So you're a company with a product(s) in various countries, and mean to
exploit capitalize on that, while minimizing costs a publicity office in each country would incur. What can you do? Make an ad campaign that can be easily used across nations, perhaps with as little change as using different models/actors, languages, and substituting the flag/national colors for these commercials, if at all.
Huge success! Profit!
Of course, you have to be careful that (like a term paper) this copy/pasting does not somehow offend someone... which it will probably do because it's just so darn easy to offend at least someone. On the plus side, it can give your company a very powerful image for being highly coordinated and multinational for pulling these off simultaneously across continents.
Another benefit to designing these ads to be international from the get go is it avoids "recycling" ads targeting consumers in country A on consumers in country B, which can lead to all sorts of amusing gaffes or horrendous lack of judgment.
Compare the Market-Based Title.
- Coca Cola is a huge fan of this strategy. They used it in the Olympics with the multilingual cans, and this ad which cleverly subs the team/national colors for the team it endorses (across what may well be most of Latin America).
- DeBeers diamond ads (shadows) and Mentos ads (no dialog) are done like they are for this reason.
- The German insurance company Allianz showed the same ads in Europe and North America. Outside of different logos for subsidiary companies and a local dub for the father and child, it was pretty much the same everywhere.
- International airlines like Qatar Airways, Korean Air and Emirates have very purposefully vague ads for their companies, so they can air anywhere and not offend anyone.
- The iPod ads. Like the DeBeers ads, the silhouettes keep things racially ambiguous, and the song the actors dance to can be easily changed to one more familiar with the local audience. Many of them use original music so that even that is unnecessary.
- A lateral thinking puzzle illustrated the potential pitfalls of this trope. The problem posed was that such an advertisement actually hurt sales of a particular product in certain countries: the answer presented was that it was an ad for laundry detergent, displaying a pile of dirty clothes on the left, the laundry detergent in the middle, and clean clothes on the right. The problem was that it assumed a left-to-right reading order; in countries where a right-to-left reading order, and thus natural viewing order, is expected (such as Israel, where Hebrew is read right-to-left), the ad seemed to be saying that the detergent made clean clothes dirty.
- This actually happened once in an ad that was intended for Arabic-speaking countries. The left panel showed a sick man, the middle panel showed him taking medicine, and the right panel showed him healthy. Then the advertisers realized that Arabic is read right-to-left...
- The American movie Couples Retreat was criticized for removing the two black actors from the international versions of the advertisements.
- HSBC's advertising campaign is something of an inversion: to go with the slogan "The World's Local Bank", the adverts are about differences between cultures (a word or gesture meaning something different, for instance) and sometimes deliberately invoke examples of Bite the Wax Tadpole.
- Of course, HSBC's name is an example: it originally stood for "Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation", established to finance colonial British trade in China.
- Several ads for the 2012 Ford Focus are used worldwide, made possible by the fact that the car differs between world markets mainly in powertrain options, with few external trim differences.
- Pan-European adverts in general have a format whereby any dialogue is spoken off-screen, or whilst the actors' mouths are obscured or otherwise facing away from the camera, computer screens only display graphics, never text, and street signage in particular is CGI-ed out. This is particularly prevalent in car adverts, where the image is flipped for the UK market so that European cars can be shown driving on the right side of the road.
- There was a Volkswagen commercial in the 1970s which had a car, hidden underneath massive amounts of snow, burrow its way up to the camera (the ad exec was inspired by Tremors) and then flash its headlights. Because there was no dialog and the model of car wasn't shown, that ad was used around the globe for decades.
- Cases of that trope gone wrong can be seen in Polish ads for the Opel Insignia's adaptive cruise control and Opel Astra's adaptive front lights. The first ad was originally made for the British market, and the second one was meant for Germans. The problems are:
- Both ads have the dubbing not matching the actors' lip movements.
- Both ads have the dubbing done by one person and often sounding a bit badly done,
- In both ads the cars retain their original numberplates.
- In addition, the Insignia ad shows:
- the car being an RHD version, while Poland is an LHD country (also, there is no RHD Opel Insignia outside of Japan - the RHD version is either sold as a Vauxhall (UK, Ireland) or Holden (Australia, New Zealand)),
- the dialogue referring to "driving in Liverpool",
- the road signs being clearly British road signage,
- the speedometer and signs showing speed in miles per hour.