The second, and largest, two week advertising campaign to be launched by Royal Ahold has been designed to create a unified marketing front, while unusually attempting to tailor the predominant advertising approach that values global branding to the Dutch retailer's quite distinct needs.

Since 1973, the Dutch retailer has expanded internationally and now controls supermarkets across 23 countries, predominantly in the US, but also in Brazil and the Czech republic. It also operates under more than 25 names globally, and therefore lacks the potential for the true marketing cohesion of other groups such as Wal-Mart or Carrefour, who can present a global brand.

Impiric, the direct marketing arm of Young & Rumbicam, believe tis has found the answer in this new campaign. Advertisements will be posted in more than 6000 stores worldwide; to promote a range of goods from the 35 international suppliers, such as Kraft Foods, Coca-cola and Nestlé, and 250 local suppliers who have agreed to participate. "The whole point is that we can buy centrally," explained Gerard van Breen, senior vice president for global sourcing at Ahold. "This allows us tremendous buying leverage and lets us offer a better deal to our consumers."

Campaign will not mention Ahold name

Ahold's name, however, will not appear. Van Breen said that as the company had bought out established retailers, with particular consumer positioning, names and logos, it remains a sensible policy to "maintain local brands." It is therefore vital an advertising campaign manages to appreciate the local differences within Ahold's global acquisitions, and not merely drive forwards in a bid for consolidation and global branding. This is in line with Ahold's stated policy of supporting acquired groups rather than rebranding them as soon as possible à la Wal-Mart.

Since, as Van Breen explains, "the name is known in the investor community, not the consumer market," customers will read the slogan "Best in Your Home" and remain in the dark about their local store's parent company. The vice president at Impiric in Calif, Barry Gilbert, added that, "we had to create something that was customisable in any market."

Global consolidation stressed

Such an approach does not exclude international consolidation on other levels however, and Van Breen has stressed that the global aspect was present: "All things seen by the customer are done locally, and all things not seen are done within the global infrastructure."

Global advertising campaigns are not new for multinational retailers: French group Carrefour launched a campaign across 26 countries in 1998, which increased sales by 18.5%. As Kate Cavert, analyst at HSBC Securities in London, noted however: "Carrefour has the advantage of being Carrefour in every country where it operates." Cavert concedes that having local stores is a strength in many ways, but she added that Ahold's attempts to internationalise its market without global brand recognition makes the company's strategy seem schizophrenic.

Since the company was founded in the Netherlands in 1887, under the Albert Heijn brand, many industry analysts have considered the lack of a global brand to be a handicap for Ahold. With the new campaign however, which is launched this week and expected to cost around US$500m in promotional activity, the Dutch company is hoping to prove them wrong.