In a year where new business is suddenly harder to come by, winning
a major global account is cause for genuine celebration. But, as fast as
the benefits of global business are discovered, the logistics, politics
and cultures that divide the world pop up and make everything tricky.
Everyone who wants to be anyone in the corporate world talks the global
talk, but often global doesn't mean global at all. Rather, it means
gaining work in several key markets, with the potential for
The case of BP
Take BP, for example. The company bought oil giant Amoco in 1998 - a
major event - which prompted the need for a new corporate identity. It
took on Ogilvy in January 2000 to plan the relaunch with its sister ad
agency, Ogilvy & Mather. Then in March 2000, BP bought another oil
It relaunched in July 2000 with a new logo and slogan - Beyond
The idea behind this new identity, according to Michael Fox, the global
head of the account at Ogilvy, is to project BP as "a different kind of
energy company," with four key attributes: performance-focused,
progressive, innovative, and environmentally and socially
The rebranding was a massive exercise in the UK and US, where the BP
brand is prominent. In the US, the relaunch had to reach a wide audience
using extensive media relations. The company chose to launch a prototype
of its ultra-modern, new BP Connect gas station at the same time.
Complete with Internet kiosks, solar paneling, fresh food and clean
fuels for sale, the station neatly encapsulated all that BP wanted to
project about its new image.
"It was a tangible way of putting BP's new brand values to work," says
Rich Bartecki, senior VP in Ogilvy's Chicago office. The idea turned out
to have been a good one - almost every one of the top 50 media markets
in the US covered the story.
But the agenda was different in Asia. Thanks to the legions of tuk-tuks
(oil-fed, motorized three-wheelers) roaming the streets, Castrol is a
prominent brand. So rather than jump in and start publicizing the new
BP, the priority in Asia was the oil business.
The differences in work extend beyond determining which business units
are more important where. For instance, Ogilvy has had to concentrate
much more on internal communications in Asia during the process of
melding BP's and Castrol's work forces, according to Frank Pizzurro, the
agency's director of the corporate and finance practice in
"In the US and Europe, people are ready to sit down with former
competitors, lay their ideas down on the table, recognize that one side
did something better than the other and say, 'We can learn from that,'"
"But in Asia, people tend to hold things much closer to their chests. We
have had to pay more attention to exercises to encourage people to work
Thinking locally about the global strategy raised an encouraging number
of opportunities for BP in Asia. Thanks to its raft of auto-racing
sponsorships, the Castrol brand was already equated with performance
there, something that the PR team felt could be leveraged to aid the BP
But the idea of promoting a company as green caused a few furrowed brows
- Asia isn't the most environmentally aware region in the world. Little
has been done to promote this aspect of BP's brand in Asia, although
Pizzurro wonders if the difficulty could be turned into an asset if BP
becomes one of the few companies in the region to play the environmental
And then there's the business of politics. Global operations are
sensitive, and winning a global account involves more than striding into
the local client's office and asking where the PR plans are.
"After the appointment (of Ogilvy) was made in London, the word went out
to all the operating divisions of BP across the world that we are the
preferred PR partners," explains Pizzurro. "So we would go into the
local clients' offices in various countries and introduce ourselves.
Often, they would say, 'Oh yes, we've been told we should meet up with
you. When we need some assistance you'll be the ones we call.' It would
have been helpful for us, in some cases, if they had had more direction
So although Ogilvy had already done all the pitching to the global
managers, Pizzurro's team found themselves pitching again to earn the
respect of local BP management. "It was more of a case of us persuading
them that we have expertise they can take advantage of," he says. "The
energy sector in this region isn't naturally keen to talk to the outside
world about its operations, so our mission was to get them to be more
The case of Ernst & Young
Like BP, Ernst &Young is in the midst of an identity change. After
selling its consulting business to Cap Gemini, it is refocused on its
accounting roots. The firm hired Hill & Knowlton in May 2000 (initially
for work in the US only) to promote the new E&Y as a global business.
The agency created three message points: E&Y has a superior
understanding of the rules of the new economy; it has the technical
infrastructure to provide global client service; and it is a great place
to work with the "best" people.
E&Y told H&K that its contract would extend internationally, but due to
the unique nature of E&Y's business (many of the offices are
partner-owned), the agreement would have to be adopted on an
"We have been recommended to the other E&Y offices across the world,"
explains Ann Wright, director of H&K New York's corporate practice.
"It's a much better system than when people are just told to use an
I've been in that situation, on both the client and the agency side, and
it causes problems. People in the local office have to feel like they've
This type of arrangement doesn't always involve the hassle of pitching
to a client with whom you're already supposed to have a
In Sweden, says H&K Stockholm account manager Jonas Rodny, the local E&Y
client saw the advantages pretty quickly. "The director of marketing
realized it would be good to work with the agency that is handling the
business in the US. He originally thought he might hold a pitch with
other agencies, but in the end he just used us."
Wright feels H&K has achieved a good balance of global and local with
the E&Y account. The agency has set up an Extranet that provides common
PR materials to E&Y offices for the company's Entrepreneur of the Year
contest, which is in its final stages. Offices can use the local H&K
outpost, or simply use the Extranet. H&K has now established
relationships with E&Y offices in the UK, Canada, Argentina and Sweden,
and it will soon begin working with a branch in Mexico.
Although E&Y is in the early stages of moving its image to the
international stage, local offices are already planning initiatives
around H&K's message points. Rodny's team in Sweden has focused on
finding ways to portray E&Y as an attractive place to work. But in
Argentina, the concentration has been more on promoting the E&Y name,
because those offices have only been known under that name since last
year (they previously operated under the names of the partners).
The truth about global accounts is that they are as different as the
nature of the businesses themselves. The trick is to recognize to what
degree the account leans global or local, and adjust expectations
"It's like a game where you're given five cards - you have to use all
five, but you can choose which to play first," observes Pizzurro.