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28 February 2017

Another country, another agency?


When looking to roll out a successful campaign in another country, brands are faced with a dilemma. Do they use the agency that has run the campaign to date, or go with one on the ground in the new location.

Keeping faith with the existing agency in a new jurisdiction can be a risk. Yes, you benefit from the experience of a team that has successfully run the campaign historically, but you might miss out on crucial local knowledge of the new home market. Going local means this won’t be a problem, but will an agency on the ground have a deep enough understanding of your brand and be able to run the campaign as successfully?

Many brands might believe that, no matter what, there’s no substitute for local knowledge. However, it’s perhaps wiser not to rule out either scenario, but rather investigate what expertise and experience is available in the new location, then compare and contrast that with your existing agency.

After all, you already have a strong and successful relationship with them, so if this can be transferred to another country, you could get the best of both worlds. Even if the agency isn’t set up to operate in the new jurisdiction yet, it may be prepared to look into it – so long as there is time, and it makes sense for all parties. It goes without saying that global expansion is an exciting prospect for any growing business.

From an agency perspective, as the existing partner the challenge is that the client brand will need reassuring that you have sufficient knowledge of the new market. This means you’ll really have to do your homework and get thoroughly under the skin of the new location so you can compete with a local counterpart.

When The Economist decided to roll out it’s highly successful UK experiential subscription campaign across North America, as the incumbent brand experience agency, Sense offered to work with the iconic business title to find a solution locally. Although we weren’t initially in the frame for extending the campaign across the US and Canada, we happily supported the search for a local partner. This process gave us a good feel for the landscape, requirements and challenges, which certainly helped when pitching for the contract down the line.

However, it took far more than this to overcome an initially understandably sceptical client. From a creative, operational and management consistency perspective, there was no problem. We had performed exceptionally well in the 18 months that we’d launched and ran the campaign in the UK. However, we’d be rolling out the campaign into a very different market. So how could we prove we had what it takes.

We decided to try to give The Economist the best of both worlds by trawling our US contacts to find local partners that knew the key knowledge and nuances of the North American market that might prove vital to the success of the campaign in the new jurisdiction.

Essentially, we identified our potential deficiencies and the local challenges, and set about addressing them with local help. Although it was hard work and it took time, we found the right people on the ground to work with and thankfully convinced The Economist we could rise to the challenge.

Naturally any new jurisdiction will have its own rules and business regulations, and it’s important any agency setting up on foreign soil has enough time to get their head around these, and the implications of getting things wrong. The audience itself might react differently to key campaign themes – and this is a particularly sensitive area in experiential campaigns, where you are literally getting face-to-face with people. The client will expect you to think and act like a local agency if you take on the work, and the key partnerships we forged proved crucial in helping us do just that.

Although cautious initially, once we made a cast iron case, The Economist decided we were the right partner to help drive its North American subscriber base. The result is we’ll soon be opening the doors to Sense New York and an exciting new chapter in the story of our agency.

By Sarah Priestman, president of Sense New York


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  • Right Brain, Left Brain sums up the dichotomy of a media business that’s constantly battling with the challenge of delivering a profit and discovering new ways to communicate to consumers. The Cream editorial team combined with a dream team of industry pioneers from around the world share their expert opinions.

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