The United States excels in many areas of business; consumer advertising is no exception. Having the resources, creative forces, and ambition necessary to launch new products, the United States is often successful in marketing and selling products on an international scale. With foreign nations often prepared to emulate the trend-setting culture of the United States, profits can increase exponentially with effective global marketing. International trade can increase “sales and profits, [enhance] a company’s prestige, [create] jobs, and [offer] a valuable way for business owners to level seasonal fluctuations.” (Entrepreneur.com). Why not take the chance for such gains?
Global expansion may seem like a logical plan for growth, but many companies fail if employees are ignorant of cultural differences. While English is a prominent spoken language among international audiences, a dichotomy exists whereby only 28% of the European population can fully understand it. Thus, many American advertisers use the United Kingdom to gain access to the European market and its consumers. You may think, ‘I’ve seen Harry Potter…I know how they speak over there!’ Despite the language similarities and popularity of television in both countries, an extended observation presents distinct differences between the US and the UK when it comes to television advertising.
1. There are fewer advertisements on the most popular TV channels in the United Kingdom compared to the United States.
The most popular television channel in the United Kingdom is British Broadcasting Corporation’s BBC One. As a public programming network, the channel does not show any advertisements in accordance with government regulation. On ITV, another popular TV network, the programs only show advertisements every 30 minutes. While America has become accustomed to being bombarded with ads throughout nearly all of its programming, the same cannot be said, or scheduled, across the pond.
2. Advertising spending is higher in the United States.
Television advertising spending in the United States was approximately $66.35 billion in 2013. With televisions in 115.6 million homes, the average advertising spend per television household was $574. In the United Kingdom, the advertising expenditure in 2013 was $6.61 billion. As 25.3 million homes hold television licenses, the average advertising spend per television household is only $261. In the United Kingdom, television advertising is more likely to be a part of a broader integrated marketing mix, and is less likely to be the primary weapon in the arsenal.
3. There are more advertising minutes available in the United States television market.
In the United States, advertising has been a feature of the television since its invention in 1941, and has been a consistent part of regular TV scheduling since that time. But advertising was banned from the television in the United Kingdom until 1955. When it was first introduced, Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority (comparable to the FCC) placed strict regulations on advertising allowances, and rules with a similar might today. In the United Kingdom, channels broadcast an average of 8 advertising minutes per hour, compared to 15 minutes per hour in the United States. Brits have less tolerance for background advertising noise – they expect to be entertained.
4. Soft sell vs. hard sell advertising should be considered
The United States advertising culture features a “hard sell” approach, in which the purpose of the commercial is to primarily inform and drive response. While Americans are used to this invasive advertising technique, this type of advertisement does not communicate as well across the pond. The United Kingdom focuses predominantly on the entertainment factor of commercials, and features very noninvasive and subtle advertising.
The potential upside of international expansion cannot be ignored. Given the language advantages, Britain is a great place to begin any international campaign. However, it is dangerous to assume that what works in the American market will transfer directly to the UK. Despite this, with careful planning and preparation, it is possible to successfully launch and develop business opportunities in Europe.