Commentary

How's That Again? CutCue Aims to Tell Advertisers If Their Commercials Send the Wrong Message Overseas

 That whole world-wideness of the Internet seems to be the inspiration for a start-up, CutCue, a service that endeavors to tell online advertisers how their videos are being perceived by different cultures. You can test it right now for free—in fact, CutCue wishes you would.

For example, colors, numbers, and just the way we relate to each other in this country don’t always jibe with how people someplace else do.

Mark Lederhos is doing some marketing, and well, talking to people like me, in this country. CutCue is based in Singapore but like the commercials they intend to measure, they see the whole world as its stage and the US is the market they are basically trying to impress.

Lederhos says they have 150 agencies that are using CutCue, in beta versions. For an advertising agency, one of CutCue’s benefits is that the agency can edit the content display and brand it with its own logo. That probably makes a difference in any culture.

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CutCue markets itself for the whole wide world. Hundreds of brands make commercials they hope play well in many different places. Some of them obviously work better than other.

In fact, though, its better application might be more valuable in the multi-cultural United States, where the obvious growth of Hispanic and Asian populations beg some interpretation.    

And there are plenty of cultural misunderstandings out there.. I think everybody from Steve Allen to Jay Leno has gotten big laughs pointing out some corporate name or phrase has disastrous translation problems. The Huffington Post collected some of these recently. The Ford Pinto struck out in Brazil, where Pinto is slang for male genitals. An Iranian detergent company wouldn’t get far in this country with Barf flakes. In China, Kentucky Fried Chicken’s familiar slogan boils down to “Eat Your Fingers Off.”

 Back in the more animal-oriented days of the Discovery Channel, it didn’t use some breeds because its worldwide audience could take offense.

And, for example, Chinese culture supposedly sees the number 8 as extremely lucky.

Maybe that matters to you.

Lederhos uses another example. “In Thailand, orange is a color of royalty. So if they see a commercial with a chain gang of prisoners wearing orange jumpsuits, they could be offended.”

The CutCue sample showed a sexy commercial for Dior Homme (with Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” accompanying the video) and measured it against Indian norms. Only 20% in India found the commercial “comfortable,” (based, Lederhos says, on a panel that CutCue has in various countries, not statistical data.)

Pretty clearly, it’s not a commercial made-for-India. (Or, probably, Indiana. It’s pretty sexy. I want that cologne.)    

The sample gives a broad sense of Indian cultural norms. In this case, for example, how masculine they are, probably based on some characteristics you’d easily understand, others, maybe not.

It tested other things, like how Indians match up to Americans in terms of dealing with “uncertainty” in life:

“India has a medium, low preference for avoiding Uncertainty,” the report says. “In India there is acceptance of imperfection; nothing has to be perfect nor has to go exactly as planned. India is traditionally a patient country where tolerance for the unexpected is high and even welcomed as a break from monotony.”

An interesting project. CutCue has a foreign angel who’s invested in it; a second round of financing in this country might be in the offing. Money, you know, speaks a lot of languages.  

pj@mediapost.com

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