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Wednesday, 21 August, 2002, 14:08 GMT 15:08 UK
When ads go wrong
Chocolate
Even selling chocolate can land you in the soup
Would you try to sell chocolate to Indians with an advert joking about disputed Kashmir? It seems that ad execs aren't always as slick as their reputation would suggest.

Arguments over Kashmir may have taken India and Pakistan to the brink of a nuclear Armageddon - but should that put it out of bounds to those hawking chocolate bars?

Cadbury's India didn't think so, with its campaign for the Temptations range. "I'm too good to share. What am I? Cadbury's Temptations or Kashmir?"

A Pakistani soldier
Kashmir: What good ads are made of?
Presumably this was intended to chime with Indians - for whom Kashmir is an ever present topic of lively conversation. As it turned out, it only attracted angry criticism.

A good poster or commercial should reflect "what is on TV, what is happening in the news or the latest music", says Simon Anholt, author of Another One Bites the Grass - on Language, Culture and International Advertising.

"But it's always a risky thing to make your brand topical," he says. "Joking apart this is a war that has claimed 36,500 lives since 1989."

Tempting fate

The Temptations debacle - which Cadbury Schweppes has apologised for - was apparently the fault of the global company's local team. But equally abysmal faux pas can result from trying to use one ad campaign to sell in every market.

Mr Anholt says consumers have finely tuned "cultural antennae" with which they can detect when ads are not really being tailor-made for them.

An Asian barber under a tree
"There were 20 blokes here wanting Horlicks this morning"
A company can enjoy "economies of scale" (i.e. save money) by asking one advertising agency to prepare a single campaign to run in several countries, says Sean Brierley, author of The Advertising Handbook.

This sometimes works, after a fashion. A long-running TV commercial for Ferrero Rocher chocolates was screened across Europe.

Set at an embassy reception, the poorly-dubbed advert was so bad as to be thought inspired by many in the UK, who assumed it was trying to be ironic. The Italian confectioners refused to be drawn on whether the ad was indeed a kitschy joke.

Funny peculiar

Mr Brierley says that while all manner of products can cross national borders, humour seldom travels well.

"The Kashmir ads strike me as being intended to appeal to an English sense of humour - perhaps because they want the brand to be linked to Englishness. But even countries very close to the UK don't share our humour."

Runner in Nike sportswear
"The Nike people asked very politely if I could possibly 'do it'."
Social mores can also be a problem. Shaving ads in some Muslim nations cannot be shown if the male actor shows too much of his chest. Likewise, in certain Gulf states an advert where someone used their left hand to handle food would upset local sensibilities.

Language also presents advertisers with headaches. In India, an advert for the milky drink Horlicks (oddly promoted for its ability to "prevent night starvation") was translated into Tamil as "twenty men asleep under a tree".

Even with a trusty dictionary at your side might not help understand the subtle nuances of a foreign language.

'Just do it, please'

Nike's global call to arms (or rather to buy their sportswear) "Just Do It" doesn't work all that well on the French. "To be polite, the French normally ask someone to do something, rather than giving an order," says Mr Anholt.

Car mechanic
"That'll teach him to buy a Le Mon GTI"
An American poultry company picked the slogan "It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken", which translated as "It takes a hard man to make a chicken aroused" in nearby Mexico.

Even non-Spanish speakers (and the people as the carmaker AMC) are confident that the word "Matador" simply means bullfighter. However in South America, where the AMC Matador was released, it actually means "killer".

While AMC could rebrand their car as the "Torero", some brands just can't cut it outside their home markets - Japan's Krappy toilet paper, for instance.


Have you spotted any adverts that just aren't appropriate? Add them using the form below.

Ad for the Orange mobile phone network with the slogan: "The future's bright, the future's orange."
Kevin Price, Northern Ireland

The "drink Australian think Australian" slogan didn't go down to well in New Zealand. Try selling a product with "think English drink English" to the Scots and see how your sales react for a comparable response.
Matt, Manchester

Texaco garages have recently started a fast-food campaign called Tuck 'n' Chuck. When I first saw the signs I laughed so much I couldn't pay for the petrol.
John, UK

In French, the Toyota MR2 - pronounced emm er deux - is read phonetically as merde...
Greg, France

How about the Electrolux slogan "Nothing sucks like an Electrolux"? In America "sucks" means useless.
Tim Aisthorpe-Buckley, England

In Taiwan, the translation of the Pepsi slogan "Come alive with the Pepsi Generation" came out as "Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead".
Chris, Hertfordshire, UK

The slogan of the Hudson's Bay Company Department Store simply reads "Shopping is good". Then they started distributing pamphlets with pictures of zomie-like shoppers and the slogan, "Shopping is God".
Sam, Toronto, Canada

The Mitsibushi Pajero 4x4 is probably not top of the sales list in Spain where "pajero" indicates an activity best avoided by those wishing to avoid blindess and stunted growth.
William Brown, Scotland

I was always rather intrigued by the seafood restaurant chain that boasted the rather surreal slogan, 'We are fish'.
Ash, UK

The "drink Australian think Australian" slogan didn't go down to well in New Zealand. Try selling a product with "think English drink English" to the Scots and see how your sales react for a comparable response.
Matt, Manchester

One company in West London whose name doesn't really fill me with confidence is the "Impact School of Motoring". They also run coach trips if you're interested!
Steve S, UK

An African airline once had the slogan 'flies all over Africa'.
Richard Johnson, UK

In Denmark I saw an advert for fast film processing. The name of the special offer? 'Slutspurt'
Ian, UK

My personal favourite was "Nothing works faster than Anadin." I'll take nothing, then.
Cliff, UK

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Graham Hales, Interbrand
"Not all publicity is good publicity"
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21 Aug 02 | South Asia
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