Challenges of Advertising Translation and How to Overcome Them

Challenges of Advertising Translation and How to Overcome Them
Beth Worthy

Beth Worthy


Just Do It – the first thing that comes to mind is the brand – Nike. This is the power of advertising.

Billboards, television, radio, magazines, or newspapers, there is no way you can escape brands or their advertisements.

A brand is not just confined to one place or culture. Brands are now growing globally.

With the advertising industry reaching greater heights and brands making their international presence felt, the challenges of translating for the advertising industry are also multiplying. An advertisement written in one language cannot work for all. 

For instance, a German brand cannot advertise in the US, thinking that all Americans must be familiar with the German language. Here is when a translator comes into the picture.

An advertising industry translator should provide an apt translation with the same context and content that resonates with the brand’s value and image.

A translator is expected to convey the right message by using the right words, but advertising translation is not that simple.

It is necessary to highlight some of the challenges faced by translators while working in the advertising industry since an ad copy is sufficient to build or destroy a brand’s image.

Difficulty in Translating Mottos or Slogans

Translating mottos can be quite hard. The motto of a brand in one language cannot be exactly translated into another language.

The translated motto might have an entirely different meaning and may not always convey the original message. The brand will not be able to sustain itself in such a scenario.

Slogans, on the other hand, are also expected to fall flat. Slogans should instantly remind you of a brand.

By relying on translation services that merely provide literal translations, the essence of the catchphrase will be lost, and your brand value will be diluted.

Similarly, wordplay is another victim of advertising translation. It is nearly impossible to translate catchphrases and puns into another language.

Sometimes a native speaker might not get the pun, so how do you expect a language translator to follow suit?

Cultural Offences

The motto of The Monarchist League of Canada is ‘FidelitateConiuncti.’ Translated it means ‘Loyalty Blinds Us.’ But a literal translation into Arabic might result in a rather inappropriate slogan, ‘Loyalty to Blind Us!’

Professional translation services used here should possess sound knowledge of the local language and culture of the target audience.

The translated ad copy should be able to convey the exact message of the original one without hurting or offending anyone’s sentiments.

The ad copy or text must be translated in a manner that is well-understood by the target audience and should be relatable. If something is funny in one culture, it can be seen in a bad light in the other.

The consequences could be banning the brand or the product, and sometimes even altering the ad campaign to suit the target consumer.

Always keep the sentimental values in mind before taking the plunge.

Transcreation – The Problem Solver

Now that you are clear with the challenges in translating for the advertising industry, the next step is to find a way to overcome these hurdles.

Transcreation is a process where a message is translated into another language while maintaining the original text’s intent, tone, style, and context.

Transcreation is the right and appropriate way to deal with the challenge. To ascertain the success of your ad campaign, addressing the cultural nuances is a must.

A professional translator must have a thorough understanding of the culture of the target audience to come up with a smart, to-the-point, and culturally appropriate ad copy.

Transcreation is about effectively conveying the source message without compromising on the humor, usage of idioms, witty lines, and puns. Transcreation can be useful when translating taglines, wordplay, and country-specific phrases.

This is very useful to avoid messy cultural and colloquial translations. The logic behind it is to evoke the emotions and impact of the source text from your target text.

With word-for-word translation, the process of transcreation can take more of your resources and time, but the results are amazing.

You can always depend on professional translation services that are known to have a talented pool of native speakers and creative copywriters.

These skilled translators have the ability and experience to get your message across.

The End Result

In the advertising industry, there is no defined recipe for success.

However, if your ad campaign has fared well or the target audience has accepted your brand or product – you have won the battle.

It is important to understand your target consumer, study their culture in-depth, and connect with their ideologies and values.

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Beth Worthy

Beth Worthy

Beth Worthy is the Cofounder & President of GMR Transcription Services, Inc., a California-based company that has been providing accurate and fast transcription services since 2004. She has enjoyed nearly ten years of success at GMR, playing a pivotal role in the company's growth. Under Beth's leadership, GMR Transcription doubled its sales within two years, earning recognition as one of the OC Business Journal's fastest-growing private companies. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two kids.