Ditch the blonde when advertising in Quebec

If you’re advertising in Canada, go easy on confrontation, but get your facts straight.

Keep in mind the Canadian woman is your modern girl next door type who exudes “understated confidence” — think Betty not Veronica (of the Archie comic fame).

And whatever you do, ditch the blonde if you’re ever selling anything to Quebecers.

“Blondes only make up about three per cent of the Quebec population,” said Jacquie Matthews, president of Ipsos ASI Matthews – so don’t use blondes when advertising there.

WATCH VIDEO – Some ads just don’t transfer well

These and other nuggets of wisdom were presented in an Ipsos ASI report on advertising preferences in the U.S. and Canada.

The advertising research company released the report during a panel on Creative Transferability at the Advertising Week 2010 conference in Toronto.

“The simple truth is creative is king, but some campaigns just don’t transfer well,” said Matthews.

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Business-building potential varies significantly across different North American markets for as many as 60 per cent of ads, according to the Ipsos report titled: Some Things Just Don’t Transfer Well.

Using Ipsos’ Copy Effect Index (a metric based on branding, breakthrough and persuasion factors), the study found ads perform identically in two markets only 40 per cent of the time.

The lesson here for marketers and advertisers, Matthews said, is while global strategies might work across national boundaries, creative content in advertising often needs to be tweaked or totally overhauled to remain effective in another market.

“How could we hope to automatically mass market an ad when more than half the population – in India and Turkey, for example – agree that: a woman’s place is in the home?” asked Matthews.

Another panelist in Monday’s discussion agreed that consumer preferences and standards vary across countries and regions.

For instance, expressions of beauty tend to differ from country to country, noted Sharon MacLeod, marketing director at Unilever Canada. “It’s only in Latin America that the expression of beauty tended to be more or less uniform.”  

Knowledge of cultural differences can also be applied to marketing technology, according to Andrew Assad, market research manager at Microsoft Canada.

“Microsoft is a global brand so we employed a global strategy for the release of Windows 7. However, ads for specific countries did have some differences,” he said.

Culture Clash

When it comes to consumer behaviour and ads, Americans and Canadians have diametrically opposite views, according to the Ipsos report.

They even have different views about one other.

For instances, 50 per cent of Americans think Canadians are more like them and share the same values and outlook. In fact, 30 per cent of Americans (mainly from the southern states) view Canada as just another state, like Michigan or Oregon.

On the other hand, 81 per cent of Canadians believe they are different from Americans.

Canadians see themselves as “rational and prudent” and often have a “save and wait” attitude. They look for tangible benefits and proof of a product’s worthiness. Canadians also favour ads that are happy and upbeat.

Eight in 10 say  their own private satisfaction in their accomplishments is more important to them than public recognition.

“Canadians believe it is a greater accomplishment to win a Nobel Prize than a gold at the Olympics,” Matthews said.

By contrast, Americans, she said, tend to go for ads dwelling on themes such as “make money, buy and show superiority.” They prefer ads that are exciting, energetic, enthusiastic and entertaining — but aren’t long on explanations or back-up data.

Forty-four per cent of Americans, as opposed to just 14 per cent of Canadians, say they are more likely to purchase a product if it is widely advertised.

Attack ads are a definite no-no for Canadians. “We do not want ads that overtly put down the competition,” said Matthews.

Canadians also like to see “relaxed” and “culturally diverse” characters engaged in everyday tasks in their ads.

“We like to see dads doing household chores, or father and teenage son dress up and sit down at a doll’s tea party with the younger daughter,” the Ipsos executive said.

But this type of ad will not play well in the U.S., said Matthews. “For years now half of America believes the father of the family should be the master of his home.”

Two advertising solitudes

While clear differences separate American and Canadian consumers, the advertising line between English Canada and French Canada is no less emphatic, according to the Ipsos report.

“As much as 65 per cent of the time, ads shown in English Canada shouldn’t be aired in French Canada at all,” Matthews points out.

Francophone Canadians see themselves as “passionate. So ads exuding “joie de vivre”, displaying a holistic approach — that emphasize the body, mind and soul are great performers in Quebec.

While ads focusing on information and problem solving are ideal for English Canada, French Canada goes for ads that portray family ties and close personal relationships.

Matthews also pointed out that ads that do best in French Canada do not have obvious English connotations in the music, voiceovers, or message.

If it does not feel like the ad was made for Quebecers, it detracts from the material’s credibility and relevance. 


Francophones prefer Dion – Celine that is

Francophones are a star-struck bunch, the Ipsos report indicates.

Ads that feature French Canadian celebrities do well with Francophones.

All 10 of the Top 10 TV shows in Quebec are “made in Quebec”.  There is little to no spillover from the U.S. into Quebec.

Only five per cent of Francophones watch English network channels. Similar habits apply to books and magazines. Celebrities thought of as “household names” by English Canadians, have very little relevance, if any, in Quebec.

When asked how Canadians define themselves in Canada, the answer was the same across the country, except for Quebec, said Matthews.

“While the rest of Canada thinks Pierre Trudeau is the person who best represents our country, French Canadians give this honour to Celine Dion.”  

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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