Think globally act globally

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The internet is a global medium, yet how many online ad campaigns speak to an international audience?

Surprisingly few, according to Planet Leap Global Communications, the Leapnet subsidiary formerly named YAR Communications.

New York-based Planet Leap works with agencies or directly with clients to translate U.S.-centric Web sites, advertising campaigns, branding and other marketing for markets all around the world.


"It's so obviously an efficient global medium, but there's been a vacuum of clients using the Web for global advertising campaigns," says Tom Sharbaugh, president of Planet Leap. "The projections that we've seen are that the next five years are going to be a stupendously busy time for companies that do what we do."

For instance, Planet Leap is designing a site for a major hotel holding company enabling it to book room reservations at any of its chains around the world. The international site launches this fall.

Planet Leap wouldn't disclose the client, though Leapnet is known to have signed a major Internet consulting project with Starwood Hotels & Resorts, parent of the Sheraton, Westin and W hotel chains.


Logistics are among top reasons more marketers don't advertise online globally, executives at Planet Leap contend.

Planet Leap has done global branding for marketers such as Apple Computer, working with MarchFirst for the global launch of the iMac. It has also created a consumer site for AT&T Corp. in India and adapted Nike's 1996 Olympic games Web site into 26 different languages.

Challenges e-tailers face include a system to handle orders in multiple languages, currencies and cultures. All the while, e-tailers are struggling with how to conduct online sales without antagonizing offline distribution channels.

Setting up a global Web site "needs to be their first step," says Mr. Sharbaugh. Without a site "they have no response vehicle" to which ad banners can link.


Marketers "took time to get it right domestically," says Scott Daniels, VP-director of client services at Planet Leap. "In order to go global, companies need to take a great step backward to go forward. They've set their systems up domestically."

Mr. Sharbaugh says the classic example is building the perfect English-language Web site for North America. If a marketer wants to handle European traffic, the site needs to more than double its capacity; in German, for instance, copy takes up twice as much space as English.

"If you haven't planned for that up front, you're in for a major reconstruction," Mr. Sharbaugh says.


Planet Leap says between 80% and 90% of its new clients are interested in Internet projects.

However, marketers that lack global Web plans have plenty of company.

Global online advertising is "just really hard," says Jim Nail, senior analyst at Forrester Research. "We're just beginning to reach a point in Europe where there's sufficient Internet penetration."


Trying to come up with a successful global offline ad campaign is difficult enough, he adds, but technological and access issues complicate the matter on the Internet.

Issues range from having telecommunications companies structured differently in every country to people who access the Net in many different ways -- via their PCs, phones, wireless devices and interactive TVs.

Even so, says Mr. Nail, "There needs to be more global thought. We're starting to reach the point where we need to think about things."

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