As far as advertising by transnational companies is concerned , Jean-Marie Dru (1996) recommends that they should 'think local, act global'. Advertisements have to appeal to consumers of a local culture. To achieve this, advertisements reflect the everyday life of local inhabitants, as well as the values, attitudes, and beliefs of their culture. However, as a matter of corporate strategy, to view advertising solely in terms of local cultural identities is to err. That is why reference is made to Dru because his message is that 'we must constantly move from the local to the global, and back to the local again'.
Global corporations should encourage their branches to generate high-quality local campaigns. The product and services of global corporations are the same worldwide. The features of the products and services being advertised are then the same for the entire global corporation. The branches, however, construct campaigns to suit the local culture. This is best understood by examining Dru's descriptions of advertising in the United States, France, Japan, Britain, Spain, Germany, China and India.
Dru's account suggests that US companies advertise directly, in ways described as brazen in other cultures. By contrast, the French do not engage in hard sell in their advertisements, but prefer to put the message across in a veiled, oblique fashion. The difference is cultural and related to the way the two countries view trade and business. Culture also defines how people construct an effective advertising campaign. In the United States, the spoken word makes a greater impact than the accompanying visuals. Hence, an advertising campaign generally begins with the writing effort. The French are more likely to be influenced by visuals and images. Hence, an advertising effort in France commences with the visualization effort.
According to Dru, there is a vital cultural difference between the United States and France which impacts on advertising campaigns. The French fight shy of sharing their emotions in an impersonal public arena. Americans on the other hand are accustomed to exploring emotions in public. US customers expect advertisements to make an emotional appeal. The French view the same type of advertisements as inappropriately sentimental. The best of advertising in both countries reflects cultural realities in terms of both the content and the conceptualization process.
In France, advertisements are presented as works of art, which are appreciated for their inherent creativity. The French like advertising. US people, on the other hand, view advertisements with scorn and disdain. The task of advertising is complex for a global company that must think local but have global aims.
The Japanese approach to advertising, Dru notes, is also distinctive and reflective of that culture. The Japanese have a need for spirituality to make their lives meaningful. Advertisements try to address this need. Thus a renovated store announces that it has re-opened with an advertisement that carries the punch line, 'Discovering Yourself'. The stunningly beautiful visual portrays a six-month-old baby swimming in water. The message conveyed is that it is beautiful to aspire for something as elevating as self-discovery. There are usually no themes that stress competitiveness .
At the same time, Japanese advertising is imaginative. The message is conveyed in a non-obvious, elegant manner that enables the recipient to feel serene and uplifted. It is also conveyed symbolically and metaphorically. Commercials often show sequences of beautiful images which when taken together communicate an entire sentence or even a theme. An individual totally alien to the Japanese culture may be unable to derive the intended meaning of an advertisement. The images have been combined in a sequence that relates directly to the Japanese experience and therefore has to be understood in context. The highly appreciated advertisements have inherent harmony.
The British too have a style of their own. The best British advertisements are masterpieces of understatement. This stems from British culture, where detachment even in business is the preferred style of functioning. British advertising persuades its consumers through suggestions and succinct messages.
Spain's advertising also reflects the strong but strange aspirations of that culture. Unable to shake off its hangover from once having been a colonial power, Spain seeks to retain a semblance of superiority by taking cues from the United States regarding how business should be conducted . At the same time, it insists that its own business practices are superior to those found in Latin American countries. Spanish companies like Telefonica that have tried to establish niches in Latin America have found the going rough, largely due to inadequate intercultural management skills.
Spain is one of the least developed countries in Europe. It is one of the last countries in the first world to start using advertising. Advertising executives generally have to manage on small budgets . Spanish advertisements are quite simple. The author of this book, having lived in both Spain and Argentina, opines that Spanish advertisements are inferior to those emanating from Argentina.
Spanish advertisements revolve around putting a product on display and sometimes demonstrating how it is used. The manner of presentation can be striking.
German advertising used to mirror the popular view of German culture. Germans see themselves as the people who give the world immaculate machine parts. The machine parts have high quality and do not need to be publicized. At the most, a German customer needs information about the machine parts . German advertisements are therefore strictly informative, nothing more or less. German customers traditionally appreciate rational and factual advertisements, which above all inform . Advertisements are not supposed to be works of art with a creative value apart from that of the mere data provided. Many advertisements are starkly austere. Germans expect products to speak for themselves. Advertisements that seek to seduce rather than convince are regarded as superficial and lacking in substance. Times are purported to be changing and advertisements are now informing in a creative manner.
Chinese advertisements are constructed around themes that are quint- essentially Chinese. An example is the theme of filial devotion and responsibility. Most themes are humane and not ones that celebrate attitudes of competitiveness.
In India, advertisements are targeted at the very large class of consumers (several million people) who are upwardly mobile. This group is breaking away from the traditional culture that espouses spirituality and downplays materialism. Advertisement themes thus emphasize how desirable it is to possess various products and how much they will contribute to the consumer's sense of having arrived.
A commercial for Pepsi was shown in India with great success in early 2002. It depicts a group of five Japanese-looking sumo players challenging European football players to a match. The European team includes the likes of David Beckham. The prize for the winner is a crate of Pepsi. The football players are no matches for the sumo players who physically block the passage of the ball into the goal with their girth. They also deflect the ball by slapping it away with their chests. Their movements are funny and the manner in which they are able to defeat the ace football players is appealing. Although the advertisement is aimed at cosmopolitan Indians who are familiar with sumo wrestling and Manchester United, it is well appreciated by peasants as well, who can relate to the humour inherent in the commercial.
The Pepsi advertisement is an example of a transnational advertisement with universal appeal. It can be released for consumption in any culture. Some advertisements work because they have a universal theme. Others work simply because a culture's uniqueness is saluted. Wisdom consists in knowing what will work where. Designing and executing advertisements that reflect a global brand equity but have local acceptance is one of the challenges of corporate strategy.