Deutsche Telekom’s Gerhard Louw: Go ‘one level deeper’ to succeed with international ads | M&M Global

Deutsche Telekom’s Gerhard Louw: Go ‘one level deeper’ to succeed with international ads

Deutsche Telekom marketer Gerhard Louw on the challenge of creating international campaigns that avoid “generic” messages and make real connections with consumers.

Gerhard Louw

Earlier this week, the World Media Group – an alliance of international publishers – announced the final panel of judges for the inaugural World Media Awards. Among the 22 judges (see the full list here) is Deutsche Telekom’s senior manager, international media management, Gerhard Louw.

Over the past eight years, South African native Louw has overseen the telecommunication firm’s media and marketing strategy across 14 markets in Europe. M&M Global caught up with him to discuss the challenge of creating and managing international campaigns.

What do you believe are the advantages of international marketing and media, and what should stay local?

“There is no universal answer to that question. All advertisers are looking for that balance. From a head office perspective, it is very much about brand alignment, so it is easier to put out messages in a way we think the brand should be portrayed. But there are also other, more logical elements, like economies of scale on production costs.

“The motivation from markets are often very different. In one market we might be the leader, so we need this kind of voice, and in other markets we might be the challenger, so a leadership approach doesn’t work, and we need to be more aggressive. For every advertiser, that balance is very different.”

How difficult is it to find an idea that translates internationally, and that local markets will want to use?

“Something we did this year that I’m proud of is an international campaign about connecting people in Europe (see below). It focused on our network, which is a very technical thing that people don’t necessarily feel emotional about.

“We tried to make it more emotional through the idea of a bridge bringing Europe together, using iconic architecture from the markets we operate in. Those local markets were then able to bring to the fore the bridge of their choice, and move the buildings around, for instance if Slovakia has a building that isn’t so well known in Germany.

“We wanted to create a concept that would work in all countries, but the execution has local freedom so it isn’t too generic. It’s possible, but it doesn’t come easy, and one really has to work on that so it doesn’t become too watered down.”

What is the role of media in helping to execute ideas internationally?

“Because digital media is so global, and the rest so local, we more or less plan digital media – whether search, display or social – at a global level. We negotiate with those partners, like Google and Facebook, and create a clear strategy and guidelines for implementation.

“With offline media, it is still about local implementation, but we also create a strategy for that, setting guidelines for target audience, prime-time share for TV media, special formats if we want. In the end, something like TV is still usually local business.”

What are your predictions for international marketing and media in 2016?

“The concept of digitisation is progressing rapidly. TV remains our biggest channel in all markets, but digital is now number two. In the past we might have had OOH or print as the second-largest print, but this is changing.

“Another thing, for us as an advertiser with a lot of customer data, is data-driven marketing and sales. How do we use data? How do we use programmatic buying through Demand Side Platforms? The data-driven media ecosystem is a major focus.”

And what do you hope to see from entries to the World Media Awards?

“We always look at the big awards like Cannes Lions, and the category winners are often very niche ideas from one market. If one looks internationally, and across countries and regions, the challenge becomes a completely different one.

“Take something like humour: we often have discussions in our markets about humour, because it’s fairly easy to do something generic, with smiling people on mobile phones. But if you really want to create effective advertising, that stands out and that works, and moves people emotionally in local markets, that makes it much more difficult.

“It will be interesting to see how these campaigns are executed. Do they have high level common denominators, like happiness, love, friendship and family, or is also possible to do things that go one level deeper?”

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