International Advertisements or Localised Advertisements?

When a client of mine changed jobs and went from a children toy company to a children board-game company, she told me that she couldn’t work with us any more. This was due to strategic alignment, all advertising campaigns were conceptualized and executed out of New York. They were given strict guidelines and had to conform when it comes to localization.

There is nothing wrong with that. A company should have a uniform message to it’s global audience. However, this should not be a rule to be followed blindly. The advertising watchdog of the brand should also heed the religious, cultural and social differences in each country.

Here’s an interesting story to share with you…

In 1961, Procter & Gamble introduced the world’s first disposable diaper. A decade later, P&G imported it’s products to Japan. The advertising team decided to use an advertisement which had been enormously successful in the U.S. market. It should be very familiar to anyone who is well versed in western folklore… an animated stork delivering Pampers diapers to a happy home.

Unfortunately, this cutesy commercial failed miserably when the commercial was dubbed in Japanese. There was nothing wrong with the translation or the voice-over. The Japanese community simply don’t understand why a bird was delivering diapers. There was no folklore in Japan that says a stork delivers baby. Had the advertising team done some research, they might have used a giant peach instead. A 14th century Japanese fable told of giant peaches would float peacefully along rivers and streams to deliver babies to deserving parents. So fruit is the way to go, bird, definitely not.

So, before you bring your advertising campaign international, pause a moment to consider the deeper implications.

[tags] advertisement adaptation[/tags]

9 Replies to “International Advertisements or Localised Advertisements?”

  1. This is a relevent post for today! Even in the preaching of the Gospel, churches need to find a cultural key to present the message that the local folks can grasp and understand!

  2. Vivienne, Hi!

    This is one great post! It’s a good example to research on the culture and legends of a land. We need to take care to know about them.
    Thanks & Regards
    Solomon

  3. I think that cultural consciousness is an important trait in all aspects of marketing, not just in advertising alone, although the most visible gaffes usually take place there! The art and science of selling for example is vastly different in a western setting compared to the east.

    Different cultures also have different contexts. For example, the Japanese are usually far less direct than say the Americans. Here in Singapore, I find that we tend to take things very literally and this is why most of our advertising is rather in your face and hardsell. Anything which requires too much mental calisthenics may win Creative Circle Awards but stink at raising sales.

  4. Haha, Walter, sadly I have to agree with you on “Anything which requires too much mental calisthenics may win Creative Circle Awards but stink at raising sales.”.

  5. I completely agree with you. It is very important to look into the cultural implications before starting an advertising campaign. This is because every country has its own set of cultural beliefs and perceptions. I am really glad that you brought up this point.

  6. Hi John – Seen too many advertisers keen to save money by using an overseas ad that has little relevance to our society. Penny wise pound foolish scenario.

  7. “I completely agree with you. It is very important to look into the cultural implications before starting an advertising campaign. This is because every country has its own set of cultural beliefs and perceptions. I am really glad that you brought up this point.”

    Such a true statement John. I have a background in global advertising and it mystifies me how often a global company will believe their advertising message can be completely universal across cultures – it is simply not possible you have to understand a country and culture to make sure your message fits and resonates..

  8. Asia comprises many countries with their distinct history and culture. It might take the western ad agencies’ some effort to find out what works in Japan will not work in China, or what works in Thailand may not work in Singapore. It is a case of “so near yet so far”.

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