9 Strategic Tips for International Targeting

panels that have graphics representing different countries around the world to convey international targeting

One major benefit of digital advertising is the ability to run campaigns in any location, regardless of where you are launching them from. With international targeting, you’re able to reach audiences in any location you desire, and in their language.  

Reaching an international audience with your campaigns can increase awareness, revenue, and foster a more established brand presence. As technology has allowed people to better communicate globally, advertising across borders has become the natural next step for companies to amplify their brand voice and expand their consumer base. 

Read on to learn what international targeting is, and get 9 strategic tips that you can use to build campaigns that engage specific geographic audiences. 

What is International Targeting?

International targeting is the process of optimizing your digital campaigns to reach audiences from a specific region or country, or audiences who speak different languages. 

9 Tips for International Targeting in Advertising

1. Adapt Your Digital Strategy

An international targeting strategy is more complex than just translating collateral to another language. Your strategy should actually localize the messaging so that it resonates with different audiences around the globe. 

Just because ad messaging works in one region, doesn’t mean it’ll resonate in the same way in another region. To adapt your messaging for audiences across the globe, get to know that local audience well. Learn what they need, in what formats, and what channels they spend time on. 

2. Consider What Language to Use

There are so many languages spoken around the world. In most countries, several are spoken.  When it comes time to build your international targeting campaign, a common strategy is to use English as the default for targeting—assuming that there are enough users that understand the language in your target region. 

Although this may be the simplest approach, a better way to appeal to the target audience is to speak their language. Start by researching the country you’re targeting to see what languages are commonly spoken to encourage higher engagement rates from your chosen market.

Then, leverage language settings in your campaign to ensure it has the capacity to reach the right users with the right language settings on their device.

3. Take Account of Time Zones

When expanding your advertising efforts internationally, keep in mind the time zone settings of your campaign. Ensure your ads will be displayed in the time zone of your selected geography and not the defaulted time zone in your account settings. 

Depending on your campaign strategy, you may have already tested running your campaign at specific times to maximize the visibility of your ad. For example, if it is a takeout option for dinner, showing ads between the hours of 3pm and 7pm would be ideal. 

With international targeting, these hours will differ depending on the time zone. Make sure you are aligning with the appropriate time zones, so that you don’t waste your media budget on times that are irrelevant to the campaign. 

Start by separating your campaign line items by geo. This will allow you to take advantage of dayparting options. You can then identify the exact hour you plan on launching and ending your campaign, ensuring you have the most control over your media spend. 

Timing considerations are also met with date considerations. How long do you want the ad to be in-market for? Some countries are almost a full day ahead based on the difference in time, so you will want to consider ending your international campaigns a day earlier or a day later, depending on the time zone your account is set in. 

4. Remember Seasonality 

If you are running seasonal campaigns, based on specific weather or outdoor environments, determine whether the country you are targeting is in the northern or southern hemisphere. 

You should also consider how the people living there experience the seasons. For example, winter in the US is from December to February, but it is from June to August in Australia. Winters may also be mild in some countries and colder in others. 

Have a roster of appropriate creatives for each season to ensure the ads align with the temperature the audience is experiencing. For example, if your product is a refreshing drink, ensure the country you are serving it to is currently in summer, or serve them different messaging to align with the winter season.

5. Personalize Your Creative Messaging

Creative messaging is the core of your brand’s voice and a powerful advertising tool that can influence how your users perceive your brand. Engaging and personalized creatives will get users to visit your site and, as we all know, the more clicks, the better! 

In order to make sure you’re properly equipped with engaging ads, consider these 4 factors for your international targeting campaigns. 

Leverage translators wherever possible. If you have found that different languages are spoken widely in the country you are hoping to target, find ways to translate the messaging for your creatives—don’t solely put your faith in Google Translate. A foreign language will resonate with the user more instead of defaulting to English. Hire a contractor for creative translation, or ask around the office to see if someone on the team is comfortable translating!

Consider the localization nuances. Being aware of local nuances, such as currency, phone numbers, and email addresses to name a few will help you “fit in” to your targeted market. For example, if you include prices in your ad, you will want to ensure the appropriate currency symbol and punctuation is used.

Use appropriate subtitles. When it comes to video advertising, use subtitles to clearly outline the messaging in text format to complement the audio. This is a general tip for video ads, but is quite important if you are using ads in different languages—your subtitles should be translated as well. Alternatively, like a foreign movie you can use subtitles to complement the original language in your video ad.

Respectfully showcase cultural references. Use fonts, colours, or show people doing activities in the ads that match the culture and style of the country you’re advertising to. Making the ad as relatable as possible to the country you are advertising to is imperative to your creative’s success. Coca Cola is completely rebranded in every single country for a reason. Why should your ads be any different?

6. Research Local Device Usage Trends

As you set your sights on international audiences, the types of ads you will run will be influenced by the devices they use. Device use differs internationally. China, India, and the US lead with the highest numbers of smartphone users, whereas other countries have significantly fewer. 

It’s important to determine what devices are being used by your target audience, and build your campaigns and creatives accordingly. For example, you’ll want to optimize your mobile ad creative for campaigns that are running in regions where mobile use is dominant.

7. Ensure Your Campaign Is Compliant

International targeting can be very beneficial to your company’s growth, but there are some international policies to keep in mind. It’s important to comply with the policies that are in place for specific regions because this ensures your campaigns can run. One pronounced law, specifically enforced in Europe since 2018, is GDPR, or General Data Protection Regulation. 

This law was created by the European Union (EU) to enforce the protection of user’s personal data, ensuring that users are consenting—via consent gate—to be tracked via cookies while browsing the web. More specifically, to be compliant with the law, your site must contain the following message:

“Consent must be clearly given for processing of personal data, the data subject must be made aware of how the information will be used, and they must have the ability to withdraw consent at any time.”

In order to have your site be compliant to run in the EU, you must ensure that your domain has a visible consent gate, similar to the one below:

a cookie consent notification that reads "Our Website Uses Cookies" and explains why cookies are helpful.

If you’re wondering how to get this consent gate created, consider installing a plug-in to help you build a pre-made gate, or you can consult with your site development team to build one with custom code. If you’re running your next campaign in Europe, make sure you are asking for consent from the user to track their data—explaining how their data will be used and giving them an opt-out option if necessary.

Keep in mind, Europe is not the only region that has privacy laws in place for online advertising. Some countries have differing policies based on region—like CCPA in California.

Before you launch your digital campaign in new localities, it’s imperative that you double check your landing page’s domain to ensure you are complying with the digital laws of the countries (or regions) you wish to run in. 

8. Set Realistic Expectations For Campaign Scale

An important differentiator you need to keep in mind when running international campaigns is scale. It is much easier to run a campaign with plenty of scale when targeting English speakers in the US, but that is not true for all international campaigns. 

The number of available impressions is composed of the number of users that are online in that country, and the amount in international ad inventory. Contextual targeting is one of the best ways to ensure international scale. 

Stay flexible with your targeting strategy, so you can test which targeting methods work best for your international campaign. It’s also important to be patient! If you’re launching in a new market, it will take time to see the results of your efforts. Building brand awareness doesn’t happen overnight. 

9. Choose the Right Programmatic Channels

To effectively reach intended international audiences, you can tap into emerging programmatic channels like programmatic audio, digital out-of-home (DOOH), and in-game advertising. Adding these rising programmatic channels to your digital strategy will enable you to reach audiences using channels that capture attention. 

The key? Ensure the programmatic channels you want to run (particularly if you’re running a multi-channel campaign) are prominent in the regions you’re targeting. For example, in 2022, 67% of Americans listened to digital audio, a 5% increase year-over-year, whereas growth of digital audio listenership has been slower in China

Get Started With International Targeting

With the right foresight and planning, programmatic advertising can be a very effective and cost-efficient way of bringing international awareness and engagement to your brand. 

Want to leverage international targeting in your campaign strategy? Request a demo to learn more about StackAdapt. 

Alexandra Jakubowski
Alexandra Jakubowski

Senior Product Marketing Manager


Alexandra is interested in discovering the best advertising solutions to drive results. She’s responsible for bringing StackAdapt’s new offerings to market—getting new products into the hands of exceptional digital marketers, so they get the best value out of StackAdapt.