Doug Vanisky, Founder, Publisher and Creative Director of dogstar creative agency on localizing campaigns.

Today we meet Doug Vanisky, Founder and Creative Director of a boutique creative agency in Portland USA, while he is sipping on a cup of coffee. He is not only an inspiring creative mind who has done award-winning work for Fortune 500 brands, but also a publisher of industry shaping books and an Acupuncture and Herbology guru.

During this interview we tapped into Doug’s perspective on the importance of the localisation of campaigns. His American lens definitely brought another layer to’s ongoing conversation around this topic. Enjoy the read!


D.IO: What are the first three words that come to mind when thinking about your country / city?

Doug: I live in Portland, OR so the first three words that come to mind are progressive, weird, and coffee.


D.IO: Have you seen any examples of brands, artists or organizations that incorporate the memories / associations you just mentioned?

Doug: Sure. I think the spirit of the Wild West and creative freedom permeates the brands, artists, and organizations in the area. This might surface most clearly in the heavy design focus in our area. Nike is our most famous local brand and these qualities can be seen in their groundbreaking design and ad work throughout the years.


D.IO: Can you provide a recent example that portrays some of the dynamics of your local culture and society?

Doug: I think the annual Design Week Portland conference and the XOXO conferences are great examples of the community, creativity, and collaborative nature of the local culture.


D.IO: What feelings does your country / city evoke?

Doug: Creative, rugged, innovative, compassionate and progressive.


D.IO: Do you think it is important to localise international campaigns? Why?

Doug: It is important. Each country and differing areas within a country have a different perspective, baseline audience, social norms, and even regulatory. If a brand communication isn't further tailored to the specific local audience it seeks to connect with, messaging may go wide of the mark.


D.IO: Is it a make or break for brands to localise? Why do you say so?

Doug: Well, it depends on the brand, the communication, and the audience. If the creative work speaks to a human experience anyone can relate to, then localizing isn't make or break. However, if the messaging doesn't connect with the region, or worse, is offensive to a local culture, this runs the risk of doing the brand real harm (at least on the local level).


D.IO: Do you believe as a creative you are well placed to help brands translate local nuances? Why?


Doug: As ever, it's a combination of audience insight, strategy, and creative execution. I don't believe a creative needs to be local to a specific area to communicate local nuances — they just need to know what those local sensibilities are.


A common approach is for a lead agency to set the global brand experience in motion, then allow the brand's local representatives and agencies to customize the creative to align with local nuances.


D.IO: Are there any examples of global campaigns that have incorporated the local nuances of your market while staying true to their brand? How do you think they captured / merged this complex relationship?


Doug: The first thing that springs to mind are Jeep and Chevy campaigns that are true to global brand identity/messaging, but change the creative execution to represent the local geography and adjust messaging to reflect local values.

I believe Nike also just launched Equality Initiative, which sort of speaks to the values of the local area. Lastly, Spotify had a recent campaign that used billboards with different messaging for different local areas.


D.IO: How does the process of adapting global campaigns as opposed to creating new campaigns dim local creativity? Can adapting campaigns capture the local essence when local creatives are limited to simply adapting global campaigns?

Doug: It is possible that a campaign direction that isn't a good fit for a locality would be hard for local creatives to adapt. However, sometimes the creative part of our job is overcoming such challenges. Like the Stoics say, the obstacle is the opportunity.


D.IO: What is the one rule you follow for positioning a brand to fit into the local environment? Please discuss a case where this has failed or succeeded.

Doug: Commit to doing strong audience research.


D.IO: With consumers deeply entrenchment in the digital sphere, how does this affect localisation and brand experience given consumers may experience a brand online first?

Doug: Great question. Globalization also dilutes localisation, so I think it comes down to speaking to your primary audience in an authentic way first and foremost, regardless of their location, and then allowing for local customization of that messaging.



D.IO: There is this idea of culturalization vs. localization of brands, what is the difference if any and does this help brands gets closer to the local market?


Doug: I see culturalization vs. localization of brands as two sides of the same coin. They are vectoring towards the same goal — knowing your audience.

Thank you for the nuggets of knowledge and insights to chew on Doug. Until next time...


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