Pharma Ads: International Ads Don't Translate Well

Some of these ads make me facepalm. Some make me scratch my head. Others make me laugh. One thing these ads have in common is that you're not likely to see them if you're an American consumer. For one thing, these are all international ads. Some ideas and images may not translate well but that just makes it a fun challenge to figure out the meaning.

Senokot for Constipation - South Africa

Idi Amin likeness holding a box of Senokot, an aid for constipation. Advertising Agency: Euro RSCG, Johannesburg, South Africa

Here Idi Amin's likeness is holding a box of Senokot, an aid for constipation.

Ibuprom For Hangover Relief - Ukraine

"For the mornings after. Ibuprom.". Advertising Agency: Kaffeine, Kiev, Ukraine

A related ad shows a man's head being pecked by woodpeckers while enclosed in a bird cage. Talk about negative advertising.

Ibruprom is a pain medication manufactured by a Zdrowie, a polish pharmaceutical company.

Sindebax for Erectile Dysfunction - Mexico

The Japanese solution for erectile dysfunction. Advertising Agency: Publicis, Mexico

Sindebax is an erectile dysfunction pill. In this ad, a businessman encapsulated in a pill form is escorting his young female companion to a hotel room.

Sindebax is manufactured by the Japanese pharmaceutical company Daichii Sankyo.

Tagline: "Sindebax: The Japanese Solution for Erectile Dysfunction."

Nirlife Oneuse Disposable Syringes - India

Tagline: "Non-Disposable Syringes Are The Second Biggest Cause Of HIV.". Advertising Agency: DDB, India

This ad for disposable syringes is one of three in a series that depict sexual positions in a hospital room. Are they suggesting nurses are spreading HIV?

Oneuse Disposable Syringes are manufactured by Nirlife Healthcare of India.

Viagra Ad - Kenya

Viagra ad published in Kenya. Advertising Agency: ADCC, Nairobi, Kenya

This ad for Pfizer's Viagra features a line drawing of a muscled man bursting out of his clothes like The Hulk. He has a horse head. Do horses still conjure up images of virility?

Tagline: "Viagra. Unleash the Beast”

Enzym Lefax - Germany

Eaten heavily?. Advertising School: European school of design, Frankfurt, Germany

Enzym Lefax is for indigestion. This ad shows a cement mixer inserted in a heavy belly with some disturbing looking contents inside.

Enzym Lefax is manufactured by Bayer in Germany.

Benzac for Acne - Colombia

Advertising Agency: Ogilvy & Mather, Bogota, Colombia

In this ad for Galderma's Benzac, an acne medication, we see an infected pimple is literally serving as a barrier between a couple.

Benzac is manufactured by Galderma in Columbia.

Itchguard - India

Tagline: "Use your mind not your hands. Itchguard: The itch relief specialist". Advertising School: J.J. Institute of Applied Art, India

Itchguard ad for itch relief. This cartoon ad depicts a soldier busily scratching when he should be aware of an incoming rocket.

Chofitol for Indigestion - Argentina

Tagline: "Don't let food make you feel bad.". Advertising Agency: ADN Comunicación, Buenos Aires, Argentin

This lamb is cute but what does it have to do with indigestion? Related ads in the series feature a bunny and a baby pig, also set against a soft pastel background.

Luftal for Indigestion - Mexico

Tagline: “Not everyone can. Luftal, stops gas”. Advertising Agency: DraftFCB, Mexico City, Mexico

This ad features an illustration of dead people in a morgue with a mortician, presumably releasing body gasses. This ad appeals to those with a dark sense of humor.

Did you notice while looking at these ads that they were all done by local advertising agencies or institutes? Companies have learned through trial and error (and common sense) that what motivates American audiences may turn off an audience in a Latin American, European or Asian country – and vice versa.

When marketing a product internationally, the language difference is the most obvious barrier to address. But it's just as important to recognize and pitch to cultural preferences and motivations as it is to have an accurate translation.

An ad that is considered humorous in one culture may be seen as confusing or distasteful to someone not of that culture. The advertising agency you work with should have a clear understanding of the values, morals, and customs of any country where you intend to successfully market your product.