Global and Multi-National Advertising

By Basil G. Englis | Go to book overview

8
Hard Sell Versus Soft Sell: A Comparison of American and British Advertising

Sandra Bradley Jacqueline Hitchon University of Wisconsin -- Madison

Esther Thorson University of Missouri -- Columbia

There is general agreement that American and British advertising differ, both print and broadcast, and that the difference reflects a difference in culture between the two nations (e.g., Carey, 1975; Dowling, 1980; Lannon, 1986). Advertising that is not tailored to the cultural norms and tastes of its intended audience will fail to communicate effectively ( Aydin, Terpestra, & Yaprak, 1984; Chevalier, & Foliot, 1974; Lee, Faber, & O'Guinn, 1985). Despite general agreement on the broad conceptual issue, however, there is little empirical support for the view that American and British advertising differ in fundamental ways ( Lyonski, 1985; Taylor, 1983). Strong evidence of dissimilarity can be found in Weinberger and Spotts' ( 1989) study of humor in British advertising, which reveals greater use of humor overall, and of pun and satire in particular. The problem with findings that relate to a single executional dimension, such as the use of humor, is that they do not allow us to grasp the underlying philosophical difference that results in dissimilarities at the microlevel.

Establishing the extent and nature of these differences has never been more important than at the present time. The 1980s saw a general trend toward globalization in the advertising industry. As agencies merged and, in the process, acquired subsidiaries overseas, clients likewise crossed the Atlantic with a view to global expansion. The result is that by 1990, 4 of the top U.S. agencies were British-owned, whereas 5 of the top 10 in Britain had American parents ( Katz, 1990). Furthermore, in the second half of 1989, American companies were responsible for 28% of the $50 billion spent worldwide on acquiring companies in Europe ( Fuerbringer, 1990). A likely result of these mergers and takeovers is a degree of standardization of

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