Localization versus standardization of global advertising


The high purchasing power of many of the countries in the Arab World has encouraged the increasing presence of a wide variety of multi-national corporations (MNCs) in this region. In the quest for a unified corporate identity and aided by the fact that Arab countries are already unified by one language and one basic culture, MNCs are usually encouraged to utilize one advertising message to address all the peoples of this region. This paper examines why this approach may or may not be appropriate in a market which may not be as homogeneous as some might believe. The paper presents three main approaches to global advertising. The least expensive approach-and the one most often fraught with problems is straight standardization. With straight standardization, a message developed in the Western World is run in other regions with dubbing into the local language. The second approach is regional advertising, which involves the development of one message to be used in one apparently "homogeneous" market consisting of several neighboring countries. The third approach is to use a localized message which is developed and executed in each nation. While this is the most costly option, it provides the least opportunity for costly cross-cultural mistakes. Advances in broadcast technology have compounded the problems of global advertising in the Middle East. Messages aired on television in one country can be seen in other countries. This requires that advertising messages be standardized in countries which broadcast to other Arabic-speaking countries. Such cases present a dilemma for MNCs, which had hoped that the Middle East was one homogeneous region that could be addressed by one main message. This paper presents several case studies which indicate that the Arab market may not be as homogeneous as believed, and which show how the pre-testing of advertising messages can prevent cross cultural problems inherent in global advertising. This paper also presents an example of how "localized" advertising fared well in one Middle Eastern country and tested poorly in a sister country due to the history of each product and its position in each market.

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