English or a local language in advertising?

Studies have demonstrated frequent use of English in international advertising, but little is known about people’s preference for English versus local languages. This paper empirically investigated the difficulty of the English language as a possible determinant of people’s preference for English or the local language. In an experiment, Dutch participants judged a number of car ads with English slogans that were pre-tested as easy or difficult to understand. They were subsequently asked to express a preference for either the English slogan or the Dutch equivalent. Results showed that easy-to-understand English slogans were appreciated better than difficult-to-understand English slogans. Moreover, the degree of difficulty in comprehension of the English slogans affected participants’ preference for English. English was preferred to Dutch when it was easy to understand; when it was difficult to understand, English was appreciated as much as the Dutch equivalent. In conclusion, the experiment provides empirical support for the role of comprehension in the preference for and appreciation of English in international advertising.

  • Hornikx, J., Meurs, F. van, & Boer, A. de (2010). English or a local language in advertising? The appreciation of easy and difficult English slogans in the Netherlands. Journal of Business Communication, 47 (2), 169-188. [pdf]

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