International advertising agency

Companies face many different challenges to communicate successfully in a globalised world. From managing cultural nuances to mastering the digital transformation. From selecting the right channels and platforms to addressing target audiences in a way that is truly personalised. The ever-growing profusion of digital media calls for precise analysis in order to fully exploit the potential of each platform and maximise ROI. We develop and implement cross-disciplinary campaigns that reliably achieve the communication and marketing goals you set – and all from a single source.

Your contact

Steffen Ruess

Steffen Ruess

Managing Partner
Ruess Group

There are few good international B2B advertising campaigns: Reasons & solutions

The world is converging and markets are becoming increasingly global. Not only in the consumer sector, but also in B2B. With significant implications for marketing and communication. But currently, the situation is still closer to the problem than a solution: there are only a few good international B2B campaigns out there.

The reason behind this is that most companies tend to rely more on fractal performance marketing. With a focus on the measurable performance of the media channel. Unfortunately, using a strategic approach is often almost entirely ignored. With image-building measures and content that works everywhere in the world.

Instead, a company’s local sales organisations are usually in charge on site. After all, they understand their individual markets best. This may create sales, but it doesn't strengthen the brand. The fact that the brand is one of a company’s most important assets is often for forgotten along the way. And some real added value end up getting lost.

This is where the big international advertising agencies could come in. But their cost-benefit structures are most often not compatible with moderate B2B budgets. Too big, too complex, too expensive. And medium-sized international advertising agencies are a rarity.

A real niche, then, for an international advertising agency that provides its services in Germany, develops global campaigns and manages them with its partners around the world so that they actually contribute to brand building. We at the Ruess Group – as an international advertising agency – have been doing exactly this for more than 15 years.

The challenge: A global brand on a moderate budget

Germany is more dependent on exports than virtually any other economy: Almost every second euro is now earned abroad. Especially in light of the trade wars to be expected in the future, the need for local companies to make their own name more widely known globally is increasing.

Moreover, the international growth markets are also gaining in importance for German companies – against a backdrop of complex relationships with the USA. In order for brands to take full advantage of this potential, global and local factors need to come together. More on this later.

In reality, the brand is the encapsulation of all information about a company and its products and services. With this in mind, a powerful brand is so much more than “nice to have”, but an essential contribution to a company’s global success:

  1. A global B2B brand inspires confidence and reduces risk for the buyer.
  2. It provides orientation in markets with many offers.
  3. It is an ‘emotional’ anchor with feelings and imagery.
  4. It differentiates a company’s offering from that of its competitors.
  5. It binds customers and buyers.
  6. It represents a valuable platform and secure launchpad for new products.
  7. It facilitates acceptance by retailers and decision-makers.

Since, as mentioned, budgets in the B2B sector tend to be moderate, you need a medium-sized international advertising agency with local partners in key markets. One who not only develops a global campaign, but also a cohesive media strategy to use budgets in a targeted manner.

With translation management for individual languages and experienced translation agencies. Also extremely important: In-depth understanding of and experience with local customs. From the people to their mentality to their preferred colour spectrum. Because the differences between and on the world’s continents are considerable.

The three most important factors for a successful international advertising strategy

01 Analysis

The first step to be taken is an in-depth analysis of how the brand is likely to be seen in the target market. To do this, the current status also has to be compared with the target status. Does it suit the local market and the needs of its participants?

02 Positioning

A positioning is then defined that takes into account local conditions and cultural sensitivities. The result will often be a “hybrid” formulation that follows the global brand orientation and adapts to local conditions – without becoming a local brand.

03 Implementation

Even the best strategy is of no use if it isn’t consistently implemented. This is especially true in growth markets, where digital channels in particular obey different laws than in the world’s industrialised nations. This is where, at the very latest, it becomes clear that an experienced international advertising agency is required.

Every market has its own views and preferences

So, you need a global campaign. Easy to say, but very hard to achieve. For this, an experienced advertising agency is needed internationally. Because what works in one country may be met with rejection in another. A lot of finesse is needed to avoid violating taboos.

It starts with the language. Here, a thorough cultural examination is needed for the respective market. It is eminently important for the advertising agency to involve native speakers internationally. Just one example: the well-known fast food slogan “Finger lickin’ good” means “To eat your finger off” in Chinese. Not very appetising, is it!

In global marketing, colours aren’t simply colours, and they can have a different meaning in each country. Let’s take the colour “black”. In China it stands for power, in other countries for sadness. A good advertising agency needs to understand these differences in order to avoid negative associations.

Media and distribution channels also differ from market to market. Northern Europeans inform themselves at different times than Southern Europeans and there are also numerous country-specific differences in the social media segment: In Japan, people like to blog and in China they don’t use Facebook or Twitter, but WeChat.

In this respect, the advertising agency needs to formulate and implement a specific marketing strategy for each country internationally. After all, mistakes can be very dangerous for the product and the company. And that’s why it’s so important to think outside the box, because what is successful here can cause considerable damage elsewhere.

Schubert Marketing in China

Marketing in China for Schubert

Every market has its own rules and media

Even in German-speaking countries, there are clear regional differences in terms of the media landscape and its use. The more different the perception and behaviour in an international target region, the more the client strategies in marketing and communication have to be adapted.

The legal framework also differs in part very significantly from German and European standards and prescribes what type of client approach is possible. Last but not least, the cost structure of a country determines the type and scope of media measures.

A 1:1 application of national strategies to other regions is therefore out of the question. The basic prerequisite for successful brand and product communication is therefore not only individual client strategies but also know-how about analogue and digital media and their possibilities for advertising and content formats.

Just one example: Social networks are used most in Nigeria at a rate of 247 minutes per day. The Philippines follow in second place with 246 minutes per day. Germany is in 45th place with 89 minutes per day. Bringing up the rear is Japan with an average social media usage time of 51 minutes per day.

So, an international advertising agency also has to be an international media agency. Not only because a close dovetailing of creation and media is required to be truly efficient, but also because every country and every market has its own media with its own laws.

  • In this respect, international media has to be an integrated part of a comprehensive and cross-disciplinary range of services.
  • With close collaboration and coordination in brand management and marketing strategy between the company and the advertising agency, considering the media habits in the target market.
  • Many years of expertise as an international media agency with excellent contacts to local media and agency partners.
  • As well as in-depth marketing controlling with new, strategic management and controlling concepts to make targeted use of the potential.

Its very own media and rules: China and censorship

With 1.3 billion inhabitants, the People’s Republic of China is the most populous country in the world. Almost half of all Chinese are active on the internet and social networks. This makes China the largest future market in the world and the second most important trading partner for Germany – with a clear upward trend.

But the Chinese government does not make it easy for foreign companies to gain a foothold in the Middle Kingdom. Therefore, foreign companies that want to establish themselves permanently on the Chinese market have to adapt to the conditions in the People’s Republic.

China is still ruled by the Communist Party, which has a very strong influence on the Chinese internet. Through a comprehensively developed control system, the authorities manage to monitor all websites accessed on the Chinese mainland and check them for any potentially critical content.

Internet sites that do not correspond to the ideas of the communist party are blocked by internet censors. The most popular social networks like Twitter etc. are not accessible in mainland China. Instead, Chinese internet users use their own local networks.

These are now so popular that three of the five largest social networks in the world come from China. Since Google also plays only a minor role in China, companies have to contend with Baidu, the Chinese market leader, in order to be discovered by consumers.

Instead of Facebook or other networks, Chinese internet users are mainly active on native networks such as Sina Weibo or WeChat. Sina Weibo is similar to Twitter, which is well-known in the West, and has more than 500 million registered users.

But Chinese social networks are also controlled by the authorities. Critical posts and accounts are blocked immediately. Here, the advertising agency has to be an absolute insider internationally if it doesn’t want to turn its client’s brand into an outsider.

More about Marketing in China

China clearly illustrates potential differences between markets

Advertising in China should above all be a “message to the consumer”. This is what the Communist Party wants. So foreign companies have to adapt their campaigns not only to the country’s typical customer needs, but also to the strict political framework.

Today, advertising in China is legally regulated by the 1994 Advertising Law, which stipulates that any company wishing to advertise a particular product in China must have a special business licence or other proof of entitlement for the advertised product.

Documents confirming the quality characteristics and the advertising claims also have to be presented. This is to ensure that buyers are not influenced by grossly untrue statements. To this day, Chinese advertising legislation is considered one of the strictest in the world.

The advertising language is exclusively High Chinese (Mandarin), which is another problem for many foreign companies and their advertising agencies internationally. Any reference to the Chinese state or statements that could endanger public safety and order are prohibited.

Article 3 of the Advertising Law is especially problematic for an international advertising agency and its clients. It states, among other things, that advertising distributed in the country needs to observe the following points. The following are only the most important for the B2B sector:

  1. The advertising has to correspond to the facts.
  2. It may not contain any superlatives
  3. Belittling or disparaging competitors is prohibited.
  4. Comparative advertising is also prohibited.
  5. The use of foreign models for domestic products is also restricted.

Conclusion: All countries present a challenge

The Chinese example alone highlights the many challenges facing an international advertising agency when developing a globally applicable and, above all, centrally controllable marketing campaign. And all this at a reasonable cost, which also includes media planning as the biggest resource guzzler.

An advertising agency also has to be represented internationally in the most important markets with local partners. At least in Europe, North America, Asia, Africa and Australia – which are also the most important markets for German B2B companies.

For cost reasons alone, an agency has to cover the most important parts of the globe with local partners and manage the various languages. Especially if the corporate website also has to be in Arabic. Because Arabic is written from right to left, this changes the entire user interface.

Furthermore, every country has its own customer journey. Classical, digital, customer magazines, trade fairs – preferences differ greatly between countries. What this means for the work of the advertising agency internationally is that it can never be standardised, but always unique and specific.

Taking into account the respective client structures, media, costs, benefits and the company’s market position. It isn’t hard to see that a centrally controlled global marketing campaign poses major challenges for an advertising agency internationally:

What are the most important leading media? Where and in what niche do we find the target group? How do we pair advertising and PR to build a strong negotiating position with the media to benefit from synergies? How do we build a strong brand across many different countries?

How do we develop motifs that work anywhere in the world with the least possible adaptations? How do we write attention-grabbing copy in a way that translates easily? How do we strengthen the brand in all international markets? But in a way that suits the B2B world – pragmatically and efficiently?

We at the Ruess Group have understood how to do this for over 15 years. For countless successful companies, primarily in the B2B sector: in mechanical engineering, the paper industry, construction and housing, medical technology and much more. Not only in Europe, but also overseas – in North America, Asia, Africa and Australia.

Your contact to the international advertising agency

Steffen Ruess

Steffen Ruess

Managing Partner
Ruess Group