International Advertising and Promotion: Global vs Local Advertising

International Advertising, generally speaking, is the promotion of goods, services, companies and ideas, usually in more than one country performed by an identified sponsor. Marketers see advertising as part of an overall promotional strategy. Other components of the promotional mix include publicity, public relations, personal selling, and sales promotion. Advertising is a cogent communication attempt to change or reinforce ones’ prior attitude that is predictable of future behavior.

It can be viewed as a communication process that takes place in multiple cultures that differ in terms of values, communication styles, and consumption patterns. It is also a business activity involving advertisers and the advertising agencies that create ads and buy media in different countries. The sum total of these activities constitutes a worldwide industry that is growing in importance. International advertising is also a major force that both reflects social values, and propagates certain values worldwide.

International advertising involves recognizing that people all over the world have different needs. Companies like Gillette, Coca-Cola, BIC, and Cadbury Schweppes have brands that are recognized across the globe. While many of the products that these businesses sell are targeted at a global audience using a consistent marketing mix, it is also necessary to understand the regional differences, hence it is important to understand the importance of international marketing. Organizations must accept that differences in values, customs, languages and currencies will mean that some products will only suit certain countries and that as well as there being global markets e.g. for BIC and Gillette razors, and for Coca-Cola drinks, there are important regional differences for example advertising in China and India need to focus on local languages. Just as the marketing environment has to be assessed at home, the overseas potential of markets has to be carefully scrutinized. Finding relevant information takes longer because of the unfamiliarity of some locations. The potential market size, degree and type of competition, price, promotional differences, product differences as well as barriers to trade have to be analyzed in order to advertise our product effectively in different countries.


Promotional objectives.  Promotional objectives involve the question of what the firm hopes to achieve with a campaign “increasing profits” is too vague an objective, since this has to be achieved through some intermediate outcome (such as increasing market share, which in turn is achieved by some change in consumers which cause them to buy more).  Some common objectives that firms may hold:

  • Awareness: Many French consumers do not know that the Gap even exists, so they cannot decide to go shopping there. This objective is often achieved through advertising, but could also be achieved through favorable point-of-purchase displays.  Note that since advertising and promotional stimuli are often afforded very little attention by consumers, potential buyers may have to be exposed to the promotional stimulus numerous times before it “registers.”
  • Trial: Even when consumers know that a product exists and could possibly satisfy some of their desires, it may take a while before they get around to trying the product—especially when there are so many other products that compete for their attention and wallets. Thus, the next step is often to try get consumer to try the product at least once, with the hope that they will make repeat purchases.  Coupons are often an effective way of achieving trial, but these are illegal in some countries and in some others, the infrastructure to readily accept coupons  (e.g., clearing houses) does not exist.  Continued advertising and point-of-purchase displays may be effective.  Although Coca Cola is widely known in China, a large part of the population has not yet tried the product.
  • Attitude toward the product: A high percentage of people in the U.S. and Europe has tried Coca Cola, so a more reasonable objective is to get people to believe positive things about the product—e.g., that it has a superior taste and is better than generics or store brands. This is often achieved through advertising.
  • Temporary sales increases: For mature products and categories, attitudes may be fairly well established and not subject to cost-effective change. Thus, it may be more useful to work on getting temporary increases in sales (which are likely to go away the incentives are removed).  In the U.S. and Japan, for example, fast food restaurants may run temporary price promotions to get people to eat out more or switch from competitors, but when these promotions end, sales are likely to move back down again (in developing countries, in contrast, trial may be a more appropriate objective in this category).

Difference in Global Advertising & International Advertising

Global and international advertising are alternative communication strategies that companies employ to drive demand for goods and services in foreign markets. International advertising strategies are tailored to reflect regional, national, and local market cultural differences and preferences. Global advertising embraces standardized strategies in which advertising content is the same worldwide under the premise that the entire world is a single entity.

(i) Standardizing Advertising

Globalism as a concept in marketing and advertising was first introduced by the late Ted Levitt, marketing professor at Harvard Business School. In a 1983 “Harvard Business Journal” article entitled “The Globalization of Markets,” Levitt observed that despite deep-rooted cultural differences, people were becoming globally homogenized. In consequence, he proposed a new paradigm: standardize products and advertise globally to take advantage of what he saw as huge economies of scale. Companies would gain sales volume and market shares. Consumers would enjoy lower prices.

(ii) Think and Act Locally

Despite the allure of global advertising benefits, market variances do exist in terms of cultural differences, differing rates of economic and market development, media availability, and legal restrictions. Many companies, upon producing unwanted results from executing global campaigns, have reverted back to international advertising strategies. For example, Douglas Daft, former Chief Executive Officer of Coca Cola, was quoted: “The world was demanding greater flexibility, responsiveness and local sensitivity, while we were further consolidating decision making and standardizing our practices.”

Upon assuming the Coke leadership in 2000, Daft introduced a new regime, “think locally and act locally,” which is the essence of international advertising. Local market managers were empowered to introduce new products, set pricing, and adapt advertising campaigns to host cultures.

(iii) When Global Advertising Works

Marketers generally agree that global advertising can work under certain conditions. Philip Kotler, marketing professor at Northwestern University, says that global strategies work best in categories where the trend toward global integration is strong and local cultural influences are weak, such as the consumer electronics market. According to an international marketing study guide from Villanova University, global advertising may be appropriate for brands that use image campaigns with universal appeals based on similar tastes, interests, needs and values.

(iv) Global Advertising

Many multinational marketers embrace a compromise between global and international advertising, which is often called “glocal” advertising. Glocal advertising is best captured in the phrase, “think global and act local.” Glocal marketers standardize certain core elements of the advertising strategy while incorporating local cultural influences into advertising executions. According to Wind, Sthanunathan and Malcolm in their “Harvard Business Review” article, “Great Advertising Is Both Local and Global,” an effective glocal strategy requires a global appeal that inspires universal motivation, a brand vision “that respects local nuances,” and an organizational structure that encourages collaboration between the global advertising strategists and local implementers.

(v) Small-Business Implications

When transitioning your business into the global economy, develop a comprehensive understanding of the influences in your host markets that could shape your marketing strategies and advertising content. Always use local market experts people who understand your business and the referenced cultures. Adjust your management structure to have the flexibility to make marketing and advertising modifications as required.

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