective, Adobe did not want to hire multiple agencies in Europe, so it asked its then-U.S. agency of record, Y&R San Francisco, to help it develop a European strategy, Isaacson said. Y&R San Francisco recommended that Adobe consult the Y&R Geneva office because of its multinational staff and pan-regional approach.

"They have been fabulous managing our European advertising, from creative down to logistics and coordination," Isaacson said.

And this year, Adobe will be relying even more on the Y&R Geneva office to expand its European advertising. Last year, the company put its U.S. account in review and awarded the business to Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, which does not have a European office.

It kept Y&R Geneva as its European agency and now will use it to expand its $25 million ad campaign for Adobe Acrobat software into the U.K., France, Germany, Sweden and other countries.

American icons

"The creative ideas rely on American icons and American phrases and culture," Isaacson said. "We are relying more and more on Y&R Geneva to take the core of the strategic idea developed by Goodby and develop it for Germany or France."

Göran Larsson, CEO of Y&R Geneva, said the agency’s success can be traced to its focus on integrating all services, from planning and research to advertising placement.

"To be good, like in many businesses, you have to be good in every aspect," Larsson said. "You have to have solid strategic ideas that work across borders and audiences, and across communications disciplines."

He said that since creating the hub approach, the agency has been able to save clients approximately 65% in costs because services such as production and language translation are handled under one roof instead of by multiple agencies.

The approach is particularly well suited to b-to-b clients, he added, who are marketing to fairly homogeneous audiences despite language differences.

"The main differences are based on products," Larsson said. "We may want to emphasize products more from a business point of view rather than from a cultural point of view."

For example, he said, client DuPont Plastics may create different campaigns for its automotive products in different European countries, but the core message remains the same.

"Whether [the product] goes into a Ford or a Volkswagen doesn’t matter," Larsson said. "Design engineers are design engineers."

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