Are your PPC Campaigns a Cultural Catastrophe?

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An interesting article from PPC blog highlighted the importance of making your PPC campaigns culturally specific as well as language specific. This is something we promote to all our PPC clients who have campaigns in the same language, across different global markets. The main points of the post are summarised below:

PPC advertising is a blessing for many businesses, from your local locksmith to multi-national banks. One of the main benefits of PPC marketing is the ease at which you can unlock previously unattainable markets in specific countries of your choice.

Sounds great, write a PPC ad, translate it into your desired language and target the relevant countries using the Google interface.

Well, although this is correct in theory, there are some rather weighty issues that we need to address before diving in feet first.

For the sake of this post I will say that we have a Google PPC campaign set up targeting the UK market and we want to duplicate that campaign and target the US market.

In order to do this successfully we can't simply copy our entire campaign and change the targeting to the US, we have to think about the different advertising cultures that exist between the two countries. After a bit of research I found this quote from the Independent newspaper that highlights these differences in a humorous, yet very accurate style:

"Viewed from commercial America, British advertising looks like something bent out of shape by a culture so consumed with embarrassment it can't look a salesman in the eye when he's making a pitch, particularly if that pitch is laden shoulder high with emotion – love of country, family or God. From a mainstream US perspective our quirky elliptical leave-them-guessing advertising approach is kind of charming, but kind of unworkable too in America, with its fragmented audiences and ethnicity's, its raging sensitivities and, above all, its huge risks. American advertising is risk averse because there's so much at stake with those huge clients and their mega-spends. It means everything is researched to death so all backs are covered."

Remember as soon as you begin targeting different geographic markets with your PPC campaign you have made the transition into global advertising. As such you need to look at global brands and understand how and why their advertising differs between countries for the same products, when you understand this you can then tailor your ads and keywords accordingly.

It is important to remember when creating your global PPC campaigns that you must be sensitive to the cultural context in which it will be received. A recent example of a cultural nuance was when a group working to produce victim outreach materials in Arabic were informed by members of the Muslim community that the word "victim" shouldn't be used because in their culture it has negative connotations. As a result of this the organisation removed the term "victim" and replaced it with the phrase "those hurt by crime" instead.

In every market there are cultural nuances such as the one detailed above and the only way to find these out is through research, research, and research! Remember, some of your competitors will be local to these cultures and as a result will understand these markets instantly and design their PPC campaign with the local norms in mind – If you expect your campaign to convert, you should follow suit!

Here Are Some Tips To Get You Going

Research Your Competitors

How is your product advertised on TV in your targeted country? What language do they use? What images are used in magazines to promote the product? How do they deliver their pitch – using humour, using hard sell? using stats to promote it?

Review competitors landing pages and ad copy, do they share similarities? How do they compare to the TV and magazine ads? Are there any obvious differences between how you have or would advertise the product in your home country?

Check Your Spelling

Although we both speak English remember that spelling differs between America, UK and Australia. Remember that your computer will be setup by default to spell check in your home version of English.

Know Your Regions

Although we may be targeting just one country with our PPC Campaign we should be aware of the cultural nuances between different regions within that country. As a general rule people speak differently between North and South. Different terms for the same items are used in different regions so bare that in mind when you are creating your PPC campaign and if necessary separate certain keywords and ad copy so that these areas can be targeted separately. If we look at the UK –Southerners tend to think of themselves as more culturally aware than their northern counterparts, but the Northerners tend to think of Southerners as soft, phony and snobby. Of course, these are just stereotypes of the British attitude but they do exist and as such you may think about altering your PPC campaign to incorporate these differences.

Learning about cultural diversity in relation to PPC advertising is a never ending process and with the Internet rapidly moving out of America and into every corner of the globe it is becoming more and more important for advertisers to start structuring our PPC campaigns around these cultural nuances. If you want to convert, think local.