Two Dictionaries

The biggest difference between Advertising in the Caribbean and in the USA is the dictionaries used. The Caribbean use one dictionary for everything, communicating between adults and children, teachers and pupils, adults to adults, and businesses to customers.

In the US they use one dictionary for personal conversation and a completely different one for advertising. I would like to say the second "advertising" dictionary is not common to consumers, but that would be a lie. US customers understand both equally well  and intuitively switch between one and the other.

The first time I encountered this was when I was looking for a cell phone carrier. Calling home (Barbados and Trinidad & Tobago) to keep in touch with family and friends was important to me. So was calling Canada, where my son was studying.

On browsing the different plans I selected one that offered free international calling, paid my money and went along my way. My first call to Laurkan (my son) when fine. It was just to touch base with him and give him my new cell phone number. The second call, made a few days later, to Barbados would not go through. I blamed LIME, the Barbados-based telecommunications company, third world technology I thought.

After being unable to place any further international calls, I took the phone back to my carrier. I advised the salesman of the problem and sought a solution. He was very quick to supply it. I had to pay for an international connection plus prepay for a block-of-time for calls. When I indicted that my plan included FREE international calls, pointing to the sales flyer on his desk, he replied, yes we offer free international calls...but for the first five minutes. When I looked properly at the flyer it did say that but in type the size of that used by opticians for the last line on their eye chart, you know the one where you have to have at least a 10 times magnification to read.

I explained to the salesman that FREE meant just that, if you attached a limit the offer in any way then it's not FREE. He could not see my point, in frustration I cancelled my cell plan.

I remember one of my clients in Barbados discussing a sale he was planning to have. The objective was to get rid of old stock so he could bring in new stock to re-vitalize his in-store display and rejuvenate his customer base. He had many items at 20/30 & 50% discount and two things at 70%. He wanted the sale message to be 70% off store-wide.

I discouraged him from this direction pointing out that 1) the message implication was untrue; 2) it gave his customers a wrong impression; 3) it would eventually turn customers away (expecting 70% and not getting it store-wide); and will end up training his customers to not believe his advertising in the future.

The US have solved this by, like I said before, using two dictionaries plus the consumers understanding of the "advertising" version.

Caught again! I was looking to get mobile, so I told my brother-in-law (a US citizen, living here here since he was 9) about the car ads I'd been seeing on the TV. I could afford nothing down and $170 per month for an Accent (Hyundai). He laughed...read the text at the end of the ad, under the offer he said. It took me a while to read it. It was small, but readable, unfortunately though they do not leave it up on the screen long enough to read the entire paragraph. So I took pen to paper and wrote as much of it as I could each time I saw the ad. It took a week, but finally I had it. Based on the copy only a very, very, very small section of their target market could have the stringent criteria required to get this deal.

It's sad that the US advertising industry has to basically lie to consumers about their products and services,  and these lies are ultimately useless since the consumers all know about it.

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4 Responses

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