When the going gets tough, the tough look further afield

Lynda Relph-Knight

The strength of its reputation overseas might decide the fortunes of many a design group if, as we are told, we are heading for straitened times.

With financial services and retail already hit in the UK by the so-called ‘world financial crisis’, overseas clients, particularly in developing nations, can usefully boost consultancy workloads. The fact that projects tend to be more comprehensive helps enormously with fees.

Smart groups have already twigged this. Anecdotal evidence suggests, for example, that WPP group The Brand Union wins some 90 per cent of its work overseas; lower down the size chain consultancies like Start Creative are successfully tapping into the Russian, Indian and Middle Eastern markets.

This is undoubtedly what has prompted Anglo-Scottish group Navyblue to overhaul its operation and move into Eastern Europe (see News, page 3). Projections by joint managing director Geoff Nicol that 50 per cent of its work will come from overseas within the year might seem ambitious, but not if it can notch up its operation in the way that it plans.

Overseas reputation is patently behind the spat between Conran & Partners and French marketing services group Havas, owner of Conran Design Group (see also News, page 3). For while Terence Conran has had issues with the use of his name for some time, it is only since Havas decided to take CDG global that the situation has become ‘unreasonable’ to him.

Conran does not dispute Havas’ legal rights, though he was not party to the deal involving his name. But he maintains it isn’t appropriate to use another brand name to trade overseas without the DNA of that brand being integral to the offer.

Conran has a point and we hope he resolves the issue with Havas chief Vincent Bolloré, who he has yet to meet. But the scenario heightens for other groups the need for clarity when trading overseas. What has fallen into folklore here can give a very different message to clients looking to UK design to develop their businesses.

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