Advertising across cultural borders

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2006

24 Pages, Grade: 1,0


Table of Contents


1 Different countries = Different advertising – Some examples

2 Cultural borders

3 Consumer behavior

4 Consequences for Advertising
4.1 Standardization vs. Differentiation
4.2 Advertising media
4.3 Advertising in different cultures
4.3.1 Advertising laws and regulations
4.3.2 Comparative vs. non comparative advertising
4.3.3 Adapting the advertisements to the cultures Advertising goals Values Role of genders Informational content Symbols Humor Disregarding the culture on purpose

5 Efficient worldwide advertising
5.1 Announcements
5.2 Association Transfer
5.3 Lesson
5.4 Drama
5.5 Entertainment
5.6 Imagination
5.7 Special Effects

6 Conclusion


List of pictures

Picture 1: VW Golf GTI commerical, USA

Picture 2: Mariah Carey CD Cover in USA and Saudi Arabia

Picture 3: Nike commercial in China

Picture 4: Toyota advertising in China

Picture 5: Example Clinique Announcement

Picture 6: Kuschelweich, Germany; Cajoline, Denmark; Coccolino, Italy;
Snuggle, USA

1. Different countries = Different advertising – Some examples

When someone goes to another country and turns on the television or the radio or opens a magazine, he will find advertising which is different in comparison to what he is familiar with. One can learn a lot about the country and its culture if he looks close enough at their advertisements. As Jean-Marie Dru in his book ‘Disruption’ says “Nothing reflects a country and age better than its advertising.” (Tretyak, 2001, p. 185).

One can find these differences not just in advertisings of local companies; they are also in advertisings of international companies. A good example is the commercial for the new VW Golf GTI. In Germany it is shown as a car for men who want to have a “cool” car. Here the focus is either on the experience older men already had with the former GTI or on the horse power of that car. When watching the com­mercial in the United States this is different. They have several drafts but all are very similar. A German engineer says that it is the time to “unpimp” the car of a young man which is damaged at the same time. Then the Golf GTI is shown. It is still presented as a “cool” and pimped car but which is already pimped when it is bought, so it does not need any aftermarket tuning. The last sentence of the en­gineer is “VW, German engineer in the house” with a strong German accent. So they also use the popular German engineering for their commercial and show the Volkswagen Group as a young company by choosing the way they speak. Here the focus is on young men who like to drive pimped cars.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Picture 1: VW Golf GTI commerical, USA,, 22 November 2006

Advertising of the DaimlerChrysler Group is also different. In the US they have the slogan “Ask Dr. Z”. On the radio Dr. Dieter Zetsche answers questions in the ad in English with a real strong German accent where he makes fun of his mustache. In Germany they would never present Dieter Zetsche like that. They would say he makes too much fun of himself and Germans do not make fun of a president of a company like that. In Germany people take their superiors in higher positions more seriously.

Another example is if someone looks through a magazine which is published in different countries. For example the Cosmopolitan magazine. Cosmopolitan is dis­tributed in 110 editions in 28 languages (Nelson & Paek, 2005, p. 371). Here one can see especially differences in the nudity of the models shown. The degree of sexuality by Western models is higher than in Asian countries (Nelson & Peak, 2005, p. 373).

When watching commercials in Germany and the US another difference can be seen. The commercials in the United States are partly more localized. Channels in the US offer companies to make commercials just for a specific region. And this is not just for the different States; it is also for specific cities. Watching the same channel in Detroit, Michigan and Charleston, South Carolina, similar nationwide commercials can be found but also city specific ads e.g. for shops in that specific region which offer the advertised product. Or for example in the Detroit Metro area commercials target people who are working for the automotive companies by offering special deals only to the big three (General Motors, Ford, DaimlerChrysler) employees, because they are primarily from that region.

2. Cultural borders

As mentioned above in every country advertising is different. And this is for a reason. The first thing someone recognizes when he goes to another country is the language. After a while one will recognize another type of architecture, another behavior of the people living there and so on. And this is what advertisers have to think about.

This paper is based on the usual cultural differences like religion, traditions, norms and values, as well as Hofstedes five dimensions of culture: masculinity, power distance, uncertainty avoidance, individualism and long versus short term orien­tation. These dimensions and the cultural differences will not be discussed in this paper; just a few examples are shown to show how easy different cultures can cause problems with advertising.

Language mistakes are often made by not proofing well enough the translations of slogans or the used brand names. Also the opinion that English is understood by almost everyone is wrong and can lead to a non successful advertisement. The agency Endmark in Cologne made a study about how English slogans are under­stood in Germany. They found out that a lot of slogans are not translated right by the Germans (“Englische Werbesprüche”, Spiegel-online, 26 Nov. 2006). “The current Jaguar commercial which says “Life by Gorgeous” was understood right by just eight percent of the Germans. Some thought it means living in the country Georgia” (“Englische Werbesprüche”, Spiegel-online, 26 Nov. 2006). Other ex­amples outside Germany are Chevrolet and Pepsi. Chevrolet advertised their Chevy Nova in Spain but forgot to think about that “No va” in Spanish means “it does not go”. So the turnovers were not like expected. They should have thought about changing the name of their car for Spanish speaking countries. Pepsi had an advertisement which said in English “Pepsi brings you back to life”. They translated their slogan for the Chinese market but did not recognize that they actually said “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave”. (American Demographics magazine,; 12 Nov. 2006) These examples show how important it is to check what the trans­lated slogan or the brand name means in that language.

Regarding the different religions is also really important, especially when a company wants to advertise in Islamic countries. The example of Mariah Careys’ Album cover shows the little difference in the dress codes which should be con­sidered.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Picture 2: Mariah Carey CD Cover in USA and Saudi Arabia,, 19 November 2006

3. Consumer behavior

One could think that due to the globalization and the new communication tools the different cultures come closer together. Especially the internet, which enables everyone all over the world to communicate really easy and fast with each other, should bring people from different countries and cultures closer together. That is true but this does not mean that the norms and values are getting similar. Sure “in­creasingly consumers in almost every corner of the globe are able to eat the same foods, listen to the same music, wear the same fashions, watch the same tele­vision programs and films, drive the same cars, dine in the same restaurants, and stay in the same hotels.” (De Mooij, 2004, p. 4, quoting Belk, Hyperreality and globalization: Culture in the age of Ronald McDonald, Journal of International Consumer Marketing, 8, 1995, pp. 23-37)

But that will never happen. It is more or less the opposite what the new communication tools and the globalization cause. People still keep their culture and show it, to be different. For example in India the citizens became more and more proud of being an Indian with the growing of glob­alization (De Mooij, 2004, p. 9).

Although countries with a similar economy are getting more similar, regarding the wealth and the market saturation, the consumer behavior is still really different (De Mooij, 2004, p. 5). Because of the different values countries have, the citizens spend their money for different products or have different reasons why they buy this product. For example Americans compared to Germans. Almost every citizen in these countries has a car, but the reasons why they bought it can be extremely different. In the United States public transportation is not as good as in Germany, just in the bigger cities like New York City, Chicago and so on, but not all over the country. So there a car is necessary for most of the citizens to go from one place to the other. In Germany people can get everywhere relatively easy when they do not have a car. So the reason why a German buys a car does not have to be because that is the only way to come from A to B. Usually it is because they do not want to take the train or bus or really often it is because of prestige. Sure the people in the United States want to have nice, fast or cool cars too, that is the reason why the advertising for cars is emotional in both countries. But the buying behavior is not just about the decision to buy a car or not. When it comes to the question what car someone wants to buy the behavior also differs from country to country. Although there are not huge differences between the United States and Germany people in Germany might decide different which car they buy than the Americans. For Germans it is really important that a car is safe and does not need that much gas, because the gas prices are getting more and more expensive. Americans instead want to have a cool looking car and do not care that much about gas. So these are different factors which should be adapted in the advertising.


Excerpt out of 24 pages


Advertising across cultural borders
Nürtingen University
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ISBN (eBook)
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Quote paper
Bianca Bischoff (Author), 2006, Advertising across cultural borders, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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