Bryan Cooper is executive vice president and executive management director of international advertising for J. Walter Thompson in Detroit, Michigan, USA. Cooper oversees all of J. Walter Thompson's business for Ford Motor Co.'s brand portfolio outside of the USA, including Ford, Jaguar, Mazda and Volvo. The English native began working on Ford business in Australia in 1976. Cooper spoke to Automotive News Europe's Laura Clark Geist. Edited excerpts from the interview: How is J. Walter Thompson set up around the world to service Ford Motor Co.?
We have a very unique operation that we call the Ford Global Business Unit. We set this up 10 years ago. We knew we were making a lot of money from Ford in the USA and doing very well. But we knew Ford had global ambitions, and we believed that the future was international.
Everybody who works on the Ford business reports through to Detroit. We have over 1,000 people around the world who are totally dedicated to Ford. We have invested a lot of money to look after Ford around the world in places like Vietnam, Venezuela, Chile, Saudi Arabia, Russia, China and India. We have the business now in over 50 countries around the world on the Ford primary brand. We also handle Mazda throughout Europe and a lot of Asia Pacific (markets). We handle Jaguar everywhere outside the USA, and recently we've started picking up Volvo. We just recently won Volvo in South Africa.
Are the people working on your international accounts local people, or do you try to blend nationalities of the people working on those accounts?
The ideal for us is to have local people running local business. From time to time, those people don't exist in the market, in which case we'll send someone from here or from somewhere else. We move people around the world and in and out of Detroit. But they are essentially training exercises for our people. If we send someone from Dallas or Detroit to, let's say, Buenos Aires, their role is really to find a local person and train them and let them take over.
Is that a change from a generation ago? Usually it was Americans running overseas operations.
Absolutely. We tend to mirror what the client (Ford) does. If you look at Ford, it was about sending Americans around the world. But now you'll find all accents in Detroit. In Cologne, you'll find New Zealanders, Canadians and Indians. It's much more of a global, interactive process.
Do you try to create global campaigns, or do you do more tailoring to individual markets?
I think there was a while there when everyone was very excited about the notion of a global advertisement that would run everywhere because the economies of scale would be wonderful. But in reality, you have to be different. Different cultures have different idiomatic expressions. You can have a global idea, but it still needs to be executionally translated in each market.
A good example is 'Built Ford Tough' with trucks. Toughness in a truck is a kind of universal quality that everybody wants. Recently we had a campaign (in the USA) that said 'Ford Trucks - tough as a $2 steak.' But in Japan, a $2 steak would be meaningless. You'd have to say a $40 steak because a good steak there is $80! In the Latin American market, 'Built Ford Tough' translates into 'A Tough Breed.'
We found that in other countries, Mazda's tagline 'Get In, Be Moved' sounded like instructions to an alien.
Can a brand truly be global?
I think it can, and I think there are global brands. Coca-Cola is a global brand. I think Jaguar is a global brand. Ford is not a global brand at this point in time. If you look at Ford in Mexico, it has a luxury image in some parts of the market and a blue-collar image in other parts. In England, Ford is very much the brand of the sales representative. If you look at Ford in Japan, it's a western American concept, kind of like the Marlboro cowboy.
It's not because the product hasn't been universal. Coca-Cola is Coca-Cola everywhere. Automotive companies need to realize that there are global products, but not everyone can have a global product. Jaguar is a global product. Other people have not been so successful. Like Cadillac has not been successful in Europe.