Advertising in Russia does not have the traditional roots of many Western markets. Instead, it is dominated by international brands failing to grasp the mantra: "Think globally, act locally." This, alongside the growing influence of procurement departments, has brought about a proliferation of generic global ads.
Global campaigns imply that consumers are seduced by the same story the world over. Well, largely because of cultural and religious differences, Russians tell their stories in a different way. Western ads in Russia are often perceived to be impersonal and culturally vague.
President Putin says that Russian concerns are dismissed by the West and he therefore acts unilaterally.
Advertising can be viewed in the same way – if consumers feel the ad is irrelevant, they will unilaterally desert the brand. When David Ogilvy said "the consumer is not a moron", I’m sure he also meant the Russians. The success of the global advertising production model in Russia is, in my opinion, an illusion and one that could have costly repercussions for brands.
Can Russian ad managers and agencies replicate Putin’s actions to ensure local relevance? Possibly, but only if global brand managers provide the freedom that enables agencies to do so.
Can local brands do better? In theory, yes, but that doesn’t always translate into practice. Many local businesses follow a quick-win agenda – benchmarking against international brands and then imitating their approach, only more effectively. Sameness is not a strategy and, without strategy, you can’t really make a difference in today’s market.
If there is good news here, it is that activation is developing and is helping to drive brand growth. Smart Russian agencies are investing in qualified analytical capabilities to identify the points of consumer influence and using this insight to inform the creative delivery.
Russians tell their stories in a different way. Western ads are often perceived to be impersonal
Russia is a vast territory with high cultural diversity and global recognition for its innovation and creativity. However, the contemplative Russian style of storytelling has so far failed to bring much success at the big global creative awards shows.
Creatives in Russian agencies are no less eager to throw away the conventional rule book. Recent social, mobile and search campaigns show how locally relevant technology and channels can be used to engage and inspire Russian consumers. All that’s needed is a bit of help from their networks, and Russia-based agencies will inevitably get better at packaging their festival submissions.
If advertising fails to act as Putin has, its future in Russia will be something else altogether. As my biggest client in Moscow would say: "Apple is a brand with a strong emotional connection in Russia." I just don’t seem to remember its global ads.
Dan P Medrea is the chief executive of Central Eastern Europe, Geometry Global
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