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What can French and German Movie Trailers Can Teach Us About Cultural Differences?


What can movie trailers teach us about cultural differences in advertising and marketing?

A lot argues interculturalist, Désirée Gergen.

In the last few decades, culture and cultural differences have gained importance not only in the academic but also the business field, specifically international marketing.

The world is becoming more and more globalised and international trade is inevitable; thus the question of how a successful marketing and advertising strategy should be planned and established, has become inextricable.

Standardised vs Adapted Strategies

We know that marketing and advertising strategies can be either adapted or standardised. That means that marketers use a strategy specific to a country’s or culture’s preferences or a  globalised strategy.

Some business and marketing professionals will be in favour of a more globalised and standardised advertisement while others will opt for a more tailored way of communicating and advertising.

In regards to cultural values, adapted advertisements have been identified as more effective as they address specific topics in a certain way and style which is unique to certain cultures, countries or groups. In the print media for example, not only the text but also the pictures are perceived differently depending on one’s cultural background.

How Movie Trailers Expose Cultural Differences

Recently, differences in film advertising have been identified and it has been demonstrated that movie trailers in particular show differences based on cultural values.

In the specific case of France and Germany, differences in movie trailers can be linked to some of the most influential theories in the field of intercultural communication and marketing and advertising.

According to the ‘femininity/masculinity framework’ of Geert Hofstede, a Dutch social psychologist,  France ranks more ‘feminine’ than Germany and

•    favours quality of life rather than professional achievement and wealth like Germany
•    focuses on family and close relationships,
•    avoids aggressiveness and violence and favours negotiation in conflicts.

Germany ranks more ‘masculine’ and

•    accepts conflicts and aggressiveness  
•    tends to have a direct, unemotional and concise communication style.

In regards to communication style, E.T. Hall, an American anthropologist and cross-cultural researcher, identified a difference between low-and high-context cultures, classifying France as high-context and Germany as low-context culture.

This means that French communication style tends to

•    express a low amount of information
•    and base the communication on the context while it is assumed that the listener has some knowledge.

German communication style tends to

•    favour an explicit and very detailed communication style
•    be based on what needs to be said and how in order to successfully communicate.

A recent study compared original French movie trailers with their German counterparts for the same film, and it was found that:

German trailers

•    are shorter,
•    present little change of music
•    mostly consist of one part without clear introduction
•    communicate a lot of information and avoid uncertainties
•    combine vocals with visuals to make sure the viewer understand the message.
•    show more violence
•    lack humour
•    tend to be more dramatic, expressed through visuals and music
•    and tend to give additional information, e.g. prior engagements of actors etc.

These findings are congruent with the theories by Hofstede and Hall previously discussed.

So next time when you are thinking of internationalising your marketing campaign, keep in mind that in France the advertising style is not explicit and informative like in German but rather dreamlike.

In regards to trailers for example, French trailers are longer than German ones, but contain less information. The viewer still needs to interpret what they sees as well as he/she is assumed to have more knowledge on a particular topic (e.g. French Fashion) when compared with their German counterparts.

Some things are also only slightly evoked through visuals or vocals but not clearly expressed. Violence is avoided and the focus is put on families and friendships rather than on wealth and business achievement. Humour is widely present and language plays are an important factor too.

All in all we have to remember that these different advertising styles based on communicative and cultural differences can lead to different interpretations and expectations of the story. Therefore it is crucial to be aware of cultural differences even though the internationalisation of the world may seem to favour global strategies.

It is important for marketing professionals to remember these differences as they are a vital part of a successful international advertising campaign, not only in the film industry.

In order to communicate its purpose, an advertisement should be adjusted to the culture’s and country’s advertising style and preferences. Should this not be the case, the advertising campaign is very likely to fail and send the wrong messages as it has happened on several occasions in the past.

Author bio: Désirée Gergen is about to graduate in an MA in Intercultural Communication for Business and Professions at Birkbeck College, University of London.

Photo by Mason Kimbarovsky on Unsplash

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