How to choose a multicultural agency

Over on LinkedIn, a fellow member posted this question, and the answer I sent in might be pertinent to followers of this blog.

His question on Multicultural Agencies:
Does anyone have any experience working with (as a client) full service multicultural advertising agencies? What was your over-all experience? What were they good at? What were they not so good at? Any thoughts about how the over-all experience of engaging a multicultural agency could have been better?

My answer:
I am a principal/Creative Director at a very successful multicultural agency in Canada - one that is also a mainstream agency. Naturally I approach your questions with a somewhat different lens.

The development of multicultural work is fraught with difficulties.

I find too many multicultural agencies don't dive deep enough into the traditional rigour of good advertising and marketing practice to create insight-based work that is persuasive, engaging and relevant. The result, often, is work that is only one level above mere translation - with just a glimmer or two of culture sensitivity to justify its existence.

At the same time I can't exactly blame the agencies - clients too often want one-off ads - a token nod at the need to have something running in the multicultural market so that they are not conspicuous by their absence.

Operationally, clients frequently assign junior marketing staff to handle multicultural marketing functions independently without the guidance and steadying experience of senior marketers. Imagine how frustrating this can be.

One thing to be cautious of, is agencies that pretend to be more than they are. Hispanic agencies who swear that they can manage Asian American markets without an issue - or vice versa. Chinese market agencies who say they can handle South Asian markets - or vice versa. There are some that do, but these are few and far apart.

I would say to you that you should expect the same things from your multicultural agency as from your mainstream agency. Work of the highest strategic and creative quality for your market. People you can enjoy working with and can trust to deliver.

I would challenge you to provide the same things to your multicultural agency as you do your mainstream agency. Great, disciplined marketing briefs, the involvement and interest of senior marketing management, and the same respect for the process you give mainstream work.

Article: Creative Commons License 2008 Gavin Barrett
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 Canada License.

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