Nine Things You Need to Know About International RTB


Search Labs

Industry News

Online display advertising is all about knowing and targeting the right audience with the right kind of message. When doing this form of advertising internationally, it is vitally important to know how your strategy needs to vary from country to country. This article identifies and advises on some considerations that should be made when expanding your RTB (real-time bidding) and programmatic advertising overseas.

Your competitors may not be who you think they are

Competition can be hard to understand and define in the RTB world.

There is no guarantee that your direct competitors will be doing any display advertising – which may seem like you have a huge advantage. However, different companies may be vying for the same audiences as you, giving you competition from a variety of sectors.

As an example, imagine you are advertising for Weight Watchers. You may find an ideal audience of “people who want to lose weight”. It may be that none of your direct competitors are targeting this audience, or even doing any display advertising. However, this could still prove to be a hugely competitive targeting option; anyone from gyms, diet pills companies, hypnotherapists, cosmetic surgeries and the NHS may be advertising on this segment.

The level of competition can greatly influence your overall reach, frequency, and eligibility to show in certain placements as well as your CPM costs.

Make sure you’ve done your research and have realistic expectations on what to expect for each new market you enter.

Your targeting options may be more limited

The variety and number of targeting options available will greatly vary depending on the countries you are targeting. You may have found a very specific audience in a well-developed market such as the UK (like the aforementioned “people who want to lose weight” example), but such a level of specificity may not exist in other territories. In these cases, you’ll need to consider what other options are available to ensure the audience can still be well-matched to your services.

The same audience may contain a completely different type of person

As a retailer selling outdoor-wear, you may have recognised dog owners as being a good audience to target in the UK. However, this audience could be completely different in different countries. For example, if targeting dog owners in South Korea, you’re likely to find a wholly different set of people due to the popularity of so-called “handbags dogs”. Probably not an ideal audience to target if you’re selling wax jackets and wellington boots!

The same set of people may behave in completely different ways

Alternatively, the demographics and socioeconomics of your audience segment may be identical, but due to cultural factors, they simply may not have the same level of interest in your products. As an example, various detox products are very popular with young female fashionistas in the UK. But in other countries, these products might only be seen as a weight loss option for the obese.

Tastes and trends vary around the world


Unlike the above scenario, some products are of interest to no one in some territories.

Always bear in mind the fact that different product ranges will perform differently depending on the country. Just because onesies were hugely popular in the UK doesn’t mean that they’ll follow the same trend elsewhere (let’s hope not, at least). Things like the local climate, politics, history, pop culture and economy can all play huge roles in what products are popular and what are not.

Brand perception is not static

If you already have some brand presence in other territories, be sure to consider this before entering the market with any display advertising. Did you know that Clarks Shoes are considered high-end fashion in Italy, McDonalds in Japan often targets adults with their ads and Lonsdale is closely associated with neo-Nazis in Germany? Imagine if you tried to approach an international marketing campaign for one of these brands without knowing about this. Audience targeting is extremely sophisticated in RTB, but without properly understanding your audience you could have disastrous results.

Keyword lists may need to be totally different

For contextually targeted campaigns, developing an appropriate keyword list for each country is hugely important. Don’t make the assumption that this list should just be a translated version of your English (or other) keyword list. Similarly to building out a PPC keyword list, research should be done on the kinds of words that appropriately describe your products or services. In addition, regional variations should be taken into account – for example if you are targeting both Spain and Latin America.

Seasonality matters

As with all marketing campaigns, seasonality can have a big impact. This consideration becomes even more important when targeting international audiences. Different products will spike at different times of the year in different countries, so be sure to take these trends into account when putting your strategy together. Just because thick, woolly jumpers are proving to be popular in the UK doesn’t mean that there should be a huge worldwide push on this product!

Ad Creative Should be Localised

Finally, the actual ads that you show to people should be changed based on the nationality that you’re targeting. The language that appears is the obvious first consideration, but also think about what it is that you’re really trying to say to the audience. Some cultures are most bothered about quality, others are about price. The payment methods available, customer support and any other selling points should all be considered based on what is typically most important to your audience.

Additionally, the imagery and appearance of the ad should vary. As with any ads online, you should test different variations. But finding a good starting point by doing a bit of research could save a lot of testing time in the long-run.

So clearly, there is a lot to consider here. What other experiences do you have when managing display advertising internationally?