For marketers in particular, working abroad provides an edge,
according to Carol Soriano, Nokia's head of consumer communications
and former head of global marketing activation. Ms. Soriano, a
native of the Philippines, spent time with Nokia in Singapore
before taking an assignment in Finland. She's now in the midst of a
three-year tour of duty in the U.S. "When it comes to marketing,
being exposed to different cultures is fantastic in enhancing your
understanding of how things operate," she said. "You recognize that
one size doesn't fit all."
One issue, however, is that even as marketers demand that
marketing executives be well rounded globally to move up, there are
fewer opportunities available for U.S. or Western European
executives to work overseas.
"Sending someone over there, anywhere, to do a job that somebody
there could potentially do is at least twice the price, so it
becomes a really difficult sell," said Unilever veteran Marc de Swaan Arons,
chairman of the consultancy Effective Brands. "The only time it's
really done is with extremely high fliers, because they can't take
global positions if they haven't been in other geographies."
As a result of cost controls on sending Western expats to
developing markets, Mr. de Swaan Arons believes the "expat circuit"
is about 50% to 75% smaller than it was decades ago. And to the
extent that it exists, it increasingly consists of executives from
developing markets being groomed for upward mobility with moves to
Given the greater demand for global expertise and dwindling
opportunities, overseas assignments, particularly in developing
markets, are highly prized. That likely made it aggravating, at
least temporarily, to some Procter & Gamble
executives last year when the company's top digital executive,
Lucas Watson, jumped ship to become VP-sales and marketing for
YouTube at Google, though Mr. Watson said there are no hard
feelings. He and his wife Suzanne, a marketing director in fabric
care, both had just accepted coveted positions at P&G's Latin
America headquarters in Panama.
"Was it controversial when I left?" asked Mr. Watson. "I'm sure
it wasn't a great thing. A lot of people had gone to bat for me,
and I still think the world of all of them." Mr. Watson said Mr.
Perry, along with Marc Pritchard, global brand-building officer,
and Jorge Mesquita, group president-new business creation and
innovation, were all key in helping him land the assignment in
Latin America and trying to keep him at the company. "I don't think
it left anyone with any ill will," he said.
Waggener Edstrom, a large independent PR agency, has developed a
rigorous protocol for its global assignments, in part because they
can be so costly, especially if they go sour. Denise Macrigeanis,
senior VP-human resources, said that one assignment where a U.S.
exec was relocated to London lasted less than nine months, as a
result of unclear objectives, moving too fast and not adequately
preparing the exec, who had never traveled outside the U.S.