For advertising campaigns which expand beyond national borders, the importance of effectively reaching consumers in other countries is critical. Without intimate knowledge of the languages of each market, translation is often outsourced. However, in an industry where each word, typeface and even punctuation mark is heavily scrutinised before going to print, can translation be enough?
Examples of translation in advertising going wrong are extensive (and often ridiculous). Want to go to Germany to buy Clairol’s curling iron – the Mist Stick? Just ask for a ‘Crap Stick’. Depending on where you’re from, it might be ‘Finger Lickin’ Good’ or you might have to ‘Eat Your Fingers Off’. Ford could have avoided some trouble by just checking what ‘Pinto’ means in Brazilian Portugese before launching there. These are simple translation mistakes which could be avoided with a little research - anyone who has used Google Translate knows that word-for-word translation has its limitations - but this is just the tip of the iceberg and doesn’t even take into consideration linguistic relativity.
To invest in a language is to invest in an identity
Even if the translation matches perfectly to the original language, it doesn’t guarantee that the meaning is anywhere near to it. For example, research has suggested that speakers of languages without a future tense are less likely to take risks (smoking, investing etc.) than speakers of languages with more future tenses. The latter have a disassociation of the present and future in the way they communicate and therefore in their worldview. A single marketing campaign in two countries with differing tenses cannot be expected to have the same effect in each, no matter the quality of the translation.
This extends beyond expanding into new territories. In 2014, Adweek published that bilingual campaigns in the USA outperform those in soley English or Spanish, demonstrating that millenials are more multicultural than generations before, creating a greater need for agencies to understand language and culture than purely when approaching a new market. This research shows definitively that ignoring the role language plays in our culture can be done only at our peril - targeting ads to locations is not enough.
But it’s not all bad news for monolingual agencies. JWTIntelligence recently reported on MyIdol, a Chinese app that has managed to transcend language and culture despite only being available in Chinese. Although not all marketing can reach people independently of language, the success of campaigns which do not rely on full linguistic comprehension identify that there are alternative and creative ways to reach beyond linguistic borders.
Our industry is based on the understanding that the words we use communicate much more than the object they describe. Yet taking work that has been painstakingly created, developed and adapted, then translating it without the same care and attention to detail nullifies that effort and ultimately, the message. If we want to produce great work that communicates more than the words we use, we have to acknowledge the link between language and culture and strive to understand both. That way, we won’t get lost in translation.
Illustration by DDFH&B Art Director Aisling Dowling.
Bethan Davies is Office Manager
RT : Lovely work from in
RT : One of our most popular ads already, welcome to in the 70s!
RT : Something a little different for this time. Well done Gav & Leo :)
RT : Congratulations to and on winning the Craft Award for Copywriting.
And our third of the night is a bronze for EuroMillions with in the Best Art Direction category!
And it's a silver next for ourselves & for best FMCG/Retail for Money Multiplier !
First award of the night, is a bronze for Money Multiplier in best digital marketing campaign!…
Direct from SXSW 2017 this am with in the Poetry Society
Our new stings for sponsoring One Born Every Minute UK, directed by John Hardwick launch toni…
Amazing shoot and production experience with John Hardwick &
RT : Congrats on being shortlisted for your campaigns 👍👏👏
Delighted with our nominations for for . Now for cake!
Beautiful sunset in last night 🎬
You're all your baby needs with love from & all of us 💕💕💕
A short letter from our partners in honour of yesterday. Have a read :)
RT : Our study shows an increase in awareness…
Congrats to all shortlisted for 🏆
RT : Congratulations & on winning Best Creative for Money Multiplier at …
Ready to go here launch. Class setup
Did u see Shane Griffin ? Bet you didn't realise all the behind the scene on this ad!
Day two 🖌
RT : did it aga…
RT : Final round! The Best Creative winner is & for Money Multiplier …
Silver for best in retail and consumer goods 🏆🙏🏼✌🏻️
Bronze for best app/best use of mobile
Outdoor Retailer buck the trend on Black Friday, closing their doors and asking people to …
A great pop at Trump from Mexican microbew . Hiding in plain sight
RT : Thank you to the great and attentive audience. All the best to Dublin. Hope to see you soon!
RT : . is the winner of Best Rated - Large Format, congrats! Creative: Media: …
For the week thats in it presented this simple and fun use of Snapchat by Gatorade around the SuperBowl…
Thanks again to and for all of your help, hard work and inspiration this week 🙏💕…
Great session with , Chief Development Officer for Europe for on being a brilliant agency…
Our very own showcases campaigns from Latin America & beyond that show size & scale is no barrier to outstand…
Thanks for the shout out - the open invitation for all of us to come to is really too kind…
The lovely , JWT Chief Creative Content Officer kicks off - a week of inspiration from our global creative family
RT : Lil treat for
Roll up, roll up! Its Agency Week! JWT's greatest global minds, the very best has to offer and countl…
Live from the Conference this afternoon, awe inspiring speakers so far.
RT : It's not too late to get a jump on 2017. The ten words you need to know this year:
RT : Congratulations micheal You are a finalist DMAs
It's time for the much coveted Bonnie Baby Xmas Competition in DDs! Beautiful decorations on the Christmas…