We all know what a huge opportunity international expansion is for a business — it’s a no-brainer for growth. New markets, diversified revenue, global recognition — it’s the dream. This article originally published by Rocketmill, explores what we learned from Advertising Week Europe.

But, like many things in business, the reality is never as simple as replicating your UK or domestic strategy for a global scale. The tension between global consistency and local nuance is real.  

Now more than ever — with AI, evolving privacy laws, and a fragmented media landscape — achieving international growth feels like a whole new world. Brands need adaptable strategies that deliver impact across locations. What works for one brand may not work for another — so how do you build a media strategy with global and local impact? 

Rocketmill’s panel at Advertising Week Europe discussed just that. Their CEO, Tom Byrne, was joined by Dominic Traynor, Global Head of Digital Experience at BNY Mellon, Rebecca McKinlay, interim MD of Oystercatchers, and host David Black, Senior Director UK and MD, Finance, Automotive, Services & Travel at Google UK, to dig deep into the opportunities that international expansion brings, and crucially, how you actually do it. 

Let’s set the scene 

When scaling local campaigns for national and global impact, there are a few things to bear in mind: 

  • Geopolitically, things are heating up with global trade growing 3.5% year-on-year 
  • Economically, things are stabilising with global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growing 2.9% year-on-year 
  • Technologically, things are accelerating at an astronomical pace — AI is already a $300bn market 
  • Behaviourally, consumer behaviour is becoming more complex but consumer confidence is rising 

So, what does this mean for marketing? 

A drive to bring creative production and media together 

To navigate the complex global market and fragmented media landscape, the panel started by discussing the need to integrate creative production and media buying. The old way of doing things, with separate creative and media teams, simply isn’t efficient enough. 

This has translated into an increase in demand for support from agencies on ways of working and commercial models — ways to make things better — rather than focusing on siloed operations. 

Authenticity and relevance 

According to Becky, agencies can support their clients with balancing local nuance and global applications by deploying technology and concentrating more on authenticity and relevance, rather than on the reach of a strategy itself. 

Dominic agrees — stating that if businesses are smarter with how they target, reach, and engage with their audiences, the expansion opportunities are huge. You’ll also benefit from an efficiency perspective, as you’ll have a more effective long-term spend strategy as well as a way to develop better relationships with your audience. 

How can marketers use data and technology to grow internationally?  

The function of the agency is starting to shift to prioritising and simplifying the key things that a brand needs to look at on a global, regional, or local level. This is where we, as marketers, can use data to our benefit. 

According to Tom, the role of technology in creating a unified media strategy is to unify a perspective globally. Data isn’t talked about as just “data” anymore, but rather as “insights”. By using data as the input and insights as the output, we can start to identify more meaningful universal trends and patterns impacting the user experience.  

People turn technology into value, and technology is a way of integrating people — humans are still at the heart of technology, data, and marketing on both a global and local level. And humans are what help you get the insights you need to solve the tensions between short- and long-term transformation. 

A strong insights engine, says Dominic, is a fundamental part of this — the ability to have data that enables your business to progress. We need to see results, but we also need to understand how to develop and work better and smarter.  

For brands like BNY Mellon, whose customers are very mobile and move freely between very different locations, the challenges of global expansion are amplified as the brand seeks to maintain an efficient, coherent, and consistent approach to storytelling. 

Brands are also increasingly interested in talking locally but pooling wisdom globally. This creates a highly complex challenge that the most creative advertisers and agencies are solving with technology and rapid integration capabilities to simplify, streamline, and innovate.  

The long and short of it, to Becky McKinlay, is that the most effective campaigns integrate brand with performance. 

AI and the rapidly changing role of the agency 

The agency of the past tried to be perfect, whereas, what modern agencies try to be is a partner — strengthening relationships with clients by sharing our successes and failures to collectively move forward.  

As artificial intelligence continues to pick up pace, the value of an agency is shifting. Google is increasingly injecting AI into its platform, which is stripping away some of the optimisation capabilities that agencies used to be able to harness to create a competitive advantage.  

From being intrinsically based in activation like deep platform expertise, an agency’s value now lies in its ideation abilities. To Tom Byrne, this comes back to a consistent measurement framework that uses leading indicators to serve short-term agendas towards a long-term value. 

AI is becoming an essential tool in an agency’s ability to create consistent and connected measurement frameworks. It’s excellent at recognising patterns and identifying important or emerging trends that marketers can use to create “evergreen” value or to de-risk future plans. 

The panel’s top tips for scaling businesses internationally 

  • Becky: Pace and grace — move fast but really sweat the detail. 
  • Dominic: Give yourself time to get it right. Don’t take your eye off the long-term goal but adjust as you go. 
  • Tom: If it involves strategy, measurement, or process, govern centrally – but if it involves people, govern locally. 
  • David: Test and learn and scale, then loop fast and iterate. 

The human element can never be divorced from the processes that AI is designed to help with — it’s the application of AI, through brilliant, strategic brains, and strong working relationships that makes the difference. When expanding into new markets, AI is a tool for humans to take advantage of to test, learn, and scale faster.