Tuesday, January 31, 2012

It All Depends On Lifestyle

By Bridget Kelly

My most highly anticipated media visit scheduled for the Europe Tour was McCann-Erickson in Prague, Czech Republic. My emphasis area is in strategic communications and I can only dream of working for an advertising agency like McCann-Erickson one day. I had been looking forward to this media visit since I read our Europe Tour itinerary. Excitement had been building up inside of me as I imagined everything we would learn about advertising in a different part of the world. Immediately we learned that the McCann-Erickson Prague office consists of six interconnected marketing solutions to benefit its clients, including: McCann Erickson, McCann Digital, Momentum, Universal McCann, Weber-Shandwick, McCann Buzzzer and MRM. Together these components allow McCann Worldgroup Prague to fulfill the visions of its clients through a dynamic brand strategy. However, I soon learned that this dynamic brand strategy is vastly different than what I perceived it to be.
As we listened to a presentation given by Ales Vyhlidal at McCann-Erickson a few differences were brought to my attention in the way the Czech Republic advertises in comparison to the United States. One of the most important differences stems from the end of communism and division of Czechoslovakia into the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The direct result of this newly-free society is the difference in lifestyle of the Czech people. As we looked at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in the presentation, we discovered the Czech’s aren’t necessarily interested in buying products because they live their lives quite simply. The end of the communist era created a universally conservative and reserved Czech way of life. The Czech people dedicate the majority of their time to family and work. We learned that of their income, the Czech spend most of it on groceries. This immediately raised a question in my mind; what strategy does this company use to break away from the clutter while successfully advertising towards the conservative Czech people? As I live among many materialistic, product hungry Americans, there’s still a need for unique, efficient advertising despite our constant need for things. I couldn’t help but consider this immense difference in lifestyle between the Czechs and Americans. Throughout the rest of the day I asked myself, how do you successfully target people who aren’t interested in these products like we Americans are? This was a whole new realization in the way advertising works that I never knew existed, and made me even more interested in learning about the great success of McCann-Erickson Prague.

As Ales went further into the presentation there was one statistic that stuck in my mind. Eighty percent of Czech purchases are made based off of personal recommendation, while advertising influences only 50 percent of purchases. This presents advertisers such as McCann-Erickson with a huge engagement issue. The Czech’s lack of interest in products along with ineffectiveness of advertisements forces McCann-Erickson to produce extremely creative advertisements that will resonate within the Czech people.  One example of how I saw McCann-Erickson’s efforts was in a commercial for Fidorka chocolate. This advertisement was definitely an attention-getter while making a lasting image of the product. It even was effective in advertising to me, as I went and bought a Fidorka chocolate later that day.  However, we learned that due to the violence of the young girl in the commercial it was taken off air after only one week of being released. This brought another obvious difference in US and European advertising to my mind: Censorship.

We watched multiple television advertisements during the presentation at McCann-Erickson but learned after watching them that most were banned from being viewed. I couldn’t help but be confused about what is and what is not okay to advertise in the Czech Republic. Another difference in advertising was regarding how the US uses a lot of humor to promote a product or service, particularly for an item that is not humorous at all. For example, we discussed how the Geico Gecko advertisements are extremely successful in the US but would be very ineffective in the Czech Republic. The Czech’s are unable to see something like insurance as anything but serious, therefore making humor completely unsuccessful in this situation.  However, we then learned that Czech’s personalities are full of irony and sarcasm. We saw this through many television advertisements, including one that was very demeaning and offensive towards women. This advertisement shocked the entire class. I couldn’t help but question, how did an offensive commercial like this run and the Fidorka commercial couldn’t? Ales reassured us that the Czech’s find the commercial to be completely sarcastic and don’t take offense to it whatsoever.

McCann-Erickson is challenged every day with the extreme difficulty of reaching the target audience while successfully producing creative yet conservative advertisements. I found it hard to understand McCann-Erickson’s way around these major roadblocks until I saw their advertising in action through examples during the presentation. I have concluded that the biggest difference in advertising in the Czech Republic and the US comes down to lifestyle. The conservatism of the Czech people creates a major dilemma for advertising agencies to overcome, however; many employees of McCann-Erickson have found perfect strategies in order to reach the attention of their target audience.  This experience has broadened my understanding of the advertising field and made me realize how important it is to understand whom you are targeting. As our trip continued I kept in mind that each country is going to have it’s own difficulties in advertising. Although we were not able to visit anymore advertising agencies, I know this has given me a new found appreciation for successful targeting because it is a lot more difficult than I ever realized. 

Click here to contact Bridget Kelly. You can also read her personal blog.

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