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The path to global advertising is not always easy

We all need to better understand the nature of global advertising. Until we do we are destined to struggle to achieve success on the world stage

Richard GibbsFor years pharma companies have followed our consumer cousins into the realms of global advertising. Why? Because it makes sense. Healthcare professionals are similar across the world in that they are trained in the art of medicine. And there are apparent cost-savings in that advertising concepts only have to be generated once.

While the thinking is sound we struggle with implementation. In many cases, we see images, styles, indeed the identity of the brand expressed differently across different markets. Why is this and how can we change it?

A number of factors play their part. As marketing professionals, how many times do we sit on international teams developing global marketing and advertising platforms or new strategies and think. How many of us are working together here? We participate but, at the same time, one can see local marketers have their own objectives based upon their own market needs. They are, after all, responsible for sales in their country first and foremost.

Of course not all markets are the same. There are obvious language differences and cultural and social conditioning of our target audiences. Can we really expect someone from France to think in the same way as someone from Germany, or further afield, say in Japan? Clearly not. Each of us has been conditioned from birth in our local cultural and social environment. That makes us think differently. The same applies to doctors too. Just because they are doctors doesn't mean their local conditioning has been somehow washed out of them.

Think of these as filters if you like. We each have our own set and when we receive communications we do so through these filters. So we don't always 'see' the same thing.

What can we do to facilitate the process to true global advertising in the pharma industry?

The structure of the pharma industry is in a state of change. We see the rise of the global brand champion, but we also have local champions too. Their needs are not the same. While local marketers are responsible to local business management and not to global brand management, there will be a conflict of needs between the two. This is destined to reduce our ability to secure true global advertising unless global brand management has the power to implement in local markets and those markets accept a subordinate role. In some companies this is already happening. But in too few.

We all need to better understand the nature of global advertising. We all have an impression of what this is and what it means. But are they the same?

Global advertising attempts to create the same set of emotional values in the mind of the target audience wherever they may be. That does not imply we need to use the same image or copy platform everywhere. What we should be striving for is a concept that is understood by all and a concept is just that, an idea. How we express it may differ depending on local values. But it should always be the same concept creating the same emotions and occupying the same space in the mind of our audience.

Until we address these issues, and there are solutions, we are destined to struggle to achieve true, successful global advertising.

Richard Gibbs is managing director of DraftFCB Healthcare, London.
He can be contacted at or on 020 30 48 0189

Innovative Thinkers in healthcare advertising - a special supplement from PMGroup Ltd

24th July 2008


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