Global Reach

Contemplating an international campaign? Don’t let the challenges obscure the potential rewards.


Most marketers, manufacturers, and inventors in the United States have given thought to international distribution even before their U.S. campaigns get off the ground. But the thought of adding an international campaign to an already high-cost, time-consuming domestic campaign can be daunting.


The truth is that international product campaigns can furnish a nice financial boost to an established U.S. campaign, a second chance for a product that failed to gain traction in the U.S. market, or an opportunity for a product to find its true home. This may come as a surprise, because few can navigate international waters. And while developing a strong worldwide presence can’t be accomplished overnight, here are some important points to consider.


Pro: The international arena includes more than 90 DRTV markets from Latin America to Canada, from Europe to South Africa, and from Asia to Australia and New Zealand. “As Seen On TV” products are one of the fastest-growing categories worldwide, and while the consumer base in most other countries is not as large as in America, it continues to grow. Consumers want the next best thing—and that might be your product.


Con: You may have the hottest product in the United States, but there may be no audience for it outside of America. Certain categories just don’t resonate with consumers due to cultural differences; for example, products geared toward children and pets are more difficult to sell in many international markets.


The flipside is that while not all successful U.S. products are successful internationally, not all unsuccessful U.S. products are unsuccessful internationally. Products can find a second life overseas after a failed test or rollout in the United States.


Assimilate Early

One benefit to launching an international campaign early is that it’s a money-saver. And there are ways to create a campaign that satisfies the needs of U.S. and international markets simultaneously.


For example, while the :30 short-form spot is the most popular format in U.S. media, most markets—especially in Europe and Asia—prefer to work with long-forms. If a 28:30 infomercial is outside your budget, a 15:00 show is ideal. If the funds allow, you can shoot a 15:00 show that includes a :120 call-to-action—or loop a 7:00 for the international market. Shooting more than one version at the same time can save money and keeps the show and message concise.


The biggest pitfall is the assumption that what you do in the United States will work internationally. Here, you can buy all the required media and arrange all of the import certifications, and it covers the entire selling area. But every international region—and often the individual markets that make it up—require separate approvals and certifications, as each is governed by different regulatory agencies.


In regard to media, strict guidelines determine what’s acceptable to air on TV. For instance, while U.S. marketers commonly use medical professionals to endorse products, no white coats can be shown in an infomercial or DRTV spot in the United Kingdom.


Import certifications also vary by product category. For example, if you want to sell a fitness product in Europe, you’ll need a CE Certification that indicates the product is compliant with E.U. legislation. If you are selling an electrical product in Japan, you’ll need a Product Safety Electrical Appliance and Material (PSE) certificate, a mandatory third-party conformity assessment for electrical appliances and materials.


Do your research. The international market is a vast space that is filled with just as much potential for disaster as opportunities for success. Knowing your partners can make the difference between a successful and unsuccessful international campaign. There are lots of distributors and retailers that will dedicate themselves to selling your product and creating a long-lasting campaign; make sure to maximize your product’s potential by choosing the right partners.


The Numbers Add Up

When a product has consistently strong sales in the U.S., it becomes the expectation that it will do similarly well overseas. But assuming that whatever you do stateside can be done internationally is unrealistic, and can be the downfall of an international campaign. When you take a product overseas, there will be changes in culture, population, and income level, as well as different timelines for approval or certification.


You may be able to get similar sales numbers in larger markets, but smaller markets can also bring in impressive sales numbers collectively. The fun of international distribution is seeing where your product succeeds, and if you set your sights only on larger markets, you may limit your product’s potential.


If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed at the prospect of mounting an international push, help is available. Experts in international campaigns can serve as your international marketing department.


Allison Givens is product acquisition manager at Williams Worldwide Television (WWTV), a specialist in international distribution based in Santa Monica, Calif. She can be reached via email at [email protected] and by telephone at (310) 449-4506..