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Adverts Around the World: Make or Break the Sale?

With the amount of money that is poured into advertising and the cutthroat competition there is for that prime advertising spot in the middle of the Superbowl, or for the English amongst us, Coronation Street, we know that TV advertising is a very big deal indeed.

Gone are the days where you could just have a lovely lady frolicking around in a bathtub with a bar of the crumbliest, flakiest chocolate in the world. Now, you have to put your effort in if you want to get your products out there.

Advertising is big business.

You have your legendary adverts showing a peek through the eyes of a product that has seen many a change in society (over to you, Hovis lad), the advert for Nescafe Gold from before Giles was Giles and was definitely not between jobs, and of course, the Jaguar advert where we can, um, admire, the work of national treasures such as Tom Hiddlestone.

But what about our favourite products abroad? Do the comfortable and familiar tongue-in-cheek tactics that have you half-groaning, half-writing a shopping list translate as well in another tongue? Do they have their own in jokes that we, as non-native speakers, might not get?

It is entirely possible, is the answer to all of the above. Here are some of our favourites adverts from around the world.

Let's start out cute...

Photo via Flickr

Duracell (Germany)

Did you know that long before the Energizer bunny came along, Duracell actually used bunnies as their (furry) face of advertising in many a country the world over?

In this advert we see a typical day in the life of an, um, bunny, going through his morning exercise routine, working day, a date, and the cheeky wink at the end suggests he's got some stamina saved up for lady bunny when we've politely averted our eyes.

Does it translate? Yes. The story is told with toy figures and is voiced over in German; in fact, this advert is almost identical to the UK one. You don't need to speak German to understand, and there is no way to misinterpret what is going on.

Drink, anyone?

We'll start with everyone's favourite (?) soft drink, Coke.

Coca Cola Life (Argentina)

Now this green labelled Coke is relatively new in some places around the world, so sometimes it is approached with suspicion.

This advert, which is apparently a firm favourite amongst advert aficionados, shows a snapshot of family life from pregnancy test through to toddlerhood, and all the 'fun stuff' in between.

Does it translate? Yes. The story is told without any actual words; there's a soundtrack of a song sung in English and you can figure out what is going on without having to understand Spanish. Good advertising done well. If you like that kind of thing.

Something a little stronger?

Heineken (Netherlands)

Ah, Heineken. Despite stereotyping women as only loving shoes and clothes, and men as only loving beer in this advert showing what looks like a housewarming party, we can't help but laugh.

Does it translate? Yes. Aside from a quick snap of text of what is probably the Dutch version of drink responsibly that we see on most alcohol advertising nowadays, we know exactly what is going on. Heineken adverts are usually entertaining, and this one certainly doesn't disappoint.

And while we are stereotyping...

How about this one from Haagen-Dazs that assumes all Italian couples argue at the top of their lungs, then kiss and make up with ice cream? It is actually an American commercial with Italian subtitles, filmed in Kiev at the Ukrainian National Ballet, so it does have a bit of an international, um, flavour (we're sorry!) but it is not strictly an exotic advert of the likes we are looking for.

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And some more...

Photo via Flickr

Veet For Men (Spain)

Veet is, obviously, a rather well-known product for removing hair from places you do not wish hair to grow. Perhaps this says more about the personal care routine of the English man, but it is somewhat rare to find the blue version of Veet stocked up against the pink one in English supermarkets and drugstores. Not true of Spain, where there is an equal amount of both on display in every Mercadona and Drugi that you can find.

This advert shows, somehow, why having a hairy back is dangerous when you go grocery shopping, rather than any actual danger to any chaetophobiacs out there at seeing a hairy back. Although yes, we agree, it does squick many a person out.

Does it translate? Not exactly, no. We know unwanted hair in unusual places is frowned upon, but then not all of us aspire to be a billiard ball from head to toe. We don't really get why the poor man with said hairy back could have saved his shopping trolley from escaping if he'd only used some Veet, but it could very well be lost in translation.

And now for something entirely different...

Which would, of course, be Ikea.

Ikea (Sweden)

Apparently this was a 2002 favourite advert in Sweden, and follows (or rather, preceded) our earlier Coke advert by telling a story purely visually.

In the advert, a man is in his kitchen acting like a contestant in training for Great British Bake Off, when he suddenly receives a rather ominous-looking phone call. He then frantically runs around his overly clean apartment and sorts through his modular Ikea shelving units to throw pieces of pizza, used beer cans and old vinyl around to give the apartment the look of someone incredibly hungover and stoned. Which is when his friends, looking just like that, arrive.

Does it translate? In the way that all Ikea adverts do and don't, yes. We all know the value of easy to assemble flat pack furniture that is of usually decent quality. We're just not sure that's where we'd keep our leftovers is all.

Advertising Slavik-style

Subaru (Russia)

Dash-cam footage in Russia appears to be quite the thing, and in keeping with that, here's a little 'outside of the box' thinking for advertising.

In what is possibly the strangest carjacking we have ever seen, a woman appears to hit a dog and is, obviously, distraught. She climbs out of her car to go and investigate, and while her back is turned, the dog runs to the car and then drives off in it.

Does it translate? Well, we know what's going on, sure. However, we cannot imagine ever seeing this on the gogglebox in the UK.

Outside of our comfort zone...

Photo via Wikipedia

Heinz Ketchup (India)

Now, we like our condiments as much as the next person, so it would have been rude not to stop here.

This advert appears to have won several awards in 2006, and shows a housewife ordering some groceries over the phone, but having trouble getting the word Heinz out when she speaks. The tagline at the end of the advert is takes a while to come out, because yes, Heinz in a glass bottle usually does.

Does it translate? It's all in English so in theory, yes, because no translation is needed. However, when the advert looks more like a caution against choking hazards, or even like an asthma attack in progress, it makes us a little uncomfortable watching it.


Not for the faint hearted

Furby (Japan)

We can't quite bring ourselves to speak about this one because frankly, we're still traumatised. Suffice to say, what starts out as some kind of cutesy Furby nonsense warps into what we can only assume is supposed to be an allusion to the occult. In fact, it is not even an allusion, this advert is beyond creepy, and we think we'd like a warm glass of milk and a hug before we move along.

Does it translate? No. No, it does not.

We're still feeling a little overwhelmed...

So this is our final advert, and it isn't even for an internationally renowned product, but hey, we need comfort after the Furby thing.

Zyx (Finland)

So we turn to Finland, and this very silly advert for cough sweets using a black metal band filming a music video and showing just how effective the cough sweets really are. The lead singer goes from **insert favourite screamer here** to a contender for the next face of Nightwish. We hope the cough sweets come in salmiakki flavour.

So there you have it, a whistle-stop world tour via the often bizarre world of TV advertising. We hope you enjoyed it and are inspired to seek out your own favourites!