Monday, February 20, 2012

McCann-Erickson: An Honest Reflection

By Julia Unverfehrt

As one of the many strategic communication majors going on the Europe Tour I was understandably excited for our only advertising agency visit to McCann-Erickson. Of course I had heard of the agency before, as it is a global advertising agency with offices in more than 130 countries.  One of eight companies within the McCann Worldgroup, the agency is internationally known and the list of brands that the agency works with is very impressive.  I went into the media visit with very high expectations, which may not always be the best strategy to have.  These expectations derived from my general knowledge of McCann Worldgroup and previous agency presentations.  I have visited many other advertising agencies in the past, mainly in St. Louis but also in New York as well. My past agency visits, although all very different, set my expectations for what I might experience at McCann-Erickson in Prague.  As I should have guessed, the office in Prague was very different from other agencies I have been to in the United States.  I learned a lot during the presentation, but I ultimately was a little surprised with the content of the presentation. 

One thing I have always loved about visiting advertising agencies is getting the full tour of the building.  I am always impressed with the interior design and workplace space.  We received a quick tour of McCann-Erickson after a presentation, but I was a little disappointed there was not more to see within the building.  There were clear differences between the physical interiors of the McCann-Erickson Prague office and other agencies I’ve toured.  The workspace seemed more like a typical office space rather than a creative environment.  The area did have one wall that seemed to be a creative outlet for the team at the agency.   
I recognize judging the agency by the interior decorating seems futile, so I am choosing to reflect simply on the presentation we received by Ales Vyhlidal of McCann-Erickson.  I loved the portion of the presentation dedicated to a short history of the Czech Republic and how it has been affected by communism.  The portion discussing the advertising itself and how the agency segments the market seemed generally very elementary to me.  A lot of what Mr. Vyhlidal told us seemed like common sense, while much of the rest of it didn’t make any sense to me at all and didn’t seemed to be backed up by any valid research.  I may be overly critical after my time in the Strategic Communication Research class, but I felt as though many of the broad statements he was making about the Czech people was under-researched and a bit hard to take seriously.

I was very interested in learning about the market of people in the Czech Republic and comparing them with people in different markets in the United States.  I had never thought so specifically about the major differences even in people just between European countries.  Mr. Vyhlidal described the Czech people as very conservative and distrusting of brands and advertising.  That fact would drastically change how one would approach targeting the market.  I was slightly confused when he put a lot of emphasis on how conservative the Czech people are and then continued to say they are very liberal.  I believe that idea must have been a little confused in translation, or I simply didn’t understand the point he was trying to make.   

I found it particularly interesting when Mr. Vyhlidal described the seven different types of Czech people.  These types included responsible people, caring people, carefree people, etc.  With each type he showed images of the varieties of shoes and varieties of chairs that each type would buy or be drawn to.  He also showed a list of brands that the research associated with each type.  Coca-Cola was a brand associated with carefree people, which I was initially confused by, but he explained that in Prague it was more of an edgy brand.  That is very unlike how Coca-Cola is seen in the United States, which shows how important it is to advertise specifically to different segments of the market, especially for such a big international brand.  I had a hard time taking the associated shoes and chairs seriously.  It just seemed so oversimplified and a little irrelevant.  I don’t understand how the Czech people can be simply put into seven different segment types that are all very similar and not mutually exclusive.

After we left McCann-Erickson I spent a lot of time reflecting on the presentation and what I had learned.  What I found to be most interesting was the information about how communism had affected the Czech Republic and the people and what that meant for the industry.  I believe the main reason for the presentation that I found to be oversimplified and under-researched was the effect of communism.  Only twenty years ago the Czech Republic was under communist rule, therefore the advertising industry is relatively young in the country.  When we asked how Mr. Vyhlidal made his way into the industry he provided more evidence towards the youth of the industry.  He was hired at McCann-Erickson mainly because he could speak English and they needed English-speakers to work with their international clients.  If I remember correctly he is an account manager and has no previous advertising or marketing education.  I wonder if because the industry is so new, they have less developed research on the people in the Czech Republic.  I also believe that ideas and details may have been slightly confused through the language translation. 

Seeing the McCann-Erickson Prague office and listening to the presentation was overall a really great experience.  It sparked my interest in researching how advertising agencies differ globally and also learning what elements stay the same throughout.  There was a much bigger difference than I had predicted between McCann-Erickson in Prague and advertising agencies in St. Louis and New York that I have seen.  Although I feel as though I have visited many different agencies of varying sizes and targeting diverse audiences, I realized that I am still very ignorant.  That is actually a really great thing to become aware of because there are so many different kinds of agencies and areas to work in the advertising industry.  I recognize that although I’m not completely sure how I want to use my strategic communication skills there are many options that all provide different experiences.   

Click here to contact Julia Unverfehrt.


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