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Over the Pond: What to Keep In Mind When Advertising in London vs. the US



Manifest's Keerthy Dakshinamruthy on the differences the consider when advertising overseas

Over the Pond: What to Keep In Mind When Advertising in London vs. the US

Charming accents aren’t the only difference between the US and UK when it comes to advertising. Upon taking a closer look, there are some key differences between the two nations. These differences play a stark role in how global campaigns reach their target audience and merit careful discussion, otherwise, the ad is dead before it even leaves the gate. So, let’s dive in.

Soft-sell vs Hard-sell

A quick look at the initial stages of TV adverts might give a better idea of how the two starkly different categories came into existence. Historically, US viewers have been bombarded with advertisements since the inception of TV in the early 1940s. In the UK, TV adverts were not permitted until 1956, almost a decade after the US. When they finally did start up, British advertising agencies decided to lean on the existing American experience, which provided an opportunity for American advertising agencies to open new branches in the UK and dominate British television with American style commercials. This typically included spots with live commercials, sponsored programs, and film spot commercials that ran over a minute long (imagine that!).

Needless to say, it soon came to light that the British audience found these types of commercials to be too pushy, paving the way to the method of persuasion mostly commonly used in the British advertising industry today, called the soft sell method. A closer look at the soft sell method details the very nature of modern day advertising in the UK namely polite, quiet, and entertaining. The use of humour is a great way to enhance attention, comprehension, mood persuasion, brand recognition, and credibility. On the other end of the spectrum, the hard sell method used in American advertising tends to focus on information presentation and pressuring the consumer to purchase any given product, a nod to the capitalist nature within the country.

Information presented in campaigns highly differ in each country. An example of the hard sell method would typically showcase a product demonstration, where whatever is being advertised is tested against the 'leading competitor' and always comes on top as the superior product, thus directly stating why you should purchase the product. It comes as no surprise that comparative ads are seldom used in the UK. In British commercials, products are often treated as secondary elements, often not even being introduced until the very end of the commercials. Instead, they focus on humour and drama to garner interest and engagement from their audience.

Impact of the Internet

But as polite and entertaining as the soft sell method may be, it does have certain limitations, such as a lack of aggressiveness in their campaigns. They do not necessarily care so much about the profit while promoting their products, which is starkly different from the American market due to its highly competitive nature.

With the dawn of the internet age, many advertisers in both nations have decided to approach the new era of selling with an integration strategy where they set out to create commercials that will tell you to head to a website or a social media page in order to get more information about a product or to see the conclusion of a divided commercial. The way we consume media has changed drastically in the last 10 years due to the introduction of multiple social media platforms.

While it has never been easier to approach new levels in terms of geographical boundaries, the online digital landscape has changed the way advertising works and so our approach needs to evolve alongside it as well. Understanding that we are in fact talking to two extremely different audiences and realising what each of them truly need and can relate to will help keep advertising relevant and engaging as we move forward in this new world.

After all, if our viewers feel like they are not represented or heard in what they see, our efforts are nothing but a ‘skip’ button away from being irrelevant.

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Manifest, Fri, 10 Mar 2023 10:12:40 GMT