By Sophie Hendry

Whether you’re looking to expand to a new market or simply wanting to linguistically adapt to one of your existing territories, creating international activity can sometimes be daunting. At Merkle | Periscopix, we’ve perfected our methods through years of experiences and have condensed it into this step-by-step guide to give you a sound idea of where and how to get started.

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1. Get All Your Ingredients Together

You can’t build a house without solid foundations, and you’d struggle to make a (non-vegan) cake without flour and eggs. In the same way, when creating an international campaign you want to make sure you’ve got all the right tools. Being aware of regional differences is vital if you want to market overseas and avoid cultural clangers. Seasonal highlights such as Christmas, Easter or Mother’s/Father’s Day are a great example of this. Take Christmas: most westernised cultures embrace Father Christmas as the sole bearer of Christmas gifts. But take a short trip to Luxemburg or the Netherlands and you’ll meet Sinterklaas (also known as Saint Nicholas), who brings presents for the “nice” children on December 6th – or alternatively sends the “naughty” ones to Spain to be taught how to behave. And once in Spain you’ll come across the three Reyes Magos (Wise Men), who also bring gifts for children during the night of 5th January. Gathering these kinds of local audience insights will make sure you can effortlessly connect to your customers.

2. Put’em Together and What Have You Got? Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo

Verbal communication is key. Once you’ve identified what the various cultural imperatives are, you must try to understand each and every target audience: the languages they speak and the words that are going to make them convert. This may not be the same content, language or tone of voice that is used in the UK. You should take this into consideration when you are building your keyword lists and combinations – as users will have different searching behaviours – and when creating your ads. Whilst some may enjoy being boldly told that a supermassive discount is upcoming, others prefer to be gently coaxed onto a landing page and seduced by the array of products promised to them in the ad. The obvious choice is not always the right one, and each market and demography will have its own bias.

3. Knead and Knead Again to Obtain the Perfect Texture

Language shrinkage, language stretch… Anyone with a basic understanding of PPC ad copy writing will understand the pains of staying within the limits of a 30 or 80-character limit when letting your imagination run free. When translating a beautifully prepped ad copy, another obstacle to overcome is making sure that the structure of the target language also fits within that space. Suddenly, your zesty and punchy ‘Book now!’ call-to-action stretches to ‘Réservez dès maintenant !’ in French. A bit of a mouthful, for which you’ll need to massively reduce the character-count, lose the starburst or simply choose another phrase.

4. It’s All in the Presentation

The finer details – you mustn’t overlook them. We’re talking here about capitalisation, punctuation, spaces… these are essentially the road signs to any language, and should always be respected. There is no point in concocting a grammatically and contextually beautiful ad if we’re not going to put the legwork into perfecting the details. For instance, our extensive ad testing may have shown that the British public responds better to title case description lines, but it also turns out that most of our continental neighbours prefer the informality of sentence case. Don’t forget also that although the “£” symbol comes before a price, the “€” comes after – and whilst we’re at it, pay attention to the double exclamation marks in Spanish: “¡Vamos!”. If you don’t respect these specificities, your ad could end up looking unfinished and unprofessional, and ultimately deter users from clicking through.

Love At First Grammar

5. Practice Makes Perfect

Like with all things digital, we possess the incredible power of change. Near-real time data allows us to easily and efficiently single out things that are working, and those that are not. International campaigns are no exception to this. Like with any other form of optimisation (and any kind of baking!) you should be testing, tweaking and repeating. No hurdle is too high: an SQR in a foreign language? No problem – right-click, translate to English. A crazy CPA on a seemingly harmless keyword? Check your audience insight, make sure that it’s not a competitor’s name. 

And because we appreciate that no-one is a born Michelin-star pastry chef, we have our very own internal International Team at hand here at Merkle | Periscopix. If you want some advice on how to best optimise your international campaigns, if you need our help setting some up or if you’re dying for some cultural insights, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

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