John B. Ford (PhD, University of Georgia) is Eminent Scholar and professor of marketing and international business at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. He is the director of the PhD Program in International Business Administration. His research interests are in cross-cultural advertising strategies and, in particular, gender role depictions in global advertising; the use of sexually charged advertising imagery; the use of beauty in ads; and negative affect. His research has been published in many top marketing, advertising, and business journals including Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, Journal of Advertising, Journal of Advertising Research, and Journal of Business Research. Email:

in some developing markets that are drawn to the idea of being part of the global “club,” a global brand position can be very appealing. Finally, harmonizing a brand’s position across regions

Nigel Hollis

can offer considerable cost-savings and efficiencies. In today’s globalized world, developing advertising that can travel well has never been more important. This increasing demand for consistent cross-cultural advertising has led to a growth in cross-cultural qualitative and quantitative advertising pre-testing. While John B. Ford, Barbara Mueller, and Charles R. Taylor have concluded that for academic researchers culture remains the “elephant in the room,” commercial market research has been forced to grapple with it. Commercial market research in response has evolved practices—sensitive translations, standardized questionnaires, and analytic routines—designed to remove bias and allow realistic cross-cultural comparisons to be made. Applying these innovations, Millward Brown has tested more than 70,000 ads around the world, many on a crosscultural basis. Looking at findings in the pre-test database, we found that few ads transcend cultural boundaries very well. In particular, we looked at exceptional advertisements—pieces that performed very well in one country—and found that only 1 in 10 did equally well in another country. And, even more problematically, 1 in 10 of those exceptional ads actually performed below average when tested in another market. So, although using the same ad campaign across borders may offer cost efficiencies, the savings realized are likely offset by a lack of local resonance. The importance of considering culture when planning any international marketing communications cannot be overstated.

Globalization in Context
Culture—our collective history, beliefs, customs, habits, and values—is the inescapable lens through which we view the world around us, including the brands we encounter. Any effective marketing campaign, therefore, must always take into account local expressions of culture. In their seminal work “Pitfalls in Advertising Overseas” (Journal of Advertising Research, 1974), David A. Ricks, Jeffrey S. Arpan, and Marilyn Y. Fu reminded us that the challenges of creating successful international advertising are not new. As they stated, “Most international advertising blunders occur because of a failure to fully understand the foreign culture and its social norms.” Since the publication of their paper, continued globalization has meant that far more companies are grappling with how best to communicate across cultural boundaries than ever before. Experienced multinational companies (MNCs) understand the inherent challenges while less-experienced companies may be oblivious to them. Yet, even experienced MNCs who understand these risks increasingly are being drawn to consistent cross-cultural campaigns for several compelling reasons. The advent of global media, the Internet, and increasingly globalized consumers have made it more important than ever for brands to have a consistent tone and message. Further, to consumers

Barbara Mueller is professor of advertising at San Diego State University. Dr. Mueller’s research has appeared in The Journal of Advertising Research, The Journal of Advertising, International Journal of Advertising, International Marketing Review, Advances in Consumer Research, and others. She is the author of Dynamics of International Advertising: Theoretical and Practical Perspectives (2nd ed., Peter Lang, 2011); Communicating with the Multicultural Consumer: Theoretical and Practical Perspectives (Peter Lang, 2008); and co-author (along with Katherine Toland Frith) of Advertising and Societies: Global Issues (2nd ed., Peter Lang, 2010). Her area of expertise is international advertising, and she has taught courses dealing with this topic in a number of European countries. Email:

Charles R. Taylor is the John A. Murphy Professor of Marketing at Villanova University. He currently ser ves as editor of the International Journal of Advertising. Dr. Taylor has also ser ved as president of the American Academy of Advertising. His research interests include international advertising, advertising and public policy, and information processing. He has provided consulting ser vices to numerous businesses and organizations and has ser ved as an expert witness in several court cases. He has published numerous academic articles in leading outlets. Email:

March 2011 Supplement  JOURNAL


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