Localization and Advertising Campaigns Gone Wrong

July 24th, 2015
Localization and Advertising Campaigns Gone Wrong | One Hour Translation

In this article we’ll show you some advertising examples where there’s obviously been failure in either translation or localization.

We all understand the importance of hiring a professional translator when a translation is required, and we also understand the important of localization. In this article we’ll show you some advertising examples where there’s obviously been failure on both counts!

Germany? I Don’t Think So!

Do you recall a few years ago when a well-known hair product company released its new curling iron, known as Mist Stick? This product was very successful and, as usually occurs with successful products, they decided to expand their market. Germany was to be one of their new markets, but unfortunately they didn’t understand that ‘mist’ in German means manure! So we can understand why no-one in Germany was particularly interested in trying out this new hair product.

Finger Lickin’ Good

Our second example involves a well-known fast-food chain, where fried chicken is their speciality. They use the slogan ‘finger lickin’ good’, but when they expanded their franchises to China the translation became ‘eat your fingers off’. Again in China, another well-known refreshments slogan ‘xx brings you back to life’ was translated as ‘xx brings your ancestors back from the grave’!

Translating Advertisements Into Arabic

The following example is a mistake that’s been made by a number of brands when translating their advertisements into Arabic. As with some other languages, Arabic is written from right to left. So, when handling more graphic pieces this would entail inverting the entire graphic layout. But, a well-known drug company in the United States didn’t take this into account when launching their product in the United Arab Emirates, which included two drawings in an image depicting the before and after drug taking. When translating the campaign they changed the orientation of the text, but not the images, so the relation between text and images was inverted in the Arabic version: this meant the before taking the drug you were in great health, and after taking it you would be ill.

There have been other cases with laundry powder whereby the clothing was dirty after being washed with the new powder.

With just these few examples, it’s very clear that it’s vitally important to use a professional localization and translation service to avoid these types of very-costly mistakes.