What’s The Big IdeaL?

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By Roberta Jackson

“The customer is not a moron, she is your wife…”
I woke up this morning with great excitement and anticipation to meet with the firms today. Particularly to gain the private sector perspective of communicating in Belgium. We met with a public relations firm and advertising agency that also handles public relations. The overarching theme of today’s messages was active listening. Both firms stressed the importance listening to your customer and your own instincts. They also both quoted David Ogilvy “the customer is not a moron, she is your wife” noting that campaigns need to be accessible; the customer/target audience need to understand the message, otherwise your campaign will fail. The first stop was Ogilvy, so there was no surprise quoting their own founder; however, the second firm was a competitor of Ogilvy. I guess it goes to show, a great philosophy is universal no matter where it originated.

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Ogilvy…
As a public relations major during my undergraduate studies, I knew Ogilvy and their well respected reputation in the industry. In listening Ann Maes, managing director and of head of public relations at Ogilvy, the business structure of the different offices operate much like a franchise model. She has worked in the industry in offices all over the world and they all seem to operate independently under the Ogilvy umbrella. Ann stated her firm is not a typical, traditional/classical communications firm. The Ogilvy motto is to do something that is unexpected.

Think global, act local…
The term that we learned in our survey for global communication class to describe operating locally under a global company is “glocal”. In the same class we discussed the big ideal. Since consumers are bombarded with messages, there is a challenge to make the client’s particular product stand out. The big ideal should be at the center of everything. It’s the overlap of the cultural tension (that thing that is something everyone in that shared culture believe) and the brand itself(the essence of the brand). The big ideal is what drives the campaign.

As we learned in the government sector meetings, the French and Dutch should be treated as separate customers when designing a public relations campaign. The audiences and cultures greatly differ. The northern Belgians speak Dutch and relate to everything in Holland, UK, and Scandinavian countries. They were described as a straight forward, to the point, less is more culture. Conversely the southern Belgians, who speak French, are very connected to France. This culture was described as fuzzy and requiring more words. Our host remarked the text that was used for the Dutch would need to double in size in order to present the same message to the French.

Saatchi and Saatchi…
Saatchi and Saatchi was the advertising agency we visited. We met with the Yves Van Landghern, CEO of the organization. He mirrored a lot of the same information offered in the first meeting with Ogilivy in terms of knowing your client and listening. We were also given a brief history of how technology and traditional market segmentation and how they have evolved. Yves believes as the world becomes flatter (Thomas Friedman) and we are more “a la cart”, it becomes increasingly more difficult to pin people to a particular culture because people borrow a little from each culture. As a result, Yves stressed the importance of research to uncover those different groups.

The proud moment realized…
I asked both firms what campaigns were most impactful. Ann was most proud of the Maes beer campaign. It started out as a grass roots campaign through word of mouth, then online through social media (Twitter and FaceBook). This particular campaign was in the making for over three years. This was an extremely successful campaign that resulted in increased sales with loyal Jupiler consumers switching their buying behavior to Maes reinvented formula. Ann stated that a campaign could be developed as quickly as a day to many years.

Yves was most proud of the European Council’s anti-smoking campaign. I find it amusing that anyone in Europe is interested in anti-smoking since nearly everyone smokes; however, with other some EU countries banning smoking in bars and restaurants, the campaign is fitting. The campaign’s tag line was “Ex-smokers are unstoppable” highlighting benefits of a smoke-free life, such as exercising, vacationing, and having children. Another layer of the multi-year campaign was the “Quit Smoking with Barca”campaign. The EU partnered with FC Barcelona featuring famous football (soccer in the US) players also highlighting the benefits of quitting smoking. Participants were offered personalized email messages with tips for successfully quitting, exercising, and diet in addition to words of encouragement.

Parting words of wisdom…
Ann Maes’ parting words for our group of aspiring communication professionals was to have a life/work balance. She wants us to obtain a nice job to retreat to when the family life may be hectic, but to have a great family to turn to when the job gets hectic. She advised us to have a hobby and to read, travel and discover the world.

Yves Van Landghern advice was from a work perspective. He warned to not be your own client. For example, if your firm is working on an anti-smoking campaign, it is not necessary to ban smoking in your office. The client/firm relationship should always be separate.

Both presenters were colorful, down to earth, and entertaining as well as informative. I enjoyed both places immensely. I appreciated the honesty and transparency. I have already received and accepted the LinkedIn requests. Ann said it was nice to meet me and that she liked my spark. Who knows, maybe she’ll be a future employer.

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