Being a global company really conjures up some impressive images in the mind’s eye. Just think of giant global beasts like WPP. At the last count, they had 194,000 employees across 300 offices in 112 countries. No doubt, they have already added to this agency stash whilst we were all making our morning cup of tea. That is Blofeld-level World Domination.
This has always been the world of global business to me. Spinning globes sprinkled with head offices, all interwoven into networked regional hubs. An omnipotent Global CEO presiding over a rash of fawning regional bosses in fancy suits. Each of them brokering power deals in countries that I can’t even spell.
This has always been so far removed from our reality. “London, Amsterdam, San Francisco, Shanghai and Buenos Aires” proclaim their business cards. Whilst we wistfully wonder when we can justifiably add New York and Paris to our Peckham.
But, increasingly, this is an anachronistic image of a global creative company. As we jet out to Miami to join a group of other inspiring creatives at AdAge’s Small Global Agency of the Year, we’re happily revising our view.
It seems that you don’t have to be big to be global.
Instagram had just 13 employees when it was acquired by Facebook for $1 billion in cash and stock. 12 of them based in San Francisco, and one in Washington D.C. That core small group had already managed to conquer the global stage. Likewise, Whatsapp only needs 55 employees to service its one billion customers worldwide.
Yes, yes. These tech bonanzas are the exception rather than the rule. And I don’t expect anyone to be giving us a billion or so in the near future. However, they are a wonderful inspiration for creative companies like ourselves. Global is now the goal for all sizes of business.
Global outlook not a global footprint
Our name, Mr President, was certainly intended to convey a certain air of global authority. The work we produce has a Presidential impact on a global scale. But we are belligerently unglobal in our physical presence.
All 35 of us have settled into our home in Soho Square. And save for a few airmile-generating client visits, most of our work is strategized, created and distributed from right here in London. Our belief is that to have a global outlook you don’t need to have a global footprint.
As an example of our global output: our Grey Goose “Le Club Goose” work was designed in London, the Sterling silver jewellery was designed in the UK, the technology within it was developed in China, and the campaign was activated in France, the US and Spain. And not a single regional office was used. Mostly because we didn’t have any.
In the digital world, everyone is Global
You don’t need to be global to understand global. Research tools don’t delineate people by nations. Anyone, anywhere can dig out a nugget of consumer insight in any neighbourhood in the planet. The World’s knowledge is there for the taking, you just need to know how to look.
We are launching a UK brand in the US. The finer creative nuances need working through with customers on the ground in New York and Los Angeles. So we’ve used Skype to connect direct to our audience. Yes, running West Coast groups at 4am BST was pretty brutal. But having direct access to the people we want to sell to from the comfort of our own living rooms was priceless.
Embracing tech has allowed us to run live, responsive creative groups throughout the European Football Championships. We had teams in London working alongside BetVictor’s team in Gibraltar. All one global team, just one half with a nicer view out the window.
Being global is about having global people, not offices.
It’s not just technology that opens up the global stage, it’s people too. We benefit from having nomadic staff. Our creative director for our Body Shop global work operates out of Sweden. Considering recent shoots have taken place in Kenya, Nepal and Ghana, it makes little difference if home is Stockholm or Stockwell.
Even one of our Connections Planning team lives in Los Angeles. Which rather conveniently gives us 24-hour cover for campaign activities when we’ve all gone to bed. Being global is about having global people, not offices.
Small acts bigger by collaborating
Small Global businesses don’t try and fit a World’s worth of talent within one office. They find a way to collaborate with the best in the World from wherever they are.
Soho is brilliant. But we’d never pretend to have the best of everything. We adopt a partnership production model, which allows us to cherry pick the best talent for every job. If that talent so happens to be elsewhere on the planet, so be it.
We’ve worked with the likes of Obscura in Sweden, Media Monks in Amsterdam, and Canada in (confusingly) Spain. Small can be big through collaboration.
Small will conquer the world
It is perversely the size of a business that encourages it to be global. The smaller you are, the more that you rely on external global resource; the more that you look to talent around the world; the more open you are to the World’s opinions rather than those within your Soho walls. The world is getting smaller, and global business is getting smaller too.
Perhaps we’ll leave off the New York and Paris off our business cards and just put The World instead.