International Initiatives: Things To Think About When Advertising Overseas


Share this graphic on your site!

International Initiatives: Things to think about when advertising overseas


The Future’s Bright, The Future’s …Protestant Loyalist

Orange – a telecoms company – launched a successful campaign in the UK

Slogan –

“The future’s bright…the future’s Orange”

The same campaign had a very different result in the Republic of Ireland

“Orange” often refers to the Protestant organization, the Orange Order

Seen as hostile and sectarian by Irish Catholics

Problem: language and culture

Are you lactating?

We all know the “Got Milk?” campaign

It began in 1993 and is still running strong

1998: the “got milk?” slogan was licensed to MilkPEP (National Milk Processor Board) for celebrity print ads

the US Dairy Association hit a few snags in translating the slogan to Spanish

The Spanish version allegedly meant “Are you lactating?”

Overall the campaign didn’t work for Latinos

Being deprived of milk is not humorous

It can be a serious concern for family oriented Latino communities

Bite the wax tadpole

When Coca-Cola launched in China, many small business owners put out signs that phonetically said “Coca-Cola,” but translated to “Bite the wax tadpole” or “wax-flattened mare”

Coca-Cola actually marketed itself as “Kekoukele” which translates to “Happiness Power”

Other Chinese brands:

Tide: Taizi = “gets rid of dirt”

By using different characters with the same sounds, this could have been “Too purple”

Cadillac: “Ka di la ke” = it has no meaning

Callout: Chevy Nova

Many people believe that the Chevy Nova didn’t sell well in Spanish-speaking countries because “No va” means “No go”

Myth – Didn’t really happen

1) Just like English speakers, Spanish speakers acknowledge the word “nova” to be a celestial event

2) When speaking to a mechanic, a person is more likely to say, “no funciona” (it isn’t functioning) or “no camina” (it isn’t running) than “no va” (no go)

The car actually did sell well in Latin America

It surpassed expectations in Venezuela


“Appropriate” or “Inappropriate” varies widely between nations or regions within nations

Marketers should extensively research the local culture before they start a campaign

2004: China banned a Nike TV commercial

Depicted LeBron James fighting cartoon animated dragons and kung fu masters

The Chinese said it insulted their national dignity

Religion also plays a big role in international marketing

China – 2007: (the year of the pig) Advertisements containing pigs were banned

To maintain peace with the country’s Muslim population (about 2%)

Ban included any animated pig or pictures of sausages containing pork

France – 2005: the Catholic Church went to court against clothing designers

Designed by Marithe and Francois Girbaud

Clothing ad based on da Vinci’s Christ’s Last Supper

The court sided with the Catholic Church – the ad was banned

In August 2013, Dunkin Donuts Thailand launched a campaign for the Charcoal Donut

The ad for the chocolate donut featured a woman with “blackface” makeup and bright pink lipstick eating the donut

Human Rights Watch (Headquartered in NYC) called the ad “bizarre and racist”

Said it would cause “howls of outrage” if it ran in the US

In Thailand, it is common for ads to use racial stereotypes

Some have dismissed the controversy as “paranoid American thinking”


The symbolism of colors varies around the world

Using the wrong color for an ad can convey the wrong message

[[Most important colors to show differences in: white, black, green, yellow]]

[[“ASEAN” is, collectively, Southeast Asia]]

In the end, it’s all about research. No amount of financial backing will ever match the value of knowing your audience.


thumb (1)