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Mobile advertising: How to talk locally but think globally

As Asia-Pacific emerges at the forefront of global mobile marketing growth, brands need to focus their efforts on talking locally in each market and avoid costly or embarrassing mistakes.

Modern, mobile digital marketing is driven by global brands trading media machine to machine, programmatically.

It is great for driving mobile advertising efficiency and ensuring campaigns can scale effectively. A new innovative mobile campaign can be dreamt up in New York and then delivered around the world by the brand’s media buyer in London to drive footfall in stores from Bangalore to Singapore.

The question arises, though. How do marketers working thousands of miles away know what is right for each of the many markets that make up a geographic region as vast and diverse as Asia-Pacific? Put simply, they cannot. As John Hegarty, the founder of BBH, once famously quipped, global advertising “does not work” because it makes people feel it “isn’t a part of their culture and doesn’t connect with them.”

It’s a question that is worth asking today more than ever because APAC is increasingly set to be the key destination these multi-national campaigns are targeting.

A 4.2 per cent rise of ad spend in APAC will this year see the region outstrip forecast growth in the US and Europe as well as the global average. In fact, Dentsu Aegis predicts that in 2018, 39 per cent of new ad dollars entering the global market will be spent in Asia-Pacific and nearly two thirds of all new spending, 62 per cent, will be on mobile.

Centralisation trend is a threat

This huge growth for mobile marketing comes at a time when major brands, such as Procter & Gamble, Unilever, and Mondelez, are publicly committed to making double digit percentage savings in their ad spend through media buying efficiencies and working assets harder for longer across multiple markets.

The potential issue with “sweating assets” and using global automation to achieve reach and scale is that it can prompt marketers to forget a simple home truth. As Hegarty noted, the world is not a homogenous market and nor are any of the regions we divide it up into.

That even goes for nations that consider themselves closely aligned. The word football can mean two very different sports in the UK and the US, despite sharing a common language. More importantly, American ads are rarely received well in the UK because of their over reliance on patriotism and messages delivered with so much enthusiasm, Brits see them as too nationalist and contrived. They may adopt the same language, and harbour many cultural similarities, but ultimately they are two completely different markets for advertising.

Marketers must think locally

The key, then, for marketers is to always be attuned to the cultural differences that exist between countries. Unless marketers work with people with detailed knowledge of local sensitivities they can genuinely have no way of knowing that a symbol, a piece of artwork or a snappy campaign tagline could be received so differently from one market to another.

This is why it is so important to ensure marketing teams are not siloed but instead that global and national teams collaborate. Global brands need to work with their own local teams or partner agencies who can cater for their client’s global needs and represent them in various markets. Brand messaging has to be filtered down through experienced executives who understand their regional markets and can avoid damage to a brand’s reputation by not taking into account local sensitivities and cultural variations.

A case in point came with P&G’s launch of its hugely successful Pampers range in China. The stork logo is synonymous with babies in the US, due to the old folk tale that it is the bird that delivers new-borns. China does not share the myth and so the association between a stork and nappies was completely baffling. A redesign was understandably required.

Where brands can really go wrong

Where local partners can perhaps be at their most useful is in preventing brands tarnishing their image by trying to be multicultural, but causing offence by relying on stereotypes that they get wrong, or simply do not apply.

One recent round-up of cultural misappropriation included the Kellogg Company’s hugely popular Pringles brand of crisps being marketed in aisle displays wishing worshippers in London near a major mosque a “Ramadan Mubarak” greeting. It was a nice touch, but the crisps were bacon flavoured and so forbidden for Muslims to eat.

Nike caused similar outrage by launching a women’s range of sports clothing based on a tattoo design from the southwest Pacific. Trouble was, it was held as a sacred symbol and could only be worn by men. The range was soon dropped.

Localising formats and performance metrics is key

Marketers need to work with local partners who not only understand cultural differences but also the nuances between how campaigns perform in countries within larger regions. Take APAC, for example, the average CTR in Australia is 0.07 per cent, which is roughly in line with the UK and a little lower than the US. However, this can rise to 0.19 per cent in Singapore and even hit 0.30 per cent in Malaysia. A mobile advertising campaign across the region cannot be adjudged a success or failure by a common CTR expectation, particularly if the metrics are being compared with other markets.

Furthermore, the APAC region has seen a slight move away from banners to what are considered more engaging mobile formats of native and video advertising units. This makes diversifying messaging across different formats essential if an APAC campaign is to develop scale and reach.

Achieving global campaign success

It is impossible for marketers outside a region to have the in-depth market knowledge required to deliver localised campaigns, so working with a partner on the ground makes so much sense. In doing so they can ensure they generate maximum ROI from their mobile marketing campaigns and that they are not inadvertently damaging their brand through accidentally causing offence.

Luca Mastrorocco

Luca Mastrorocco is the VP Global Sales for Glispa. At Glispa, he makes sure his team provides our partners with meaningful insights and growth strategies. Luca is known for being an exceptional leader, mentor, and coach, whose enthusiasm is very contagious. He also created a company from scratch and raised pre-seed investment. Outside of work, Luca loves scuba diving.
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