International advertising agencies – approaches to global expansion & opportunities for translators

Updated: May 31, 2020

As businesses have started to expand internationally, advertising agencies have attempted to grow with their clients. Naturally, this growth has also led to boundless opportunities for marketing, PR and advertising translation specialists. If you specialise in those areas, it can be very rewarding to collaborate with multinational advertising agencies to help them service their clients in global markets.

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When an advertising agency grows internationally, it can go down one of three routes:

Organic growth by creating overseas subsidiaries • Acquisitive growth by merging with or purchasing established local agencies, or • Cooperative growth by collaborating via networks and strategic alliances.

It is not uncommon for international networks of independent agencies to form, with a number of advantages for clients due to their excellent use of resources and effective communication. Creative ideas from all parts of the network can be shared and good concepts can be replicated elsewhere to benefit clients worldwide. A great example is SMART Brisbane, an independently managed local business here in my home city that is part of the McCann Worldgroup, Australia’s most awarded agency network.

When an advertising agency considers expanding beyond their domestic market, this is primarily an investment decision. The key advantages multinational agencies can expect are increased size, access to capital, and the ability to use their international locations to service regional markets.

The need for language specialists to help expanding advertising agencies to service their new markets is immense. Once the decision to expand into new markets has been made, a professional advertising agency will enter into a collaboration with a specialist translator with in-depth knowledge of the respective target markets early on to allow the agency to provide a top-notch service to their (new) clients from the outset. The sooner the relationship with the language specialist develops and the closer it becomes, the more successful it will be. As an expert marketing, PR and advertising translation specialist, you will need to be assertive and demonstrate your expertise in order to become a core part of the agency team and be included in briefings, given access to presentations, invited along to trade fairs and key meetings, and put in direct contact with the relevant copywriters and creative heads to ensure you are intimately familiar with the end clients and their specific requirements.

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It is usual practice to assign one language service provider to a client account and have all documents for this end client translated by the same language specialist to ensure consistency and the best possible product, given the translator’s familiarity with the client and their brand, corporate identity, competitors and requirements such as preferred or prohibited terminology.

As agencies evolve and grow, the traditional concept of control by a head office over a local network of agencies is becoming increasingly redundant, and with it the outdated concept of rigid standardisation or inflexible procedures that rate bureaucratic needs more highly than local market requirements. Today, coordination rather than control is the key to securing a competitive advantage when it comes to developing multinational brands.

When it comes to strategies for communication with international audiences, advertising agencies have three options:

Standardisation across all markets • Adaptation to the specific needs of the local market, or • Glocalisation, a blend of the two approaches, which is the preferred option for many global advertising companies.

Click here for a handy list of the top consolidated agency networks in 2013 by estimated worldwide revenues, including some fantastic companies I’ve had the pleasure of working with.

Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

Sources: C. Fill, Marketing Communications, Third Edition, 2002 O’Guinn, T., Allen, C., Semenik, R. J., Advertising and Integrated Brand Promotion, 2011