Advertising translation, marketing translation, or ad translation, is just that — it means translating ads, be they video, audio, static images or text. Simple, right?
Actually, it’s not. Because there’s a lot more to ad translation than just converting the words from one language to another. An advertisement is composed of many elements besides the verbal ones, and all of them must be redirected to target your foreign audience.
You can break ad translation in as many steps as you like, depending on the business you are in, the size of your company, the number of languages you work with, and so on. The simplest breakdown is this: research your audience, decide what to keep and what to ditch, then create your foreign market advertisements. Let’s look at them in more detail.
Research your audience
1. What media are most used in your new market countries? In some countries, printed catalogues sent by mail are a thing of the past. In others, they are very much still in use. Running an e-mail campaign might work for some audiences, whereas for others WhatsApp messaging might be more effective. Your research must show what are the most strategic means for reaching your new audience.
2. What regional variants of the national language do your new prospects speak? For instance, Moroccan Arabic is different from Tunisian Arabic, which is different from the Levantine Arabic spoken in Jordan. If you are advertising in those three countries, you might have to translate your ad into each one of those dialects.
3. What images, words and cultural references will appeal positively to your audience? Is there anything about your original ad that will be incomprehensible, ridiculous, or offensive to your target audiences? The same colour for instance can have a different meaning in another culture from the one it has in your own culture. A hand gesture may mean something funny in one country, but be considered indecent in another. A pop culture reference which is immediately understood by one audience may be completely lost on another. You need to know what will attract your prospects and what is best avoided.
4. Does the layout of your ads work as it is? Does your French strapline take up more room than the original English one, so that you need to adapt it? Does the right-to-left Arabic text flow against the left-to-right image on your poster? These aspects may appear subtle, but they too are crucial.
Decide what to keep and what to ditch
Once you have all the information about your audience’s language and culture, you can decide what in your ads is likely to work as it is (images or sounds) what is best adapted (words that must be translated) and what needs to be recreated on purpose for your new audience. The latter implies going beyond translation and into transcreation — a good translation company should offer you both services.
Create your new advertisements
This is self-explanatory, right? Your marketing translation team will submit ideas to you, and after a few rounds of back-and-forth and a lot of creative work, you will have the right kind of message on the right kind of media for your foreign prospects.
This process will be very specific to your company, so instead of going deeper into it, let’s look at what some famous brands to with their advertising translation.
Examples of good ad translation
Nespresso — “Nespresso: what else?” Sometimes, a slogan works so well in one language it’s best not to translate it at all.
“What makes a woman feel beautiful?” has 34 characters. The literal translation “Qu’est-ce que fait qu’une femme se sente belle?” has 47 characters, so they went for a non-literal translation of only 33 characters:
“Ce qui rend les femmes si belles?”
McDonald’s — when they opened their first restaurant in Russia in 1990, McDonald’s advertised it with the slogan "If you can't go to America, come to McDonald's in Moscow." In the context of that era, this appealed to Russians a lot more than the slogan used in the US at that time: “It's a good time for the great taste of McDonald's”
These few examples show how careful big brands are about their advertising translation. If you want to do the same, choose to work with a company that offers high-quality marketing translation services. They will make sure you introduce your products to your foreign audiences with your best foot forward.