David Blecken
Sep 16, 2013

Global work doesn't have to be vanilla: Johnny Hornby

SPIKES ASIA 2013 - Though often derided for its lack creativity, global advertising can have real resonance if it is built on either universal human truths or single-minded product truths, according to Johnny Hornby, chief executive of Bates CHI & Partners.

Johnny Hornby
Johnny Hornby

In his session this afternoon at Spikes Asia 2013, Hornby admitted that he had revised his opinion from a time when he argued that locally produced work was far more powerful due to its understanding of cultural nuances. While he believes local campaigns have not lost any of their relevance, he said that the prevalence of online platforms and the convergence of cultures mean that global work can have more impact today than it used to.

“The question [we have to ask] is, if [director] James Cameron can create something with global appeal, why can’t we?” he said. “The other question is how do we do it without being vanilla; how do we create advertising that’s global, convenient and relevant?”

He outlined five rules of best practice, the first being to seek out large, single-minded truths rather than looking to the lowest common denominator.

Secondly, he said it is important to “take the opportunity to be spectacular” by making full use of a larger budget than would be available for local work. While the cost involved in global campaigns is naturally high, provided they are truly impactful, they can be cost-effective given the number of markets they reach, he said.

Thirdly, marketers should understand the “ripple effect” that social and mobile platforms can have on the work they create.

Next, clients must not be allowed to lose sight of the big picture: “You have to keep focused on the ambition of creating something big and not allowing it to be whittled away,” he said.


Finally, he pointed to the need for a structure that allows good ideas to emerge from anywhere rather than looking to a single source. “Big idea days”, whereby all parties come together to generate as many ideas as possible that are then honed to something compelling, are a good way of doing that, he added.

He presented two examples of film work based on those principles: one for Samsung Smart TV, which ran in 74 markets, and one for Lexus under the theme ‘Amazing in motion’ that took the bold step (for a car brand) of keeping product exposure to a minimum.

“Clearly there are also poor examples,” Hornby said in conclusion. “I’m not saying it’s easy or that local work doesn’t have a place. But the internet makes a global platform and young aspiring creative people should look to these lessons. There is no reason they can’t produce terrific global advertising.”

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