Ready for a European Ad Campaign?

If you’re an online advertiser who’s had little success targeting North American consumers or you’re running a booming online business and are ready to expand to new markets, listen up.

According to a study released by Nielsen//NetRatings in February, over half a billion people now have Internet access worldwide. Europe has a 23 percent overall share. To put that into perspective, the United States’ own Internet access share was reported as being a mere six percentage points higher.

It doesn’t take a statistician to come to the conclusion the European consumer market is thriving online. In a recent survey, researchers found European online spending almost equaled American spending late last year. European consumers dropped an average €430 per head versus Americans’ €543. The same study revealed 45 percent of European consumers are expected to buy more online in the future, compared with 41 percent of Americans.

How does this apply to advertisers and e-tailers? It’s clearly time to start thinking about targeting online European consumers.

Sounds easy, but if you’re an advertiser or online marketer charged with planning a European campaign, you’re bound to wonder, “Where do I begin?”

Do Your Homework

Launching a European online advertising campaign is intimidating. That’s understandable; it’s very different from what most online advertisers on this continent have dealt with. They fear their lack of knowledge of Europe’s audience, market, and consumers may put them at a disadvantage. What if the ad message doesn’t register with this consumer set in quite the same way it does with the North American? Low response rates and an underperforming campaign could result.

Media planners and buyers have similar qualms. Few European media properties advertise their services to North America marketers. There’s far less industry coverage of European sites to look to. Marketers lacking prior experience with European media vendors aren’t sure where to turn. On top of that, they worry sites they ultimately decide to employ won’t meet the standards their clients have come to expect of North American properties. Worse, they many not deliver comparable results.

The solution is, quite simply, to conduct research well in advance. Although the market and stats are appealing, advertisers must first ask themselves if their products are, in fact, well suited for European consumers. They should be certain not only their products and services have global appeal but they also have a system in place (or the ability to implement one) to allow them to sell and distribute abroad.

Marketers must familiarize themselves with the European Internet. It’s a common misconception among North American media planners European media properties are somehow less advanced than their American counterparts. In fact, most major American properties are mirrored by European sites offering the same ad formats, technology, and tracking services they’re used to, coupled with a sizeable audience comprising those desirable Europe-based users.

Yahoo, MSN, and AOL (among others) have several European regional sites. Of course, there are European ad networks and paid placement properties. If in doubt about which properties to partner with, marketers can turn to one of the many North American ad networks and email providers they know and trust. Many offer European traffic and email lists at reasonable rates.

A marketer’s responsibility isn’t limited to selecting sites with which to partner. The job extends to ensuring ad copy and creative are appropriate for the European and local cultures. Countless campaigns have failed due to oversights such as translation errors or language misuse. Better to engage an expert than sabotage your own campaign.

As with all online ad initiatives, a European campaign’s outcome inevitably depends on a variety of factors, including nature of the service offered, target audience, sites employed, and ad creative and message. Campaigns anywhere have potential for being highly successful or a total flop. With sufficient preparation and by addressing the key issues, advertiser and marketer can unite to create and run successful campaigns overseas.

Join us at the Jupiter ClickZ Advertising Forum in New York City on July 30 and 31.

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