GM, McDonald's, Yahoo! adopt local cultural themes

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SEOUL--Multinational advertisers operating in Korea are employing local cultural themes in advertisements in an attempt to establish an effective and emotional connection with Koreans.

"There is a general feeling by foreign businesses in Korea that this is the best time to make an impression. Since the economic crisis and the subsequent opening of the markets, there's a feeling that if we don't do it now, somebody else will grab that market share," says Kenneth Hong of public relations firm KPR & Associates.

A print campaign for General Motors Corp., for instance, created by D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, Seoul, shows a foreigner dressed in traditional Korean costume inspecting a trademark Korean vase for flaws. Porcelain shattered by the unsatisfied potmaker fills the background. "What we make becomes history. We are GM," reads the tag line. Commenting on the ad, Mr. Hong says: "Most people are very receptive to fact that it's not an aggressive campaign. It's subtle and modest."

Other examples include a McDonald's Corp. TV commercial based on a traditional Korean story about a blind father whose daughter brings a gift to restore his sight. In the commercial, the gift is McDonald's French fries. Another TV spot, for Yahoo!, shows two elderly Koreans shopping on the Internet, and then dancing on their new dancing video game machine.

These ads are meant to portray the companies as global organizations, not simply American ones, says Mr. Hong.

Copyright May 2000, Crain Communications Inc.

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