Advertising in Europe, Part Two

german-beer-advertisementIn the first part of this blog entry, Advertising in Europe, Part One, we saw that English is understandably prominent in signage promoting tourist activities. We also saw that it is used in music advertising. So, continuing on our bike tour of Berlin, let’s see where else English is used as a “polyglot marketing tactic” in out-of-home advertising. 

When you think of mass marketing with a bit of flair, you may also think food and beverage, especially alcohol. This multi-story scaffold mesh ad for Beck's beer features a German headline that is a play on words and roughly translates to: “Better a cool beer than a refined pilsner.”

The tagline is in English: “The beer for a fresh generation.” That’s a lot of expensive ad space promoting a well-known German brand partly in English, in Germany (Becks was originally owned by a local family in Bremen in northern Germany until 2002; now it’s owned by the Belgian-based beverage giant InBev). 

Perhaps you want a little nosh with your beer? You may be tempted to get a German bratwurst, but then you see a poster for Subway, the American sandwich franchise.

subway-advertisement-berlinFor the Subway advertisment on the left, as expected, the name of the brand is still in English, however, the tagline “eat fresh” also remains in English. Yet, the directions to the two locations are actually in German. This particular American brand kept its “Americaness” using English, but when it came to practical consideration (i.e. how to get to a location to actually buy something), the information is in German, the local langauge.

After your sandwich and beer lunch, you bike to another part of town, which, like many parts of Berlin, is under construction. So, you see another mesh scaffold (below) – this one by the French company, L’Oreal. So, perhaps you’d think there would at least a few lines of French. This ad, however, is in German and English. “Das neue Men Expert Deo” means “The new Men Expert Deo” (“Men Expert Deo” is actually a deodorant under the product line "Men Expert").  The claim of “48 h [hour] dry non-stop” is in English, while the main line of the packaging, “Fresh Extreme” is also in English. The face promoting the brand is not French or American/British, however. It’s Michael Ballack, a well-known German soccer player.


Next to the six-story high Mr. Ballack is a bus shelter ad for mobile phone manufacturer Sony Ericsson (below left), with the polyglot headline “Klein und clever” (“Small and clever”). The subheadline is in German, meaning “With four-corner navigation”, but the tagline “make.believe” remains in English. This Sony Ericsson ad is fairly minimalist, using a nice mix of English and German, along with universal images and icons. However, ten feet away is a brand that doesn’t need any headlines, subheadlines or decisions about what is in English, German, French or any other language. It’s Apple (below right). And what you see in the States is exactly what you see in Berlin. This saves the company a lot of money, and it keeps the brand extremely “pure” around the world.

mobile-phone-bus-shelter   apple-bus-shelter

Speaking of Apple, when you ride your rental bike to Potsamer Platz, you’ll see a sight that many people would never have envisioned about 21 years ago. It’s the remains of the Berlin Wall with the backdrop of a half block-long iPad advertisement, in the universal language of Apple – just a logo, image and product name.


Now it’s time to hit the hipster restaurants and bars in Kreuzberg in southern Berlin, so you return your rental bike and take the Berlin U-Bahn (Underground/Subway). Walking down the steps to the U-Bahn you may think you have suddenly been transported to the New York City Subway. The Vans ads are all in English. Not a word of German. The only indication that it’s a Germany-based advertisement is the website indicator of ".de" (".de" being the domain indicator for Germany - from the German word for Germany, which is Deutschland).


After a few great days in Berlin, you head out east to Slovakia, The Czech Republic and Hungary. What a difference a few hundred miles makes! The ads are suddenly nearly all in the local language. A few samples from Slovakia:

bratislava-advert  bratislava-advert2

Now, all this research can be a bit confusing. What are the norms for advertising in Europe? English only? No English at all? Some English? Only local language? No words at all? You may need an espresso to clear your head and think how your translation agency can help you navigate through all the possibilities. And one of these possibilities happens to be below: if your budget allows, why not just have a world-famous movie star become your spokesperson? Then, you can get your point across, regardless of the language.


Oh, this sentence next to Mr. Clooney is in Hungarian and translates to “When the ordinary become extraordinary.” And our wish to you is:  may all your European advertising campaigns be extraordinary.

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Smart, fun and useful. Acclaro shares news and tips on translation, localization, language, global business and culture.


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