Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Czech’s Effect on McCann-Erickson Advertising

By Sarah Tillou 

Before departing on our two and a half week long endeavor across Europe, I prepared a mental note regarding which cities I was most excited for, which food I craved most, and of course which media visits I anticipated visiting. As a strategic communication major, I looked forward to the visits that would be applicable to my interest and knowledge of advertising and public relations. One of these happened to be McCann-Erickson in Prague, Czech Republic. I looked forward to seeing how advertising was done in different countries and was curious to see why these changes occurred.

After arriving at McCann-Erickson in Prague, we began our presentation with Ales Vyhlidal by conversing about how the general society of Prague is different than the United States. We talked about how the Czech people are a lot more “us” and “group” based rather than individualism and self-expression, which we are used to in the US. Personally, this was attention-grabbing because it was so opposite of the mentality of the United States. I have grown up being educated in ways that teach independence and individuality that it was unusual to realize that not all societies are based on such individualism. Instantaneously, it was evident how advertisements are altered to target such a special market.

By looking at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and discussing what is important to most Czech citizens, we examined the different aspects that make up one’s needs and were presented with numerous facts regarding the Czech citizens. We concluded that majority of Czech people are considered to be very conservative, making the whole country to be slightly reserved and detached. We discussed a main cause of this lack of trust is due to the recent end of the Communist era of 1989. The first anti-communist demonstration took place on March 25, 1988 where an unauthorized peaceful gathering of 2,000 Roman Catholics took place. The anti-communist revolution began on November 16, 1989 in Bratislava, with a demonstration of Slovak university students for democracy, and continued with the well-known similar demonstration of Czech students in Prague on November 17.

Throughout this discussion, my mind instantly wandered to thoughts of how this affects the McCann-Erickson’s advertising efforts. To me, it meant that the Czech people are very reserved and skeptical to advertisements, making it difficult to reach them as a target audience because they would be inclined to dismiss them. My question for Mr. Vyhlidal raised the thought of how the conservatism of the country shapes the way advertisements are created and released and how that affected a brand image from a different country. He responded by explaining that considering the seriousness and skeptical attitudes of the Czech citizens, serious products called for serious ads. Advertisements for businesses, banks, and financial services were very straightforward with little creative aspects that took away from the seriousness of the product. This presents the staff of McCann-Erickson and brands with a tough situation. If a certain brand has a light hearted and humorous attitude, do they create a more serious ad that will resonate with the audience or do they let their creative juices flow and generate an advertisement that will stick the image of the brand previously created? Mr. Vyhlidal compared this difference to the United States and how our society uses humor to sell products. Two examples that were discussed were the Geico gecko and the Allstate Mayhem Man. Both of these companies have a comical approach to sell a serious product such as insurance and use humor and sarcasm to promote them, which would not be popular in Prague.

While we were one the topic of purchasing patterns, we were given the information that Czech people would rather buy fewer things more frequently than buy in bulk. This aspect also affects how McCann-Erickson creates its advertisements because it doesn’t need to target an audience that is buying everything at once. It is able to create a short-term need for a product since consumers will frequently be in the stores buying things. Yet, this has not been easy for McCann-Erickson and the Czech Republic. According to McCann-Erickson, 80% of purchases that Czech citizens make are from personal recommendation sales. And 50% are influenced by classical advertisements such as TV, print, and the Internet. This means that McCann-Erickson and fellow advertising agencies have found it difficult to reach an audience of half of the country where classic advertisements are disliked and less effective. This issue has occurred due to the fact that Czech people are too busy to see advertisements in a classical way. This challenge along with others such as lack of consumer interest, lack of consumer time and lack of consumer trust has led to many trials among McCann-Erickson and fellow advertising agencies. Therefore, agencies have needed to produce more creative ways to reach their target market. McCann-Erickson discussed many guerilla-marketing approaches that will help connect with the Czech people. Although I was unable to see some of these approaches during our visit to Prague, it was interesting to pay attention to approaches as we continued through Europe. One example I noticed was the abundance of advertisements that hung on tall office buildings in urban areas. This was extremely evident while we were in Paris, France and appeared to be a beneficial advertising approach for those working in such areas.

Overall, the knowledge that I gained throughout the whole experience of traveling to such diverse countries could do nothing but benefit me in the near future. Having the opportunity of being able to see how culture and societies affect the way advertisements are produced in various countries was incredible. Factors such as when to use humor and when to be serious is a crucial aspect that could make or break the image of a product in a certain audience and being able to identify these viewpoints provides me with such an advantage while heading into the work force.

Click here to contact Sarah Tillou.

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