MTS, the telecoms giant, has screwed itself again. Already notorious for its previous marketing disaster (remember the stupid red egg campaign?), MTS, which prides itself on being a heavily-bureaucratic, classic top-down Russian-style company for the Third Millennium, pretty much assures that it will continue to shoot itself in the foot by virtue of the fact that its top management insists on interfering in all of their advertising campaigns. The result has been some pretty high comedy for those of us in the ad world watching them. But if you own MTS stock or you care about the company's results, it's pretty grim stuff.
That said, the company is rolling in cash. Many believe that the reason for MTS' success thus far is due to a combination of powerful connections in High Places, and the sheer amount of money spent on advertising and marketing their cell phone service, and a successful acquisition program gobbling up regional telecoms with the money earned by their outlandish rates and high subscription numbers. But none of their success is due to a brilliant advertising campaign, like the sort that rival BeeLine launched a while back. After MTS' dud of a re-branding campaign of last year, they fired their local agencies (it's always the agency's fault, rather than the clients who micromanage their campaign into the dirt), and hired Israeli firm Baumann Ber Rivnay Saatchi & Saatchi to pull them out of their marketing funk.
The first fruits of their efforts are already airing on Russian television screens, and it's not pretty. What we get from BBRSS are, in effect, local adaptations of international creative and productions. I kid you not, folks. Russia's largest locally based mobile operator is using foreign adaptations to sell their local services. The spot can be viewed at (http://www.adme.ru/mobilnye_telesistemy/2007/02/19/15267/). The campaign revolves around a painfully lame English-Russian play on words called "GOOD'OK" (written in English) which offers MTS subscribers alternative ring signals for incoming callers. At the end of the television spot, two tanned and obviously Israeli looking young adults share a couple of warm words with each other. Their dialogue has a voiceover, with their lips clearly speaking a different text, similar to those old Chinese kung-fu movies. That's right -- whenever you want to sell something to the Russian masses, it's always wise to use foreign Jews to pitch that product.
MTS has managed to produce an adaptation campaign for a brand that has no international presence. Why is this bad, you ask? Well, there are really two reasons that a company reverts to adaptations in any international market. The first is a lack of budget to do local production. The second has more to do with jealously guarded central positioning, which despite pleas by local brand managers to appeal to local tastes and values, gets ignored by the decision-makers at HQ. If you want locals to relate to a brand, you kind of have to speak in their local language. Adaptations have become even less appealing 'round these here parts, especially since the Feds have cranked up nationalism to 11.
Considering their massive cash flow, you can pretty much assume with confidence that MTS doesn't lack the funds necessary to create a local spot. Nor is their positioning closely guarded by some fat-ankled marketing cow in London. Their bosses are right here in Moscow. So, again, why produce something for the average Ivan that clearly reeks of adaptation from a foreign country, and diverges from his Russian taste sensibilities?
The answer is, I have no fucking idea. My best guess is that after consistently meddling with the MTS re-launch to the point of near disaster, the execs decided to dump this campaign onto another willing agency, this time an agency Israel. Perhaps this was done because of personal relationships at top management level or possibly because Israel has, incidentally, been a traditionally aggressive market for mobile operator battles, and this experience was compelling enough to have MTS bet their next campaign on BBRSS. Who knows.