Advertising to an International Audience Using Translation

September 30th, 2009

A professional translation's effectiveness depends mostly on its ability to bridge cultural gaps by interpreting language as well as understanding mores and traditions. More to the point, in order for an international marketing strategy to work, a translation service must fulfill the role of translator and localizer at the same time. Because of the globalization trend, any human translation agency that's worth its salt must offer both translation and localization services to its clients. For many a business, localization and translation are nigh-synonymous to each other in terms of global advertising. To illustrate, let's discuss several popular localization techniques when it comes to accommodating a promotional campaign from one culture to another. The Graphic Adaptation Technique Our first example of a well-crafted international advertisement implements a localization technique called "graphic adaptation". This tactic uses an advertising framework that's based on localized imagery as much as translated copy. In a poster for a Tuscany-based perfume company catering to an Arabic audience, the localizers transformed the ad's framework by adapting the background image in accordance to the socio-cultural environment of the target audience. The "Italian"-based ambiance of the original perfume ad was replaced in favor of a more Mediterranean "street scene". This simple yet deliberate change helped a lot in selling the product in accordance to the host country's tastes. Just like how a human translation expert would maintain a balance between original message and cultural adaptation to form a pragmatic professional translation, a translation service offering localization assistance would also do the same in terms of image selection. As the saying goes, "When in Rome, do what the Romans do." The replacement of the original Tuscan iconography with that of images and pictures (cafes and terraces) that the Arabic consumers are more familiar with isn't simpleminded pandering to the consumer base at all; it's instead another form of translation that succeeds in communicating the intended message by creating another instance that the audience would more readily identify with. Symbolism, Iconography, and Localization In regards to the symbolism represented by the imagery of the localized ad, translators must know what to retain or what to change. Just because localization has become quite popular, it doesn't necessarily mean that faithfulness to the original context should be abandoned altogether. In the above example, the French and Arabic versions of the same perfume ad retained the female protagonist at the center of the image and the perfume bottle at the bottom right corner of the poster. The main character's smile is still present, and so are the extras. It's the same message, but it uses a different approach to present it. Tragically, most translation services misinterpret localization as a carte blanche to change everything in an ad, as though they were the ones doing the marketing department's job. That's a big mistake. Comprehensibility of the original message is still their main goal, but with the added caveat of using cultural context to deliver that message; nothing more, nothing less. ---

One Hour Translation is the world’s fastest professional translation service. One Hour Translation provides Fast, High Quality Expert Translation service on a 24/7 basis thanks to a community of over 8000 certified translators from all over the world.

You might also like: