News | 15 September 2020

Cracking global briefs with London creativity

Concepts should be strong and flexible enough to cross territories, but not so clever that meanings get lost in translation.

Global companies often look to London agencies for the creative edge to power their campaigns across the world. The UK is the number two country after the US for winning creative advertising awards, and draws from a skilled and diverse pool of talent. But a common gripe from international brands is that agencies in the UK’s capital are too ‘British’ and lack the cultural awareness to ensure that the work lands well in other countries. This is a stumbling block where some of the best work can come undone. 

The London edge 
What is it about the UK capital that puts it at the vanguard of creativity? There’s a tradition of distinctiveness that values the quirky and unique, so original ideas are championed. The UK time zone makes it very convenient for global organizations that need to co-ordinate efforts across teams. And Britain’s regulatory and business environment supports good business practices, with responsible marketing, clearly defined legal framework and a flexible labour market, whilst still encouraging creativity and innovation.  

The rigours of regulation 
In the healthcare and finance sectors, high levels of regulation can act to water down conceptual work until it’s a shadow of its original self. Add this to the need for global translatability, and its no wonder brands look for stand out creative that can maintain its shine throughout these rigours. Driving through creative work, pleasing the regulators and engaging a plethora of audiences is a hard path to tread.  

A fine balance 
Choosing a creative agency with sector-specific experience can help mitigate the risks of meaning getting lost in translation. A good agency will have bold vision for their client, and help them along the path to realising it. But at this same time, the team will have a keen and continuous awareness of the need for local nuances and translatability and ideally a record of success in the countries where a brand operates.  

Different value systems 
Specialised sectors operate differently in different markets, and each country has its own value system which affects the way communications play outIn healthcare, for example, price point is lower down the list of priorities in Scandinavia than it is in the UK. In France the prescribing process is different, so you end up with a different audience for the same product. And in the US, legal loopholes ‘trump’ all. For campaigns to work across such varying conditions, they need to have a high level of flexibility built in. 

Cultural conventions 
Marketing continues to navigate away from gender stereotyping, recognizing that consumers aren’t necessarily governed by the traditional gender roles of the past. And depictions of age have changed to reflect the realities and aspirations of older people. But at the same time, each country has its own cultural conventions regarding age and gender, which will affect how campaigns come across. Applying cultural sensitivity helps ensure you have the right visual assets for engagement across multiple territories.  

Human truths 
Marketing at its best is storytelling, and the most powerful stories are those with universal human truths at their heart. And the best marketing in healthcare and finance speaks to fundamental needs we all have to be comfortable, secure and in control, in order to realise higher needs like happiness and fulfillment. But to unleash that narrative effectively in multiple territories requires coherent strategy. Cultural sensitivity may lead to more strategic complexity, but is crucial to avoid losing the audience.  

Embracing complexity 
Embrace’s long experience means that we know how to develop ideas that can get global buy-in. It’s about creating concepts that are strong and flexible enough to travel to different territories and not overly clever so that their nuance gets lost in translation. We believe in creativity that delivers substance, not just surface appeal. And we make it happen using creative thinking that embraces the complexities and challenges a business faces. Cultural difference is one of these. 

If you’d like to chat about any of your marketing challenges, drop me a line at

Simon Davies,
Managing Director