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Advertising   Only translating an advertisement in another language might not be effective

Huge advertising challenges even with close neighbors

AdvertisingA recent study from the University of Vaasa shows that advertisement developed in one culture can go wrong in another culture.

International marketing and advertising managers should have a simultaneous attention to culture in terms of its values and actual practices in deciding advertising content across culture.

READ MORE What happens when someone sees an ad with sexual appeal

The study examined the effect of cultural values and values-practices inconsistency on the use of appeals in advertisements in magazine in Estonia, Finland, Sweden as well as Finnish consumers' perceptions on the use of appeals in advertisements.

The analysis supports the idea that cultural values alone do not explain the use of appeal in advertising but in case of certain cultural characteristics, rather practices are reflected in advertising.

More specifically even though low power distance and femininity describe the cultural values in these three countries, the used appeals in advertising are inconsistent to these values.

Endorsement of egalitarian, modesty, caring and self-restraint values do not describe the culture and how appeals and messages are used in advertising.

People in different cultures carry different meanings and frames of references associated with advertising elements. Thus only translating an advertisement in another language might not be effective or in some instance might be offensive.

"Idiomatic or colloquial phrases and expressive statements are often used as advertising appeals and their literal translation in another language may not capture the accurate meaning.

"For instance, the phrase 'like an owl' means wisdom and thoughtfulness in most of the western world but in South Asian countries it refers to an extreme absurdity or silliness," says Salman Saleem who will defend his doctoral thesis at the University of Vaasa.

Salman's doctoral dissertation also reminds that the culture is multi-faceted including values and practices as cultural characteristics and in some instance those characteristics are inconsistent.

The cultural characteristic of power is one example of this contradiction. People may endorse power equality in their personal behavioral preferences, but actual practices in the society related to power might be opposite to the individual's values.

People in Finland endorse egalitarian values, for example in Finland the delegation of responsibility is emphasized in management. However, in Finland power is still perceived to be more concentrated at the higher levels of organizations and often Finnish culture is criticized for its excessive bureaucracy.

Thus for cultural characteristics, the endorsement of values by individuals does not provide information on actual practices in a culture and the reflection of the culture in the advertising.

"Therefore international marketing and advertising managers should have a simultaneous attention to culture in terms of its values and actual practices in deciding advertising content across culture," says Salman.

Salman examined the effect of cultural values and values-practices inconsistency on the use of appeals in advertisements in magazine in Estonia, Finland, Sweden as well as Finnish consumers' perceptions on the use of appeals in advertisements.

The analysis supports Salman's idea that cultural values alone do not explain the use of appeal in advertising but in case of certain cultural characteristics, rather practices are reflected in advertising.

More specifically even though low power distance and femininity describe the cultural values in these three countries, the used appeals in advertising are inconsistent to these values.

In addition, in Estonia the use of indulgence appeals in Estonian advertising is opposed to Estonian cultural values. Thus the appeals are reflections of cultural practices in the three countries.

"In other words, endorsement of egalitarian, modesty, caring and self-restraint values do not describe the culture and how appeals and messages are used in advertising," Salman says.




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