What do customers see in ads?

Many marketers, in an effort to straddle the standardization/localization debate, will attempt to “glocalize” their advertising, meaning that they will have a global strategy – perhaps even global messaging and look – but local elements, such as images, in different markets.

However, in a market like the European Union, for example, the same customer may see ads meant for multiple countries, potentially causing confusion or even irritation.

Backhaus and van Doorn (2007) wondered if this confusion could be minimized if it could be determined what elements of advertising consumer noticed most. They researched consumer reaction to the following elements:

  • Images: This not only included the actual images, but the size and placement of the images as well.
  • General layout: This included page layout as well as text treatments (fonts, black text against colored backgrounds, etc.).
  • Language: This included the use of the home country language, English, or the respective national language.
  • Advertising theme: This included featured benefits, slogans or taglines, and promotions.

Backhaus et al. discovered the following:

  • Image-based ads: consumers noticed changes in the images the most (50-70%), then the slogan, and finally the general layout and language.
  • Text-based ads: consumers noticed changes in the slogan the most (43-57%), then the general layout, followed by the picture and the language.
  • Mixed ads: consumers noticed changes in the images the most (35-41%), then the slogan, followed by the general layout and the language.

From a marketer’s perspective, in terms of glocalization, it appears best to keep images the same across different markets. And surprisingly, the language differences turned out to be the most minor concern in all cases!


Backhaus, K., van Doorn, J. (2007). “Consumer perception of advertising standardization: a cross-country study of different advertising categories.” International Management Review. 3 (4) pp. 37-49.


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