Let us begin by defining advertising. Advertising is commonly defined as the paid-for promotion of goods, services and companies by an identified sponsor in the mass media (such as television, radio, magazines, newspapers, the Internet, etc.). In this instance, your company is the ‘identified sponsor’ – you will be paying for the advert that will be placed in your choice of mass media to promote your export products.
Most of us are familiar with the concept of advertising as we encounter it everywhere we go; whether on TV, on radio, in newspapers, in magazines, on the Internet, or on billboards, advertising is the most common form of marketing communications one will encounter in business. International advertising, however, faces more problems than any other aspect of international communications because of the differences between nations in the areas of culture, language, government restrictions, tastes and attitudes of the local population, agency availability, and the availability of certain media, such as television or the Internet.
What advertising media are there?
The most common categories of advertising media are outlined in the table below. We have also provided some comments on the suitability of each medium for use by exporters.
|Bus and car (transit) advertising||
Other advertising media
Which advertising media should I use?
This is not a question that one can answer will universal clarity; the answer will vary from country to country and will depend on your firm and the products your are promoting. In making your decision, you should bear the following in mind:
- Because advertising involves mass media, the impact of advertising has more of a “shot-gun” (i.e. broad) than a “rifle” (i.e. narrow) effect. However, some advertising media (such as trade, industry or specialist magazines and certain types of Internet advertising) are more focused than others and are worth considering to reach specific target audiences.
- Certain types of mass media (such as television and radio) are better suited to promoting consumer products, while others (such as trade magazines) are better suited to promoting industrial or business products.
- Generally speaking advertising is relatively expensive and is too broad in its impact to be suitable for most smaller exporters. For this reason, advertising is not a popular means of promoting products in foreign markets.
- In some cases – such as with industry or specialist magazines, certain types of Internet advertising and in the case of very focused/specialised television or radio shows – advertising may be worth considering because it reaches the target audience you are after.
- Putting together an appropriate advertising message that has meaning within the culture and language of the target country is often very difficult and can seldom be undertaken from the home base. It is generally the case that you will have to make use of a local (and often expensive) advertising agency in the target country to run with the advertisement. Working with foreign advertising agencies to ensure that they carry across the message properly, is not easy and is fraught with problems.
- There may be various regulations that restriction on the type and nature of the advertising that you are allowed to do. You need to make sure that you keep within the law.
- There are many examples of how adverts translate badly when used in other languages. Make sure you get real and confirmed feedback from the marketplace that your ad works.
The advertising message
Legal restrictions and social constraints that vary from country to country quite often hamper freedom concerning the advertising message.In the case of the local export community, standardised advertising copy is commonly generated in South Africa and then translated for use in other countries, a practice that, if incorrectly handled, can negate the entire value of an advertising campaign. An apparently correctly translated message may become either incomprehensible or, at worst, make both the manufacturer and the product look ridiculous. A classic example of such an error was the translation of the English proverb, “Out of sight, out of mind” which, when translated into a foreign language, read “Invisible things are insane!”
To avoid the pitfalls of incorrect translation, the following rules should be adhered to:
- Translate thoughts and ideas, do not provide a literal translation of words
- Copy should be designed and written with translation in mind.
- Unusual idiomatic expressions and slang should be avoided.
- A native, professional should be used
- The same language spoken in a number of different countries may have differences in its use – Spanish spoken in Colombia, for example, differs from Spanish spoken in neighbouring Venezuela
- Local nationals who have experience in the relevant product area, e.g. agents or distributors, should always check the translation
- The final proof should be re-checked by both the translator and the agents/distributors
Most advertising in the world is done through national media. However, where standardised advertising is planned, the exporter may choose to use international media. i.e. publications which receive coverage in a number of different countries, e.g. consumer magazines such as Reader’s Digest, Time or Business Week, or various trade and technical magazines. Ultimately, the exporter must select the media which are most likely to reach the target market cost-effectively. In achieving this objective, the following would normally be considered:
Suitable media may either be restricted in use or unavailable in the target market. Television advertising is often state-controlled and advertising time is strictly limited both in terms of the number of minutes and in terms of the number of minutes per product per annum.
- The advertising of certain products, such as tobacco products or alcoholic beverages may be forbidden or restricted in terms of the law.
- In many developing countries, it is difficult to acquire information on the circulation of publications or the type of people that they attract.
- Where literacy levels are low, radio advertising, for example, may be more appropriate than press advertising.
- Many countries tax advertising while other countries charge a special tax on imported advertising material. The effect this is likely to have on the marketing budget should be borne in mind.
- Where the target country is multilingual, such as in Switzerland, regional media which specialise in the language spoken in that region, should be considered.
- The quality of reproduction provided by some media may be unacceptable and this aspect should be investigated prior to a final choice being made.
In choosing a suitable advertising agency, the following should be taken into account:
- The extent of market coverage of the agency. Not all markets that you may be interested in may be covered by the agency in question.
- The quality of service offered. This differs from market to market and may even differ between branches of the same agency.
- The extent, in financial terms, of the business offered to the agency. Major international agencies and certain foreign agencies may not handle small advertising campaigns
- The need for international co-ordination. Where the advertising budget is considerable and a standardised campaign is planned, good co-ordination and control, usually achieved through a single international agency, may be required.
- Larger concerns with operating bases in other countries may prefer to leave agency selection to a local subsidiary. This could also be the case in respect of joint venture arrangements or where advertising is done in conjunction with a local distributor.