Michael McLinden, MC|K - Pharmaceutical Executive

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Michael McLinden, MC|K


Agency Confidential


Michael McLinden
Global brand discipline is more effective with a single global agency because you don't have each local agency wanting to put their own particular fingerprints on the program. It also ensures that programs are implemented correctly in countries where the company has no or limited local marketing infrastructure. This is particularly valuable to emerging markets with limited free-market experience or where Western marketing practices are relatively new.

If greater effectiveness means maximum sales, I believe you achieve that with strong, core global brands and local implementation. Challenges and opportunities—cultural, religious, economic, regulatory, political—are local and are best understood and exploited by people steeped in those markets.

A single global agency makes it too easy for the local country manager to say, "your program isn't working in my country."When the agency responsibility is local, it becomes just one more of the responsibilities the country manager must balance to achieve her/his objectives, so she/he has a stake in ensuring that the best agency is in place and working with the best program.

I am always apprehensive about relying on global agency networks to handle local implementation. This is especially true in the pharmaceutical industry, and doubly so for emerging markets. One reason is that in many smaller markets the local offices of global agencies actually belong to the agency's parent company, one of the major global consumer agencies, for which pharma marketing is a sideline. Also, emerging markets typically are characterized by strong nationalistic or regionalistic sensibilities that may be best tapped with local, home-grown resources.

Bang For the Buck

Networks and alliances avoid some of these problems and give you a better chance of actually getting "best-in-class" pharmaceutical marketing in each country because they are not tied to specific "family members."But here still there is no way to guarantee that you're getting the same quality of pharmaceutical marketing in Ankara or Shandong that won the business in Philadelphia or London.

I believe that a client gets the best bang for the buck by working with a single agency to develop strong, core global branding, positioning, and messaging strategy.This global agency can then provide the agency partners of the national affiliates with the understanding and resources to implement the branding, positioning, and messaging strategy in their particular country. The performance of these local agencies becomes the responsibility of the country managers for whom they work.

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