Not Lost in Translation

Marketing tactics from abroad can work just as well here, too.
Magazine Contributor
2 min read

This story appears in the December 2004 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

In Tokyo, two athletes dangle at more than 26 feet from a billboard and play a round of soccer. Is this the Asian edition of Fear Factor? Nope, it's just an ad for sneaker-maker Adidas. In an ever-cluttered advertising environment, international marketers are seeking bolder and weirder ways to hawk products.

U.S. entrepreneurs may wish to take a cue from audacious, buzz-generating overseas advertising. OK, so maybe you can't afford to stage a soccer game off the side of Trump Tower. But if you'd like to add more of a global flair to your U.S. marketing plan, consider the following in your adaptation:

  • Use the great outdoors as your canvas. European and Asian markets are awash with clever, out-of-house advertising. Stuttgart, Germany, ad shop Jung von Matt created a giant inflatable church for the Protestant Church that traveled to venues such as golf courses. Besides sheer eyeball appeal, a campaign that includes a monolithic centerpiece is a magnet for local and national media attention.
  • Build great content, and the consumers will come. European theater owners recognize the power of pre-movie commercials. Movie theaters list two start times for each movie: the first for the commercials, the second for the film. "Overwhelmingly, the audience shows up early for the commercials because of their entertainment value," says John Coleman, CEO for The VIA Group LLC, a Portland, Maine, marketing and advertising agency.

U.S. advertisers may adapt the technique by running ads at theaters to a captive audience. Consider running current TV ads, or expanding a TV campaign to tell a longer story. Screenvision, a company that provides cinema advertising worldwide, has exclusive access to 14,000 screens across America.

  • Integrate sophisticated design elements. Study campaigns that American retailers use overseas to get a feel for the look and tone of beyond-the-border ads. A good place to peruse cutting-edge design styles is, a site that features work from worldwide agencies. "By embracing attention to design, you may find an important differentiating factor when adapting a campaign to a U.S. market," Coleman says.

You'll notice these overseas ads are pretty racy-that's one aspect of international advertising you can't adapt here. Coleman says, "In Europe, consumers are more willing to accept nudity, humor and even violence as part of advertising."

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