Simon Anholt is a very successful advertising copywriter, ‘widely recognised as one of the world’s most influential and respected consultants to corporations seeking to market their brands in the global marketplace’. From a certain point of view, his new book, Another One Bites the Grass: Making Sense of International Advertising (Wiley, 326 pp., £19.50, 2 March 2000, 0 471 35488 0), does exactly what it says on the tin. It ‘offers practical, real-world advice on successful marketing to a foreign culture’ and there are plaudits on the back from people like the Global Media Director of Heinz, who says that Anholt’s ‘perspective’ is ‘inspiring’. In the book, Anholt tell us that ‘consumers are, alas, not stupid: they have uncannily sensitive cultural antennae, and can detect an ad which was never really meant for them in the first place from about a hundred yards downwind.’ When you get close enough to this book to read it, you can detect it’s meant for people like the Global Media Director of Heinz. Nonetheless, it has some curiosity value, even for a consumer for whom it was never really meant in the first place. Most remarkable is the perfect 180° spin it puts on the problems of globalisation. Anholt uses diction normally associated with anti-corporate rhetoric: he talks of ‘eye-opening disaster stories’ and threats to ‘integrity’. It just so happens that he has in mind the difficulty of ‘maintaining brand integrity’, and the so-called ‘disasters’ are ‘international marketing blunders’. Any suspicions that this might be devaluing the word ‘disaster’ are confirmed when you read the first such story in the opening chapter. An English airline offering cheap flights from Riyadh to London discovered that the man who’d translated the ad into Arabic had taken advantage of the opportunity to advertise his brother-in-law’s restaurant on the Edgware Road at the same time. Not so much a marketing disaster as a triumph, I’d say.
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