E.g., 06/07/2020
E.g., 06/07/2020

10 Tips on Transcreation


18 April 2017

Transcreation is the process of adapting a creative campaign into another market with different linguistic and cultural “rules” whilst still keeping the overall tone and brand approach global.

Any creative marketing campaign would have had a lot of pre-planning, time and money going into it before embarking on the adaptation for the local markets; discussions between the creative team and the client develop over several long months, numerous meetings and dilemmas are faced before everybody is happy with the English copy.

When moving on to creating the copy for your other target markets, it would be a shame to rush and undermine all the hard work that has gone in to the English copy. It is important to understand that witty word puns/plays and even visuals often used in marketing campaigns are not very easy to adapt into another language or culture. To see this task as only translating a few words would be unwise. One has to make the end result (transcreation) look and feel as if it was conceived in the resulting language.

With that in mind, we have put together a few pointers that language teams within companies should consider for the process of transcreation, and that LSPs can share with clients as they consult and help determine what is necessary with the content.

1. Consider if it really is needed

As the process of transcreation is quite complex, it is important to understand when it is needed. In broad terms, the line between BTL (below the line, meaning internal communications etc.) and ATL (above the line, meaning material going into newspapers, television, and web etc.) can be seen as the dividing factor between translation and transcreation. For BTL the budgets are usually smaller and the client might not want to spend money on the higher transcreation rates.

On the other hand, not all ATL campaigns are necessarily very creative, but should still ideally receive the full transcreation treatment due to the fact that potentially millions of people can see the end result and thus all possible cultural issues and language barriers should be taken into consideration.

BTL can also be creative, but due to the format (maybe some creative headlines in a long copy brochure etc) or the platform (internal communications etc.) it is not usually given the transcreation treatment.

2. Cultural Consultation

Ideally, before embarking on the actual transcreation process, the concept should be tested and all possible issues already ironed out. It might be that the visuals (for example a wrong type of headscarf) are not quite right for your aimed markets, or it could be that the whole concept (for example references to kissing or dating) is not a good idea for some countries.

These examples might sound quite obvious and straightforward, but often, there are similar, yet less obvious nuances that can easily be missed if this step is not properly researced.

When the process of transcreation is started and the air/press dates are already booked, it is not exactly convenient having to start chasing approaches and visuals. Cultural consultation would often also reveal things about the competitor landscape in your aimed marked, which might change your approach as well.

3. Assets

At the beginning of the transcreation process, it is crucial to know what kind of media platforms the campaign will use. You should aim for consistency in every project and this might be hard to achieve if the copywriters do not know where exactly the headlines will be used.

We might have come up with a perfect line for a press advert, but due to certain restrictions, in digital banners for example, the line might not be usable. If this is clearly stated at the beginning of the project, the different character restrictions can be taken into consideration from the very beginning, the initial copy can be drafted so that it conforms to the requirements of different platforms.

4. Target audience

This can and will influence the language used a great deal. It is very important that we know the aimed target audience from the start, which could be revealed by just reading the copy. However, this might not always be the case and it is always best to have this confirmed.

5. Tone of voice

This is related to the target audience in the sense that it will affect the language we use. There should be some key words and ideas for the copywriters to consider. For example, we want it to sound “confident and determined” we do not want it to sound “boastful”. Pointing out and considering the tone of voice carefully will help the brand in establishing a global, easily recognisable sound and feel.

6. Visuals

In advertisement, the picture and the text should work together. Certain images will encourage the copywriters to pick particular words. Without images, one is working almost blindfolded. Therefore, when it comes to copy and transcreation, the visuals need to be available at the start of the process.

7. Briefing

All of the above (and few other points such as linguistic insights and brand vision) form the brief for copywriters. The briefing should be given time and careful consideration, as a properly written brief is already half the job done.

8. In-market based copywriters

As languages are always evolving, the assigned copywriters should always be in-market based. There are so many influences and trends, which can only truly be experienced if one lives in the country in question.

9. Time

There are quite a few issues to consider here and when talking about doing something creative, it is essential that it isn’t rushed. Even a simple press advert, consisting of a headline and body copy should be given a minimum of three working days to go through all the steps, from briefing to copywriting, from quality control to queries.

10. De-brief

As the global client most likely wants to be on top of the process and all the regions, they also need to understand the possible language barriers and cultural issues that have been faced in the transcreation. Take steps to ensure that the global client is aware of the reasons that have led us to take a certain approach and the cultural and language factors that determinated us to apply a certain transcreation approach.