Is the United States still the world's most important comms market?

The US leads the world in industry sectors that tend to spend a lot on PR and marketing.

Mike Coates
President & CEO of the Americas, Hill+Knowlton Strategies
Previously spearheaded the agency’s Canadian operations for about 20 years

The business side of the agency world revolves around knowing where the money is and how to get it.

Although countries such as Brazil and China have seen explosive economic growth in the last decade, the US is still the global leader, with 128 corporations on the global Fortune 500 list.

The US leads the world in industry sectors that tend to spend a lot on PR and marketing, including technology, retail, and financial sectors. And the US is still ranked number one in global consumer spending.   

The region is also a center of innovation. The global marketplace is becoming more diverse, yet the US still leads in R&D spending. This produces a constant stream of new products and services that inevitably become the next big thing for others to emulate. In the lifecycle of products and services, PR plays a key role in building and maintaining a company’s reputation. Therefore, an agency’s market footprint is going to be disproportionately higher in the US than elsewhere. 

In the area of public affairs, the free, open, and democratic culture that exists in the US provides an environment for agencies to thrive. Debate and dissent are encouraged. The exchange of ideas is seen as a positive part of the political economy. Nowhere is more money spent on advocacy programs to impact government policy.  

Even in our own industry, the US has driven the rise in social and content marketing that is now moving at an exponential pace across the globe. It continues to be the trendsetter. 

That is not to diminish the incredible work being done by teams and brands around the globe – in fact, two of the most creative campaigns I saw last year came from colleagues in Norway and Australia. Brazil, China, and India are growing markets with potential for big opportunity, but they are not leading in product and service innovation or swaying world cultural and political trends.

Everyone benefits from global economic growth, and our business benefits from growth throughout the globe. But to be a player in the global PR industry, a US offering has to be the largest part of the business. 

Dave Armon
CMO, 3BL Media
Comms professional with more than two decades of experience in PR, marketing, and technology innovation

While many of the world’s largest agencies are based in New York and have more headcount in the US than elsewhere in the world, that doesn’t equate to the global marcomms market being colored red, white, and blue.

Not with CEOs, world leaders, philanthropists, and the heads of every agency holding company jetting to Davos for the World Economic Forum each January. While big money and futurists meet in a decidedly non-Yankee venue in Q1 to set social and economic agendas, the artistic side of marketing and comms makes a similar decision to shun the US come June for Cannes Lions.

Those skeptical that the intellectual and artistic uplift of Davos and Cannes is more influential than US-centric marcomms decision-making should pay closer attention to where mega-budget marketing programs are being executed.

For example, Coca-Cola just pledged $35 million through the Replenish Africa Initiative to improve access to clean water for 4 million people in Africa by 2020. That’s on top of $30 million already spent on the effort. Nestlé runs an awards competition benefiting nutrition, water, and rural development.

Microsoft, Walmart, and Kate Spade, among others, are increasing their non-manufacturing activities in emerging economies, too. The demand to become better global citizens is powerful. Western consumers will pay more for fair trade products. Brands that demonstrate their supply chain is environmentally and socially responsible are rewarded. 

Ideas hatched at the World Economic Forum and displayed at Cannes can make brands more likely to attract and retain Millennials as employees. Commercial partnerships are born. Consumer loyalty improves.

That said, corporate social responsibility is vital on the homefront, too. At this year’s 2015 PRWeek US Awards, efforts that championed health-related causes in North America, such as Edelman and CVS Health, and MSLGroup and Procter & Gamble’s Always, won honors in multiple categories.

But the global power center for PR is certainly not a single town, state, or country. It is more about people and the planet. 

PRWeek’s View: Follow the money. The US should be a key part of any marketer’s strategy, due to its place in the world economy. But no one nation exists in a bubble, so savvy marketers will keep an eye on the dynamic and diverse international economy.

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