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Neighbours Are Not Twins – Why Knowing *Every* Market Is Crucial

I work for a PPC agency that advertises across nations and in most cases, we use native language speakers to run campaigns for each country. This isn’t overkill, it’s essential.

If you’re based in a single country and trying to internationalise your customer base or formulate an international online strategy, it must go beyond simply regionalising your campaigns. This is because countries may be close to one another, or even neighbours, but they can harbour radically different characteristics that materially affect how you would build your digital marketing.

Even Europe, with the inevitable homogenising effect of EU membership and the common currency, nevertheless is enormously diverse in a number of societal, infrastructural and economic ways. I’ll take a classic example of this and outline the differences between Iberian siblings, Spain and Portugal.

There are lots of official sources of data available through EU sites but Google has helpfully brought them together in this tool if you’re researching countries and I’ll pick out some of the official statistics to illustrate the diversity I’m thinking of.


  • Most of Portugal broadband penetration is only about two thirds that of Spain.
  • Portugal has prohibitively expensive data plans for mobile devices, so smartphone penetrations is much lower (at 18%) than Spain (at 44%).


  • Portugal’s population is older than Spain’s (Median age in Portugal is 40.4 vs Spain’s 39.5)
  • Portugal’s births are 5% less than its deaths, whilst Spain’s births are 25% higher than deaths so demography is continuing to diverge in this respect.
  • Under 20% of Portuguese 30-34 year olds have passed Tertiary Education vs Spain’s 40%
  • However, there are around 6400 Portuguese with Post-Graduate qualifications (e.g. Doctorates) vs the far larger Spain’s 7200.


  • Portugal’s unemployment rate is around 10% vs Spain’s 26% (up from 9% in 2008!)
  • Employment rates are 62.3% (Portugal) vs 55% (Spain).
  • Portugal, however, is in the deeper recession when measuring GDP.
  • Portugal’s GDP is about 80% of the EU average whilst Spain’s is slightly higher than the average.
  • Portugal’s average wage is around €6,000 lower than Spain’s.
  • Tax receipts are disproportionately higher in Portugal since tax on goods and services is double that of Spain.
  • This is not offset by the lower income taxes seen in Portugal.


  • Portugal is a Republic
  • Spain has a constitutional monarchy

Daily domestic culture:

  • Lunch and dinner is taken hours earlier in Portugal than in Spain
  • The Portuguese don’t go in for Tapas – which are one of the causes for the late Spanish dinner time.
  • This means that the working Portuguese are more often at home than the working Spanish since tapas keep the latter out of the home until later in the evening.

So you put all this together and you can see that many of these disparate comparisons could play heavily into any marketing approach depending on what you’re advertising.

Did this challenge any of your assumptions? I was certainly surprised from my perspective at the large education difference, the big employment difference and the mobile data use difference.

So if I had simply done a “copy-and-paste” of my Spanish campaigns along with some translation, I would have started off completely on the wrong foot.

Have you discovered any large differences between neighbours that affected your marketing efforts? Leave a comment.

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Steven Plimmer

Senior Creative & Analytics Manager at eSearchVision
Born and based in the UK, Steve is embarking on his 7th year in the PPC industry after starting by working at the embryonic Microsoft adCenter (now Bing Ads) in 2006 helping clients optimise accounts. Steve has been with eSearchVision since early 2011 managing a range of accounts large and small in a host of industry verticals. A number of accounts he has worked on involve multi-lingual and multi-market campaigns. Prior to working in PPC, he has worked for four years in the Academic Information Database sector. His hobbies include photography, music, writing and travel.

One Response to Neighbours Are Not Twins – Why Knowing *Every* Market Is Crucial

  1. […] From an international perspective, you could benefit from more time-saving options that might immediately occur to you. For example, you could target multiple countries with shared languages (e.g. Germany, Austria and Switzerland) and bidding different location-based multipliers for each based on performance.  (Health Warning: This will only be a sensible thing to do if the keywords, landing pages and messaging all match the local markets. Neighbouring markets may still be radically different even if they share a language.) […]

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