GaWC Project 6

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A Pilot Study of New York as a World City: The Globalization and Global Strategies of New York's Advertising Firms

Funded by University of Leicester Research Fund (1999)

Grant Holder: R.G. Smith

In world cities research, London, New York and Tokyo are located on the top rung of the world city hierarchy. As famously described by Saskia Sassen they are a part of a triad of 'global cities' dominating the contemporary world-economy. These global or world cities are distinguished by their high concentrations of advanced producer services, such as London's insurance market and New York's advertising companies, which provide infra-structural support to transnational capital. New York excels particularly in advertising, and this study investigates: (i) the presence of New York's advertising agencies across the globe; (ii) the relations in this sector between advertising firms in New York, London and Tokyo; and, (iii) the reasons/strategies driving and guiding the expansion or globalization of advertising firms.

The project has one major aim, with three sets of other aims as corollaries:

The main aim is to BEGIN to understand how New York operates as a world city through an investigation of its global advertising activities (which is just one of its many advanced producer services);

(A) the first corollary aim is to analyse both the corporate culture(s) of, and the worldwide locational preferences of, this New York dominated producer service;

(B) the second corollary aim is to help overcome the data deficiency in the field of world city research by:

(Bi) collecting new relational data sets on New York advertising producer service transnational corporation (TNC) activities in London and Tokyo; and

(Bii) contributing to the development of methodology in the arena of world city studies by adopting an organizational approach to the collection of relational data from individual TNCs through the use of textual analysis and semi-structured interviewing;

(C) the third corollary aim is to disseminate knowledge of relations between New York, Tokyo and London within and beyond academia by informing public and private sectors in these cities about their relational attributes.

Thus, the project has three major practical research objectives:

(i) PATTERNS: to identify both the locational preferences of New York's advertising agencies through distribution of presence (eg. through office networks) across the globe, and the relations between New York, London and Tokyo based advertising agencies through In-Out ratios;

(ii) PROCESSES: to explore the reasons and strategies driving and guiding the globalization of New York's advertising firms;

(iii) to relate the quantitative results (patterns) from objective (i) with the qualitative results (processes) from (ii).

Thus, the research methodology builds upon a combination of quantitative and qualitative techniques, which are organised in two major, but overlapping, frameworks:

Framework 1: Quantifying New York's overseas advertising presence and relations with London and Tokyo

The methodologies adopted in Framework 1 aim to collect unique quantitative data sets that will provide the basis for maps of both the global presence of New York's advertising agencies and the relations between New York, London and Tokyo in terms of this advanced producer service sector:

(i) Literature Search - Published sources drawn from the globalization literatures which intersect world cities, producer services, and advertising. In addition, documentation produced by New York, London and Tokyo advertising agencies (e.g. Annual Reports, World Wide Web sites), specialised periodicals (e.g. Campaign) and newspapers (e.g. The Financial Times and Wall Street Journal), will be reviewed to supplement the above.

(ii) Secondary Data Analysis - An analysis of published (and unpublished) New York advertising agencies world city employment and office network data, particularly focused on (a) London (b) the European Union (c) East Asia (d) Tokyo and (e) North America will be examined.

The combined methodologies of (i) and (ii) will enable me to begin to examine the external relations of New York's advertising agencies by quantifying the activities and turnover of New York advertising services across the world. Furthermore, it will enable an initial quantification of the inter-relations between New York, Tokyo and London. Thus, Framework 1, will allow us to begin to locate New York's advertising activities across the globe and to examine the relations between New York, Tokyo and London in this advanced producer service sector.

Framework 2: Case study interview survey with advertising agency executives in New York

(i) Semi-structured interviews with between 10 - 20 New York advertising corporate strategists will be undertaken. This will enable me to investigate the history of globalization amongst some key firms and the reasons driving their recent expansion. Other important issues addressed will include: turnover in employment and secondments, office networks, clients and business activity; changing organizational cultures; merger and acquisition activity; diversification into other sectors; and, relationships with regulatory frameworks.


The project will be organised into three main stages:

(i) Literature search and fieldwork preparation (Framework 1) - April will be devoted to these tasks which will then be ongoing throughout the remainder of the project;

(ii) Fieldwork in New York (Framework 2) - the execution, transcription, analysis and writing up of semi-structured interviews with advertising agencies senior executives (corporate strategists), will be undertaken in the July of 1999;

(iii) Writing Up - this will commence from August onwards.

Edited and posted on the web on 6th May 1999