International Marketing Communication Language: an Exploratory Analysis of Advertising in Italy

ABSTRACT - The internationalisation of business has a very clear impact on linguistic strategies used in Marketing Communication. Two important means of communication in advertising are language and image and they are both strictly linked to the culture of the country targeted for the advertisement. In the advertisements analysed here, there will be an attempt to sample two important trends of internationalisation. The first one is the attempt of international firms to direct their advertising message to the targeted country, therefore focusing on a particular culture, in this case Italy. The second trend represents the effort of homeland enterprises, in this case Italian, to 'internationalise’ themselves.



Citation:

Laura Ancilli and Val Clulow (2002) ,"International Marketing Communication Language: an Exploratory Analysis of Advertising in Italy", in AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 5, eds. Ramizwick and Tu Ping, Valdosta, GA : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 2-10.

Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 5, 2002      Pages 2-10

INTERNATIONAL MARKETING COMMUNICATION LANGUAGE: AN EXPLORATORY ANALYSIS OF ADVERTISING IN ITALY

Laura Ancilli, Swinburne University of Technology, Australia

Val Clulow, Swinburne University of Technology, Australia

ABSTRACT -

The internationalisation of business has a very clear impact on linguistic strategies used in Marketing Communication. Two important means of communication in advertising are language and image and they are both strictly linked to the culture of the country targeted for the advertisement. In the advertisements analysed here, there will be an attempt to sample two important trends of internationalisation. The first one is the attempt of international firms to direct their advertising message to the targeted country, therefore focusing on a particular culture, in this case Italy. The second trend represents the effort of homeland enterprises, in this case Italian, to 'internationalise’ themselves.

INTRODUCTION

The internationalisation of business has a strong influence on a number of disciplines of which Marketing Communication is probably one of the easier to monitor. For the purpose of this paper the authors have analysed Italian printed advertisements, listing the English words used. Two important means of communication in advertising are language and image and they are both strictly linked to the culture of the country targeted for the advertisement. In the advertisements analysed in this study, there is an attempt to sample two important trends of internationalisation. The first one relates to international firms directing their advertising message to the targeted country, therefore focusing on a particular culture, in this case Italy. The second trend represents the effort of homeland enterprises, in this case Italian, to 'internationalise’ themselves. The hypothesis of the authors is that Italian firms, even though using English words in their advertisements, would do so in a context more easily understandable by an Italian readership.

LITERATURE REVIEW

The influence of culture in international marketing communications has been quite extensively studied from a number of perspectives. Some of the key issues discussed to date have been standardisation versus localisation; country differences in advertising regulations; country differences in approaches or 'appeal’; differences in graphic content (such as use of colour/size of pictures/number of products shown/price included or not); differences in language.

The potential for standardisation of the cross-cultural advertising of international firms was discussed over forty years ago (Elinder 1961) and has received a great deal of attention either in support of the idea that a standardised approach can be rationalised (Buzell, 1968; Killough, 1978; Levitt, 1983) or discounted (Kotler 1968). Others later developed a conceptual framework to show that depending on a range of factors affecting decisions, there would be various degrees of adaptation. In a study of French and UK commercials, Whitelock and Rey (1998) found that a standardised approach to advertising was limited to only a few brands and of those identified only 47% were fully standardised.

The issue is further complicated by the laws which regulate advertising in different countries. Harvey (1993) noted the trend to greater advertising regulation by different foreign governments was becoming a stronger influence on the extent to which advertisements could be standardised. For example, in France, comparative advertising is banned (Whitelock and Rey, 1998). In terms of approaches or appeal, cross-cultural studies have considered 'style’. The Catlelat and Ebguy’s study (1988) compared advertising style of advertisements from France and the U.K. and found that the most common advertising style in France was 'egotistical’ (22%) with 'funny’ next (16%) then 'catalogue’ at 15%. Whereas in the U.K. 'funny’ represented 27%, followed by 'catalogue’ with 22% and 'practical’ at 13%. It follows that a standardised approach may not lead to the same appeal in different countries. In addition to 'appeal’ the graphic content has been studied by Javalgi, Cutler and White (1994). They considered visual elements (such as size, colour, product portrayal), visual communication process (such as description, comparison, association) and content appeal (such as status, quality) in three Pacific Basin countries (Japan, South Korea and Taiwan). In summary, four out of six visual elements differed significantly however the visual appeal processes were generally similar. In terms of content of 'appeal’ there was no significant difference in the frequency of use of 'status’ in appeal however there was a significant difference in the frequency of use of a 'quality’ appeal, between the three countries. This study shows that any attempt to standardise within this region could be counter-productive. To a lesser degree, variations in language used in advertising have also been studied. Dublish (2001) examined how different language used in advertising affect advertising preferences, with bilingual Korean-Americans. They found that Korean-Americans are equally receptive to advertising messages in eiher Korean or American, irrespective of their level of acculturation. However, the researchers acknowledged that the participants’ high level of conversance with English might have influenced the findings. The challenge proposed by Dublish for further consideration by researchers was that with the increasing variety of communication channels (such as ethnic cable channels and magazines, the Internet and vertical portals on the Internet catering to particular countries) there was a need for marketers to better understand what role their communication plays in the lives of their customers.

This study is the beginning of a research project to investigate the partial westernisation of printed business language, particularly in the advertisement placed Italian publications. Further to studies which have compared preference responses by an ethnic group to either first language advertising or advertising in English, this study is an exploratory analysis of the 'mixed’ language phenomenon occurring in Italy.

METHODOLOGY

In this pilot study, two sources of data were used to collect recent examples of advertisements from Italy from which to explore the extent of use of western language in an Italian context. At this preliminary stage in the research, documentation analysis was considered an appropriate methodology. Heritage (1984) an ethnographer, suggested that "an overwhelming proportion of the world’s business is conducted through the medium of spoken interaction" (p. 239). This idea includes the telling of news, the reporting of business events and other social 'conversations’. To capture the 'language’ of the conversations portrayed through the medium of advertisements, documentation analysis (Miles and Huberman, 1994) provided a means by which to unequivocally date the information collected, and to compare material within and between different publications. Moreover, an introductory content analysis (Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, 2000) of the documentation, was expected to provide the data from which comparative tables could be compiled. The aim of this content analysis was to objectively and systematically seek out all examples where English words were used in a set of communications (Samiee and Jeong, 1994) and then to apply linguistic analysis as to their appropriateness. Such archival sources are rich with material that can provide indicative information for further research.

For the purpose of this study all the advertisements published on one issue of La Repubblica, an Italian national newspaper, and one issue of Il Mondo, a weekly economy and finance magazine, were selected to be systematically analysed and the results recorded in tables. The newspaper La Repubblica was chosen to give an overview of advertisements in the Italian written media targeting a wider public. La Repubblica is one of the major Italian national newspapers with a distribution of 658,000 copies all over Italy (<http://www.gruppoespresso.it/gruppoespresso /ita/attivita/repubblica.jsp>accessed 18/01/02). The weekly magazine Il Mondo, specialised in economy and business, has a distribution of 94,000 copies and is more restricted to business people, belonging to middle to high class, the majority of which with tertiary education (<http://www.ilte.net/>accessed 18/01/02). The magazine Il Mondo was selected to have a sample of advertisements targeting a profession-specific sector of readership, whereas the daily newspaper La Repubblica would provide a more general and wider sample of advertisements.

It was expected that the choice of English words used in the advertisements in both the newspaper and the magazine would be different between Italian and international firms. The latter, being less in contact with the peculiarities of the Italian language and culture, should more easily fall in traps of linguistic imprecision.

Stage 1

The content analysis seeking all English words used in the main message, the secondary message and the logo, was first conducted by the bilingual researcher whose first language is Italian. For reliability quality, the process of inter-rater reliability was applied, as supported by Kolbe and Burnet (1991). At least 20% of these listings were checked by the second researcher whose first language is English, and agreement on the English words used was X%. These words are recorded in Tables 1-6. Each table represents a summary of English words used on a particular date in a particular publication. In each case, separate tables were prepared for advertisements depicting Italian firms and advertisements depicting International firms. No 'coding’ as such was required, rather all English words were sought and listed.

Stage 2

Stage 2 of the content analysis was to evaluate the appropriateness of the use of these English words, to Italian speaking readers, in the Italian context. This linguistic interpretive analysis of the content was undertaken by the bilingual researcher whose first language is Italian and for inter-rater reliability at least 20% of the data was checked by a second bilingual researcher at the university whose first language is also Italian, in relation to the contextual appropriateness of the words used. Agreement on this interpretation was X% of the cases checked. Again, 'coding’ was not a methodology applied. The source of linguistic interpretive analysis and discussion was derived from reflection on the quality of the English words selected, when translated into Italian.

DATA TABULATION

Each issue of the newspaper and the magazine has two tables: in the first one there are all the advertisements of Italian firms, and in the second table are present all the advertisements of non-Italian firms. The information listed in the tables includes the brand name of the product, the advertising agency (where available) and the English words, as well as their position, in the ad (main slogan, secondary slogan and the logo). Only meaningful words have been taken into consideration (nouns, adjectives, adverbs and verbs).

DATA PRESENTATION AND DISCUSSION

Examples of advertisements listed in each table have been selected for closer analysis and discussion of the linguistics strategies used along with the choice of English and Italian. The samples will also be evaluated to indicate the degree of success in internationalising their product to markets outside Italy (in the case of Italian firms), or in targeting a cultural specific (Italian) market (in the case of international firms advertising in Italy). For each example selected, the advertisement is provided as an appendix.

Each table shows which English words have been used in the main message, secondary message or in the logo. Table 1 lists all the advertisements of Italian firms found in the newspaper La Repubblica of 18th June 2001.

The ad selected for a closer analysis is the one for SMAU01. Smau is a yearly trade fair that started as a small exhibition of office furniture and slowly incorporated other sectors and it has become today the most important trade fair for businesses in Italy and northern Europe. Its most important feature is, not surprisingly, Information Technology. In its main message (appendix 1) the advertising agency has used the word 'e-motion’, explaining in the secondary message 'business in movimento per la societa digitale’ (business in motion for the digital community). The Italian word for 'motion’ is in fact 'movimento’ and the words are not easy to relate one aother. On the opposite it would be very easy for an Italian reader to associate the word 'e-motion’ to the Italian word 'emozione’ (emotion), but the secondary message helps to clear up the potential misunderstanding and to introduce the reader to a new English word.

Table 2 lists all the advertisements of international firms found in the newspaper La Repubblica of 18th June 2001. The advertisement selected for discussion in this section is the one for Samsung, a Korean brand of Hi-Fi devices (appendix 2). The use of English words is concentrated all in the logo where one of the words being used is also a neologism 'DIGITall’. The picture shows a man and a woman in the kitchen of their house, at the end of a party. The man, with his bow undone and wearing an apron, is washing the dishes (very unusual in the Italian culture). The woman is videotaping the whole scene and the main message says 'Videocamere digitali Samsung. PerchT gli eventi piĀ· sensazionali capitano quando meno ve lo aspettate’ (Digital videocamera Samsung. Because the most exceptional events happen when you less expect them).

Table 5 lists all the advertisements of Italian firms published in the magazine Il Mondo on the 24th of August 2001. The ad analysed for the purpose of this paper has been chosen because of its message which combines elements of Anglo-Saxon and Italian culture mixed in a rather interesting way. The picture shows a man dressed in a business suit lying on the floor, fainted. The message reads: 'Reazione n.123 detta anche shock del principiante, dovuta all’improvviso rialzo di un titolo’ (Reaction no. 123, also known as shock of the beginner, due to a sudden increase of the shares). In the secondary message where it explains what this web page is about (trading shares online) they introduce the reader to a particular web area, called 'Educational’ (the word is left in English) which is meant for the beginner who is just starting to trade; they also have a different web area 'club del trader’ (also left in English apart from the preposition 'del’ left in Italian) which is meant for the more expert trader. And finally the logo, where the word 'online’ appears in English. This message probably appeals very much to Italians who are very new (more or less a decade) to the world of trading in shares.

TABLE 1

LA REPUBBLICA, 18 JUNE 2001 (ITALIAN FIRMS)

TABLE 2

LA REPUBBLICA, 18 JUNE 2001 (INTERNATIONAL FIRMS)

Table 6 lists all the ad of international firms published in Il Mondo on the 24th of August 2001. The ad that will be analysed in this paper is by Epta Global Investments Ltd, an Irish financial firm trying to sell a particular type of fund, called 'Epta Executive’.

In this ad special care has been taken in order to introduce the Italian reader to English terms such as 'multimanager’ which has been carefully translated into Italian and explained some lines further down.

The picture shows a very big X letter in the middle of the Epta Executive name of the fund, surrounded by several names of overseas companies. The message reads 'Certe idee hanno un segno distintivo’ (Some ideas have a distinctive sign) probably referring to the fact that some letters in English can be used very creatively and visually, and X is one of them. In English is in fact possible to write such things as 'XLence’ or 'XeQTve’ and read them 'excellence’ and 'executive’.

Unfortunately this is not true for the Italian language where the sign 'X’, which is not part of the Italian alphabet, is used in math to indicate a multiplication as in '4 times 5 equals 20’. In Italian that would be written as '4 X 5=20’ and reads as '4 per 5 uguale 20’. Therefore in Italian X is read 'per’ and in this way it is sometimes used to abbreviate words like 'perchF’ (why, because) in 'xchF’. In other cases X in Italian is used visually to indicate a ban.

TABLE 5

IL MONDO, 24 AUGUST 2001 (ITALIAN FIRMS)

TABLE 6

IL MONDO, 24 AUGUST 2001 (INTERNATIONAL FIRMS)

Also in table 6 the advertisement for Hyundai, a car brand, makes use of a neologism 'trajet’, probably a combination of the two English words 'trajectory’ and 'jet’.

FOR FURTHER RESEARCH

More lengthy and thorough research is certainly needed in order to have a broader picture of the influence of the internationalisation of business on marketing communication on the Italian market. The results of the present paper suggest that, between international and Italian firms, there is a difference in the choice of particular English words. International marketers working with Italy should be aware of possible linguistic "traps" such as the advertisement of SMAU discussed on pages 7 and 8 (appendix 1), or the advertisement for Epta Global Investments discussed on page 14 (appendix 4).

Further research is needed in the field of Consumer Behaviour to test the perception of consumers with regards to advertisements such as the one for SMAU and Epta Global Investments to ascertain if, an apparent linguistic imprecision, eventually appeals just as well on the final end users of the product. In the present study the advertisements by Italian firms have been separated from ads by international firms. However more research is needed to further separate the advertisements (both Italian and international) designed by Italian advertising agencies from those designed by international advertising agencies, as this could have an impact on the appropriateness of the linguistic strategy used.

The authors of this paper are currently doing a synchronic comparison of Italian advertisements over time to see how the linguistic strategy of publicity messages might have changed to accommodate the necessary shift to a less culture specific language.

CONCLUSION

The internationalisation of business has a very clear impact on the particular branch of marketing known as 'Marketing Communication’ which is the one dealing with advertising and promotions. Two very important means of communication in advertising are language and image and they are both strictly linked to the culture of the country targeted for that particular advertisement (Belch & Belch, 2001). In the advertisements analysed here, there was an attempt to sample two important trends of globalisation and internationalisation. The first one has a downwards direction and it is the attempt of international firms to direct their advertising message to the targeted country, therefore focusing on the particular culture of that country, in this case Italy. A successful example of this trend is the advertisement by Samsung discussed on pages 8 and 9 (appendix 2). In this case the use of English words has been limited to the logo, whereas the main message is in Italian and hinting to an event that would be somewhat unusual in the Italian culture and therefore possibly appealing to the readers.

An apparently less successful example of an international firm marketing its product in Italy could be that by Epta Global Investments, discussed on page 14 (appendix 4). In this ad it has been decided to use the letter "X" to capture the readers’ attention not knowing that in Italian "X" is generally used to indicate a ban.

The second trend has an upward direction and represents the effort of homeland enterprises, in this case Italian, to 'internationalise’ themselves. A possibly successful example of the upward trend could be the advertisement of a web site powered by the Italian business daily newspaper "Il Sole 24 Ore" discussed on page 12 (appendix 3). In this particular case, along with well-known English words such as 'online’ end 'educational’, they have introduced also the word 'trader’ accompanied by a humorous picture that hints to the inexperience of Italians in the share market.

A less successful example could be the ad of SMAU01 discssed on pages 7 and 8 (appendix 1) where the word "e-motion" could be easily be misunderstood by an Italian reader as "emozione" which means "feeling". The secondary message though helps clearing up any possible misunderstanding.

As already stated under the heading 'Further research’, it would be propaedeutic to analyse the origin of the advertising agency that designed the ad. For example with regards to the advertisements for "Il Sole 24 Ore" (Italian) and Samsung (international), both indicated in this paper as a successful attempt, they have both been designed by the same agency (FCB).

APPENDIX 1

APPENDIX 2

APPENDIX 3

APPENDIX 4

REFERENCES

Belch, G. E. & Belch, M. A. (2001) Advertising and Promotion, McGraw-Hill Higher Education

Buzell, R. (1968) Can you standardize multinational marketing? Harvard Business Review, vol. 46, November-December, pp. 102-119.

Dublish, S. (2001) Advertising to Ethnic Subcultures: A Study with Bilingual Korean-Americans, Asia Pacific Journal of Marketing and Logistics, vol. 13, no. 2, pp. 23-44.

Elinder, E. (1961) How international can advertising be? International Advertiser, December, pp. 12-16.

Killough, J. (1978) Improved payoffs from transnational advertising, Harvard Business Review, vol. 56, July-August, pp.102-110.

Kolbe, R.H. and Burnett, M.S. (1991) Content analysis research: an examination of applications with directives for improving research reliability and objectivity, Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 18, September, pp. 243-50.

Kotler, P. (1986) Global standardization: courting danger, Journal of Consumer Marketing, vol. 3, Spring, pp. 13-15.

Harvey, M.G. (1993) Point of view: a model to determine standardization of the advertising process in internatonal markets, Journal of Advertising Research, vol. 33, no. 4, pp. 57-64.

Javalgi, R., Culter, B. and White, D. (1994) Print Advertising in the Pacific Basin, International Marketing Review, vol. 11, no. 6, pp. 48-64.

Levitt, T. (1983) The globalization of markets, Harvard Business Review, vol. 61, May-June, pp. 92-102.

Samiee, S. and Jeong, I. (1994) Cross-cultural Research in Advertising: An Assessment of Methodologies, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, Vol. 22, No. 3, pp. 205-17.

Saunders, M., Lewis, P. and Thornhill, A. (2000) Research Methods for Business Students, (2nd edition) Prentice Hall, England.

Whitelock, J. and Rey, J.-C. (1998) Cross-cultural advertising in Europe: and empirical survey of television advertising in France and the UK, International Marketing Review, vol. 15, no. 4, pp. 257-276.

Web sites:

<http://www.gruppoespresso.it/gruppoespresso/ita/attivita/repubblica.jsp>

<http://www.ilte.net/>

----------------------------------------

Authors

Laura Ancilli, Swinburne University of Technology, Australia
Val Clulow, Swinburne University of Technology, Australia



Volume

AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 5 | 2002



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