Global Interactive Advertising:
Defining What We Mean and Using What We Have Learned

Marilyn S. Roberts, Hanjun Ko

University of Florida


Global interactive advertising is becoming an important key term for the current marketplace as Internet usage continues to climb at astounding rates on a worldwide basis. The authors propose a definition of global interactive advertising. This study defines global interactive advertising as cross-cultural marketing communications that are deliberately planned and executed to actively engage persons in advertising processing through interactivity as a part of overall localized, regionalized, or worldwide strategic communication efforts. It is important to carefully consider how the term is conceptualized and operationalized. Likewise, it is important to understand what is not considered to be global interactive advertising. By reviewing the components of the term, the authors hope to show how distinctly and strategically different this form of advertising is from interactive advertising that is merely viewed by a consumer living outside of the homemarket’s URL domain. The paper examines the complexities of terms used in differentiating the various forms of global marketing, as well as the complexities in defining the term interactivity. Also discussed is the application of uses and gratifications research and its implications for global interactive advertising. Finally, strategies adapted by interactive advertising agencies are discussed and compared.

Introduction and Purpose

In spite of its relatively short history, the Internet is already established as one of the most important communication channels for global commerce (Thomas, 1998). Moreover, its role as an interactive advertising medium has offered a variety of opportunities and challenges to most global organizations, ranging from established multinational corporations to today’s start-up e-tailers. According to Fridman (2000), the total online advertising revenues are expected to increase to $28 billion worldwide by 2005. Considering such a significant implication brought by this new medium, it is important to examine what global interactive advertising actually means and what kind of opportunities and challenges can be expected from this new form of advertising.

Internet usage continues to climb at astounding rates on a worldwide basis. As the daily estimates of the number of new worldwide websites rise, no one can truly calculate the countless choices available for advertising placement on the Internet and other new technologies and non-PC access such as wireless devices and interactive digital television. Currently, the debate about the definition of what is “interactivity” continues. As one places the word “global” in front of the word “interactive,” what does that mean? Just as we struggle to define “interactivity”, the meaning of the word “global” also must be determined. How does the meaning of the term “global interactive advertising,” differ from what is meant by the combination of terms such as “international interactive,” “multinational interactive,” “transnational interactive,” or “supranational interactive” advertising?

Does this sound confusing? Is it confounding the complexities of what is meant by “global interactive advertising?” The answer is probably yes, even if one is highly familiar with the distinctive meanings of each term. As the online environment evolves, initially clarifying some of these distinctions and issues is precisely what motivated the researchers and is the purpose of this article. What is and is not global interactive advertising? Global interactive advertising is distinctly different from interactive advertising on the web that may be viewed by a consumer living outside of the homemarket’s URL domain. To make the assumption that there is no difference between the two does not serve the cause of effective global brand building communication efforts.

Multinational corporations have been advertising on foreign soil for years. One can call it global or international advertising, but it has taken over fifty years of evolution for marketers to begin to fully understand how to communicate effectively in traditional advertising venues across the various complex and increasingly competitive global marketplaces. The early efforts by multinationals were more often scattered with missteps and failures than with successes. Currently, global advertising practitioners have experienced a paradigm shift. The shift has been termed by some as moving from “old globalism” to “new globalism.” What this means is that product and message developments no longer rely on maximizing economies of scale to be effective, but are focused on consumers taking their specific needs and local conditions into account.

Schultz and Kitchen (2000) suggested that four major changes are driving the transition from “old globalism” to “new globalism.” They identified the building blocks that are driving change as: digitalization, information technology, intellectual property, and communication systems. Schultz and Kitchen stated that, “These global building blocks form the backbone for the major communication renaissance that is affecting marketing communication everywhere” (p. 3). Under “old globalism” communication systems have been used to deliver mainly identical content for entertainment or information purposes. Today, new megamedia communication mergers and acquisitions are now reality. However, increased global competition has forced marketing communication professionals to become more targeted and focused on specific cross-cultural groups of consumers.

While Levitt’s (1983) perspective of “one world, one market,” basically chose to ignore specific differences, the current paradigm shift involves tailoring brands and services to meet the needs of smaller and smaller global segments of consumers. Striving not for economies of scale, but for efficiency and effectiveness. Also present in new globalism is a two-way coordinated dialogue between centralized headquarters and their subsidiaries and affiliates. Striking a contrast with the centralized one-way approach predominant under the old globalism paradigm, the current shift is toward a more interactive approach that places the needs of smaller global segments and local competitive conditions at its core.

Today, multinational agencies are still in flux as to how to deal with the proliferation of e-commerce and issues that confront traditional multinational agencies and their clients. Independent companies and those not affiliated with major multinational advertising agencies are rapidly being established to provide interactive advertising and marketing communication services. However, the vast global networks of multinational agencies are well positioned to create innovative and compelling “global interactive advertising” as part of their overall communication mix for their multinational clients.

In order to discuss how “global interactive advertising” should be defined, the researchers first examine the various definitions used to explain the complexities of “global” marketing, as well as the complexities in defining the term “interactive.” Next, the paper focuses on how the theoretical concept of uses and gratifications is applied to global interactive advertising. Strategies adapted by interactive advertising agencies are then compared. A discussion follows about the implications of cultural differences and how these affect the manner in which strategic decisions have been made about global interactive advertising. The paper concludes by presenting a definition of global interactive advertising.

Defining the term “Global”

De Mooij (1994) discussed that, “international,” “multinational,” “global,” and “transnational” marketing and “supranational” advertising are not well-defined concepts, particularly among advertising practitioners. The present researchers wish to add that the differences are not always understood among academicians. Often terms are used interchangeably, but as De Mooij pointed out that:

Whatever definition one uses, there are basic similarities in terms of marketing philosophies and processes. The differences lie in the location and types of markets and the organization of the enterprise, which operates simultaneously in the homeland and in other national markets (p. 6.).

To distinguish between the differences and how each term may affect a definition of global interactive advertising, a review of each definition and how it differs from another synonym is discussed. De Mooij (1994) underscores that the definitions are based on different forms of marketing strategy and also are related to organization structural typologies.

International Marketing

International marketing is defined as simply the extension of the home country’s marketing strategy into the global marketplace. When examining this form of marketing, it is a domestic or national organization putting up a website and selecting interactive advertising choices that the strategic intent is to serve the home (domestic) market’s target consumers. In examining the definition of international marketing, the implications for global interactive advertising are totally focused on an ethnocentric (inward-looking) domestic market target consumer. The approach could be considered as standardized. It is viewed identically by all worldwide consumers. There appears to be no strategic intent to make adaptations for any other segment of global consumers. If a global consumer does view the organization’s website or any form of interactive advertising placement by the company, brand or service, it is not by strategic design.

Multinational Marketing

Multinational marketing is defined as the “development of a strategy for each country that responds to the unique differences and conditions in each country” (De Mooij, 1994, p. 7). It appears that this definition of multinational marketing suggests that every specific country’s subsidiary or affiliate is putting up its own website, and making independent placement decisions regarding interactive advertising. In this form of marketing, the organization may perceive that the differences in the stages of infrastructure development, Internet usage rates, regulatory, cultural or product preferences as too great to manage in a broader context. Thus, no strategic attempts are made to cross-culturally communicate with global online consumers. Just as the global interactive advertising implications for international marketing discussed above suggest, multinational marketing is also highly ethnocentric. There is no strategic intent to extend interactive advertising efforts toward other segments of global consumers. Also, as was the case for international marketing, under multinational marketing, if a global consumer views a country-specific website or any form of interactive advertising placement, it is not by strategic design.

Global Marketing

Global marketing refers to the integration of the international and multinational marketing approaches, where the objective is “to create the greatest value for customers and the greatest competitive advantage for the company” (De Mooij, 1994, p. 7). Today, this form of global marketing is referred to as the hybrid strategic approach, or “glocalization.” The strategic intent is to use a centralized strategic “footprint” to build global brand identity, while allowing country-specific flexibility in the executional or tactical and communication mix decisions. When determining what the strategic implications are for global interactive advertising under this form of marketing, one finds that the concepts of global marketing and global interactive advertising are no longer utilizing an ethnocentric perspective. Instead, global marketing should be considered polycentric (outward looking). Global marketing acknowledges and uses strategic intent to coordinate the combination of centralized corporate or brand directives with more localized adaptations in interactive advertising placement and executional decision-making. Thus, global marketing does suggest that reaching global online consumers is a strategically intended outcome of a hybrid strategic approach.

Transnational Marketing

Transnational marketing is defined by De Mooij as “centralizing some resources at home and others abroad, while distributing others among local operations in different countries” (p. 9). Bartlett and Ghoshal (1989) explain that this form of marketing, the transnational organization extends, adapts and creates a marketing mix. In discussing the implications for global interactive advertising, this approach to marketing and marketing communications fully acknowledges the roles of the centralized or home headquarters and the various affiliates and subsidiaries that make up the global communication network. Not only should this approach be considered as polycentric, but also these researchers argue that the perspective is geocentric (views the world as a single market). That is, under the transnational form of marketing, global interactive advertising is planned, created and executed and is strategically intended to target segments of cross-cultural consumers in the communication mixes within either a domestic country campaign, a specific foreign-market campaign, as well as pan-regional or worldwide communication mixes. Organizations that function under the transnational marketing structure have optimal strategic opportunities for incorporating interactive advertising that target segments of cross-cultural online consumers both within and across their borders.

Other Relevant Terms

Finally, the word “supranational,” while not a specific form of marketing, is also a term found in international or global media planning literature. The term is used to describe cross-border media advertising, that is, advertising that crosses specific physical space where differences in culture, religion or regulation affect the transmission and reception of advertising. Another concept discussed in media planning is “media spillover.” In traditional advertising, two forms of media spillover have been generally recognized: “incidental” or “deliberate” spillover. Incidental spillover is closely associated with both international marketing and multinational marketing’s implications for strategic global interactive advertising. A non-home market online consumer is exposed to interactive advertising but is not the intended target of the ad. De Mooij refers to incidental spillover as not well-measured and of little use to media planners. While this may be true in traditional media, the researchers suggest that incidental spillover overcomes many of its measurement weaknesses in the online environment. In contrast, deliberate spillover, as it is often referred to when a satellite cable television channel in one language crosses borders to reach consumers in another country in either the same or a different language. Deliberate spillover also may become a more strategically useful tool in the communication mix in the online environment. The researchers bring these concepts to light because of their relevancy when discussing a proposed definition of global interactive advertising at the conclusion of the paper. Next the authors will discuss the definitions of interactivity.

Defining the term “Interactive”

With respect to the numerous unique features that distinguish the Internet from other traditional media, interactivity should be considered as one of the main reasons that make this medium a substantial advertising vehicle. In other words, the interactivity of the Internet provides advertisers opportunities to identify customers, differentiate them, and customize purchasing and post-purchase service. Furthermore, interactivity allows customers greater access to companies through customer discussion groups, e-mail, direct ordering, and links to more information (Schumann and Thorson, 1999). Considering various benefits brought by the Internet, numerous studies have tried to identify the definition, dimensions, benefits, and implications of interactivity from a variety of perspectives. In an early attempt to define the term “interactive,” Heeter (1989) suggested six elements of interactivity in the functions of the Internet. These included alternative choices, efforts of users, availability of responsiveness, capacity of monitoring, convenience of adding information, and interpersonal communication. Morris and Ogan (1996) defined interactivity as an assumed attribute of interpersonal communication. According to their definition, interactivity can be mainly understood as a kind of two-way communication system from senders to receivers. However, such a definition of interactivity, which focused on human-to-human communication, was elaborated by the study of Cho and Leckenby (1999), in which they included another type of interaction between human and message in addition to the interaction between senders and receivers. Therefore, they defined the term, “interactive,” from an advertising perspective as “the degree to which a person actively engages in advertising processing by interacting with advertising messages and advertisers” (p. 163.).

Roehm and Haugtvedt (1999) also suggested the two dimensions of interactivity in terms of message and control dimensions. Therefore, they argued that interactivity can be divided into a total of four dimensions: “customer-controlled and content-oriented interactivity,” “customer-controlled and form-oriented interactivity,” “marketer-controlled and content-oriented interactivity,” and “marketer-controlled and form-oriented interactivity.” McMillan (2000) also identified four types of interactivity based on the variation in the direction of communication and control of the communication experience. According to her, the direction, time, and place of communication should be considered as important dimensions when an individual perceives interactivity in a particular medium. As a result, she presented the following four types of interactivity: packaged content (one-way communication with low receiver’s control), rich content (one-way communication with high receiver’s control), virtual transaction (two-way communication with low receiver’s control), and virtual community (two-way communication with high receiver’s control). For instance, receivers have a relatively limited control over the message that is provided by the sender in commercial websites (e.g. packaged content or virtual transaction). On the other hand, the level of receivers’ control on content is increased in case of search engines or newsgroups (e.g. rich content or virtual community).

Perspectives of Uses and Gratifications Research

The uses and gratifications theory is considered a psychological communication perspective that focuses on individual use and choice by assessing why people use media and the gratifications obtained from the media use (Severin and Tankard, 1997). Katz et al. (1974) said there are three basic tenets in this theory: first, media users are goal directed in their behavior; second, they are active media users; and finally, they are aware of their needs and select media to gratify their needs. Based on these assumptions, it is clearly shown that this theory emphasizes the role of audience initiative and activity (Rubin, 1994).

Since the basic concept of the uses and gratifications approach has a unique perspective on why people use certain media content, this perspective has been applied to a wide range of situations associated with mediated communications (Lin, 1999). As a result, the evolution of uses and gratification research has kept pace with development of the communication technologies. This means that the audiences’ motivations and decisions to use a certain type of mediated communication tool have been investigated by researchers whenever a new technology enters the stage of mass communication (Elliott and Rosenberg, 1987). As a result, uses and gratification studies have offered insights regarding the reasons why individuals use a certain medium of communication, sociodemographic descriptors of various types of media users, media behavior, and the relationship between expected and obtained gratifications resulting from certain media use motivations (Papacharissi and Rubin, 2000).

In addition, Rubin (1981) also developed ritualized and instrumental media use motivations in order to distinguish between audiences whose media consumption behavior is out of habit with less-defined gratification goals and whose media usage is more intentional and more involved with media content. Therefore, this theoretical development provided a useful theoretical construct to understand audience activity, which is one of the core concepts in the uses and gratification perspective. This means audiences’ patterns of media use, as well as attitudes and expectations toward media, can be more effectively analyzed by these media orientations (Rubin, 1994).

Internet Uses and Gratifications Research

Considering that the Internet is one of the most innovative communication media, it is natural that many researchers have examined psychological and behavioral tendencies of Internet users under the uses and gratifications perspective (Papacharissi and Rubin, 2000). Since one of the strengths of the Internet is its “interactivity,” the uses and gratification perspective, which contains “audience activity” as its core concept, is currently regarded as one of the most effective conceptual basis to study this medium. As a result, many researchers have offered this perspective in order to understand why people use the Internet and the number of gratifications derived from its use.

An early attempt of computer-mediated communication research (Rafaeli, 1986) suggested that people using university computer bulletin boards are satisfying the following needs: recreation, entertainment, and diversion as well as communication and learning about what others think. A decade later, Eighmey (1997) investigated the users of commercial websites based on the findings of previous research on radio and television. He also found that entertainment value, personal relevance, and information involvement are the three significant motivational factors for surfing commercial websites. In addition to Eighmey’s study, Korgaonkar and Wolin (1999) examined Internet users’ motivations and concerns by categorizing 41 items into the seven factors: social escapism, transactional security and privacy, information, interactive control, socialization, nontransactional privacy, and economic motivation. Subsequently, they investigated the relationship between the seven motivational factors and the three usage contexts: time spent on the Web, time spent on the Web for business and personal purposes, and purchase from a Web business. As a result, the findings indicated that the seven factors for using the Internet and demographic factors are significantly correlated with the three usage contexts. The results of their study suggested that people use the Internet not only for instrumental purposes to retrieve information but also for ritualistic purposes to seek entertainment and relaxation.

Lin’s findings (1999) provided a different approach from the previous computer-mediated communication studies of the uses and gratifications theory. She investigated both television and Internet use motives in order to examine the media substitution hypothesis. In this process, she also examined likely online-service adoption, which indicates possibility of visiting a certain website. The work sought to determine whether motives for the two media are related with the likely online access to a certain type of website. As a result, her study revealed that the users’ motives for both media are similar to each other. Only the motives for using the Internet significantly correlated with the likely online-service adoption.

In sum, it is shown that the uses and gratifications perspective has been quite effective in gaining a better understanding of the motivations and concerns for using the Internet. Nonetheless, some uncertainties still exist in whether the Internet users’ motivation can explain additional aspects of the medium in terms of its role as an advertising medium. A particularly unexamined area at the present time is how the medium is used simultaneously by segments of global audiences. Considering that audience activity is one of the key components of the uses and gratifications research, it is expected that audiences are purposive and active based on their various needs, especially when they react to interactive advertising in the Internet (Flanagin and Metzger, 2001). Therefore, the uses and gratifications research for global interactive advertising should begin with what the core motives of global audiences are and how they are different across cultures or countries.

Defining Cultural Differences Online

A great deal of research on global advertising has examined how advertising in various countries or regions is similar to or differs from advertising in another country or region. Content analysis techniques have often compared specific executional appeals and design elements to determine whether the cultural differences between one specific country’s advertising styles are unique from another. Cutitta, a global communications professional responsible for the flow of international advertising into information technology newspapers and magazines in 75 countries stated, “Cultural baggage is as relevant in cyberspace as it is on paper and ink. The age-old question of ‘how do I keep global advertising interesting without offending anyone?’ does not go away” (1998, p. 158). Thus, forgetting or ignoring the lessons of years of multinational corporations missteps and failures for products and services and hundreds of research studies underscoring distinct cultural differences are foolish and ineffective. Cultural differences and adaptations to move closer to or not to offend consumers are as relevant to the environment that surrounds global interactive advertising as it have been to traditional forms of advertising.

The next paragraphs will review some of the most broadly applied cultural concepts in global advertising and underscore their important implications in cyberspace. Perhaps one of the most often used concepts to compare various forms of advertising to one another has been the concept of high-context and low-context communication styles. De Mooij (1998) stated that “In high-context cultures, people implicitly and imperceptibly collect information from their network” (p. 157). In contrast, “people who do not have any information networks require a great deal of detailed information from other sources … they focus on bits of information.” These persons’ communication styles are referred to as low-context. While the online environment places the consumer in control of the amount of information one may choose to receive via their own navigational decisions on a website for example, the amount of content and the density of content should be culturally taken into consideration by those planning communication efforts.

Also frequently used in comparing cultures are Hofstede’s (1991) five dimensions: Individualism versus Collectivism; Masculinity versus Femininity; Power Distance; Uncertainty Avoidance; and Long-term Orientation. While the dimensional model of cultural comparison was initially used to explain differences in the work-related values of global personnel working for IBM, Hofstede’s five dimensions have been effectively applied to people’s consumption-related values and motives. A factor to note is the highly complimentary nature of the core purpose of the uses and gratifications perspective to understand individual needs, uses and gratifications during media engagement with that of Hofstede’s five cultural dimensions. Although the researchers will not elaborate specifically on each of the five dimensions, in 1995 data using Hofstede’s dimensions were linked to the results of the European Media & Marketing Survey (EMS) and to the Reader’s Digest Eurodata – A Consumer Survey of 17 European countries (De Mooij, 1998, p. 73).

Research has shown that some cultures have a more direct mode of communication. This is particularly true when cultures are highly individualistic. A more indirect mode of communication has been associated with collectivist cultures. Other cultural comparisons have been made between the degrees of informational versus emotional information used when communicating via cross-cultural advertising. While the examples of concepts that are often used in comparing cross-cultural advertising are far from exhaustive, these examples were given to underscore the importance of strategically considering cultural influences that enhance global interactive advertising’s effectiveness. While the technological infrastructure appears to favor a high degree of standardization, a hybrid strategic approach is well-suited to employ a central global strategic “footprint” while simultaneously allowing for culturally relevant and appropriate content levels, complexities, photographic and illustrative decisions, and specific lifestyle reflections. Just as in the case of calibrating each of the marketing communication mixes, the various levels of interactivity and cultural awareness must both be strategically taken into account.

Backgrounds of Global Interactive Advertising

As Levitt (1983) strongly asserted the importance of “globalization,” global marketing has become quite a keyword for many advertisers in dealing with their worldwide consumers and competitors (Batra et al., 1995). As a result, innumerable companies are finding sales and targeting global consumers in these consistently growing markets. However, targeting the global market has not necessarily brought success to many companies because it requires many conditions, such as financial resources, advanced technologies, international networks, etc. (Domzal and Kernan, 1993). In addition, it has been particularly important for global companies to communicate with a variety of consumers in the world. For this reason, the importance of global advertising has been significantly increased to let worldwide consumers know about products, to build brands, and to create positive multinational corporate images.

On the other hand, the growth of global media venues makes it possible for consumers to equally receive a number of cultural products, such as films, magazines, music and television programs, across countries. Considering that the global media also deliver advertising to worldwide audiences, it can be assumed that consumers across the world can equally understand the intended message of a multinational advertiser at the same time (McCullough, 1996). However, most global advertisements have been delivered via traditional media, hardly allowing for interaction between companies and consumers due to its one-way communication from advertiser to consumers. In other words, consumers have little control over either the way a product is presented or the amount of information provided by advertisers when they receive an advertising message through traditional media (Bezjian-Avery et al., 1998; Cho and Leckenby, 1999). Therefore, it remains a challenge for advertisers to adapt intended messages to meet the needs of consumers across the world. However, opportunities for both advertisers and consumers are considerably enhanced by the advent of the Internet, which possesses both strengths in terms of reaching targeted global segments and promising highly two-way interactive aspects.


According to Gilbert (2000), online advertising in Europe and Asia is expected to take off in 2001 and 2002 although it is still in its early stages. Since the Internet is an international medium, and the global markets are not cluttered as the domestic market is, many interactive agencies are rushing to establish international offices, hoping to help clients globally expand as interactive advertisers. In this process, many interactive agencies insist that they are growing organically by setting up outposts rather than acquiring existing foreign agencies in other countries because there are few interactive agencies outside the U.S. that can effectively handle the needs of global advertisers. As a result, some interactive agencies are expanding boldly and broadly in hopes of obtaining rewards from global positioning. Nonetheless, it still seems that few interactive agencies are doing any substantial work for clients in their foreign subsidiaries because most of their services targeting either domestic or foreign markets can be executed in the U. S.

On the other hand, most larger traditional agencies and agency holding companies have greatly expanded their international networks through full- or part-ownership of local agencies, joint ventures, and strategic alliances. That means it may be easier for interactive agencies affiliated with traditional agencies to expand internationally. For instance, DDB Digital has 26 offices in 20 countries, and Grey Interactive has 31 offices in 24 countries in Asia, Europe, and Latin America, while iXL and Sapient, two of the largest unaffiliated interactive agencies, only have less than ten foreign offices, respectively. While more interactive agencies will try to grow their presence in the global market, most interactive agencies tend to adopt a more centralized approach in their global marketing strategy. The rationale behind the tendency suggests that the messages are mainly created and distributed top-down from corporate headquarters. Therefore, consistency in infrastructure and strategic cooperation and collaboration between the headquarters and its country-specific or regional offices are considered key factors in developing the best practices of global interactive advertising. (For complete findings of global advertising best practices study, go to Global Best Practices on the International Advertising Association website at:

Defining of Global Interactive Advertising

A definition of global interactive advertising must encompass the multidimensional concepts of both words “global” and “interactive.” A definition must also contain an understanding of marketing communication in the way that makes worldwide consumers voluntarily express their personal interests and needs toward a product or service by exchanging a certain message with advertisers in the Internet. A definition must also reflect the strategically intended purpose of this form of global advertising.

A definition must not be too narrow to only consider the current technologies. Today one may interpret the process of interactive advertising as one of the following activities such as, clicking a banner ad, entering a commercial website, looking for a specific product, sending an e-mail for more information, making an order and so on. Therefore, the definition of global interactive advertising cannot be limited to any specific tool of the Internet advertising, such as banner ads, interstitials, and pop-up windows as this rapidly developing area is sure to create unimaginable new technologies today. Instead, a definition of global interactive advertising should be interpreted as playing a role in both traditional and non-traditional marketing communications activities targeted to diverse local, regional and global marketplaces.

Cho and Leckenby’s (1999) definition of interactive advertising has shown insight into accommodating for the multidimensional nature of interactivity. A previous discussion in the various forms and differences that lie in the location, types of markets and the strategic organizational structures operating simultaneously in the home (domestic) and foreign marketplace.

In the inaugural issue of the Journal of Interactive Advertising, editors Li and Leckenby (2000) defined interactive advertising as the “paid and unpaid presentation and promotion of products, services and ideas by an identified sponsor through mediated means involving mutual action between consumers and producers.” The editors stated that, “We look forward with you to rigorous debate about what interactive advertising means and what it holds for the future.” Therefore, this research has sought to define and clarify what is meant by “global” and to examine what it meant by the word “interactive.” Likewise, the researchers have tried to underscore the point that, just as in traditional advertising, strategic planning and intent to communicate with and target a specific segment is essential. The temptation of thinking that all interactive advertising is global because anyone with a computer and a modem has access to the website is erroneous. Likewise, forgetting the lessons learned from global advertising professionals and academicians about cultural differences and effective message construction would be counterproductive. It is the hope of the current researchers that by pointing out the complexities of each term, as well as avoiding the temptation to imply that all interactive advertising is global, has been the purpose of this study. Therefore, the researchers offer this definition of global interactive advertising for consideration. Global interactive advertising can be defined as, cross-cultural marketing communications that are deliberately planned and executed to actively engage persons in advertising processing through interactivity as a part of overall localized, regionalized or worldwide strategic communication efforts.

Based on the global Internet business model presented by Quelch and Klein (1996), there are two major roles of global interactive advertising. On the one hand, global interactive advertising can increase worldwide transactions by establishing a localized relationship with international consumers. For example, many multinational companies, such as P&G, Sony, Hewlett Packard, and Microsoft, are providing several versions of their website by focusing on non-English speaking consumers with their local languages. In this attempt, most companies use a specific country domain name, such as “” (Japan) and “” (Korea) instead of “com.” Therefore, a consumer in Korea can enter “” without worrying about using English and purchase the same product as the American consumers do from “” On the other hand, global interactive advertising can also develop a standardized brand image by the identical combination of content, graphics, backgrounds, and multimedia effects throughout all of their websites in different languages. For instance, the homepages of Coca-Cola appear in similar graphics and music no matter which country domain name is typed after “www.cocacola.”

Considering that building a certain consistency of brand imagery worldwide is not an easy task through traditional advertising media (Batra et al., 1995), global interactive advertising can play an important role in establishing corporate and brand consistency and strong equity, while simultaneously allowing flexibility in being culturally sensitive to engage persons in advertising processing through interactivity. Only through future research efforts that attempt to apply this proposed definition of global interactive advertising will the relevancy and “goodness of fit” be validated or rejected.


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About the Authors

Marilyn S. Roberts is Associate Professor and Assistant Dean for Graduate Studies and Research in the College of Journalism and Communications at the University of Florida.
Hanjun Ko is currently a second-year doctoral student in the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications.