Translation of advertising campaigns: creativity and translation

In this post we want to talk about what happens when a company from one country decides to advertise in another country. Companies want their products to be marketed worldwide and this is where translation is of vital importance.

Advertising professionals face the dilemma of how to sell their products in a different environment and culture. A single common message for everyone or a different message for each country?

In many cases, advertising agencies opt for the second option and rewrite campaigns almost from scratch, adapting them to the social and communicative contexts of the country they aim at, as cultural differences between countries make this much more appropriate.

However, when this is not the case, there is a type of translation project in which not only do you have to get your “translator” facet out, faithful to the meaning of each message, but you also have the opportunity to get the “creative” facet to work.

Among the many projects that we have carried out in our years of work, some of the most curious and interesting ones were carried out for advertising or marketing agencies.

Translating an advertising message: localization

Chinese advertising translation

It is often necessary to adapt texts with a rich content of local culture to be published in a country with a totally different culture. In these cases, the translator cannot (and should not) simply translate the text. You should conduct proactive research to provide the advertiser with alternatives to that message, including both text and image: modifications to the original text to make it understandable in the target country or even similar stories that could be adapted to the content of the message.

This means that the advertising texts of brochures, posters, etc. are almost completely transformed during the translation process. This process of adaptation is called “localization”.

As we said at the beginning of the article, cultural differences can make it worthwhile to start planning each campaign from scratch in each country. But this does not mean that it is not convenient to have the services of a translator. In the end, in these cases, the translation is much more than just replacing one word with another.

Translators can bring knowledge (and advice) to the advertiser about local stories, about people’s profiles and preferences in fields such as religion or even colours, about understanding word games and double meanings and about many other aspects that can make the difference between a successful or failed campaign. We act as a kind of cultural mediator.

For example, in some societies, which might include, to some extent, the Chinese-speaking population, it is preferable to use a more emotional profile to sell a car, but in others it is much more effective to carry out an analytical campaign on highly technical aspects of the vehicle. An advertiser might not know this, but a translator does.

Some not-so-successful campaigns

Advertisement translation Chinese

We have recovered for illustrative purposes some of these “localizations” of texts that were found to be not very appropriate.

The Parkerpen company launched the following slogan on the Mexican market: “It won’t go out of your pocket and get you pregnant. In this case, rather than localization, the problem was the mistranslation of the term “embarrass”.

With Chinese, you always have to be especially careful. There are not many good Chinese translators and one of Pepsi’s campaigns in the US translated “Come alive with the Pepsi generation” into Mandarin as “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave”. A property that the refreshing drink doesn’t have at the moment.

In another case, the company Gerber, dedicated to child nutrition, made a packaging for Africa with a picture of a smiling baby. What they didn’t know, and possibly a translator did, is that the products there usually have a picture of what they contain, since most people are illiterate.

The interesting thing about all this localization stuff is that, without realizing it, it’s something we’re dealing with every day. We hope that this topic has been as interesting to you as it is to us and that, of course, you can count on YBD Translations for your translation work which might need creativity and culture sense.