Translating is difficult and translating ads is even more challenging and fraught with risks.

There are several types of ads that can be translated, including audio ads, print ads, TV ads. Nowadays there is also a large array of online ads (heavily using social media). The constant evolution of technology is constantly creating more opportunities for advertising. Such reach, naturally, requires working with languages in a global setting.

Preliminary Considerations Before Translating Ads

There are some preliminary considerations before setting out on translating any sort of content, including advertising.

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This post has been updated in October 2021.

Polishing

Very often, translators are confronted with lackluster texts in dire need of some editing. Should a translator polish an original text before translating it? Although there are some arguments in favor of polishing, it is best not to. It may take too much time and, crucially, a client may posit that such editing strays from the original text.

The only exception to this principle is if the client and translator agree on a preliminary edit. Such a process would require more time and probably added compensation for the translator/editor.

The problem with translating ads is that the copy will be pretty final, so to speak. The translation will most likely be a final product and become the script of an audio ad or the copy of a print campaign. There is a great risk in having translated copy which carries over problems from an original source-language text.

What to do? If problems are detected in the original copy, it is crucial that a translator talks with the client immediately. This copy, when translated into the target language, may get worse. The client is hence faced with a choice and should authorize a preliminary edit/polish.

Being Precise

Another preliminary topic before setting out on translating ads is that of precision. There is an unfortunate tension in translation between precision and aesthetics. This is a zero-sum affair; the more we try to be precise, the less we can write aesthetically. The more we try to make a translation read beautifully, the less literally precise it will be.

translating ads for language localization

A translator should always aspire to be precise above all else. When confronting a text, this process goes very much like that of polishing:

  • The translator evaluates the original text and sets out to create a literally precise translation.
  • When translating ads, sometimes the copy will call for a more aesthetic and less precise approach. The translator must discuss this need with the client.
  • The client must explicitly authorize this focus on aesthetics. Once this authorization occurs, the translator may set out to translate the advertising copy less literally and more aesthetically. Ultimately, this will benefit the work and its reception by a demographic and audience.
  • It is important to note, however, that even if the client authorizes an attempt for more aesthetics, such changes must be prudent. A translator should preserve meaning and intent at all costs. In any case, it is best to make as little changes to the original text as possible, even when straying from literal precision and towards aesthetics.

Localization

Localization is making content fit the characteristics of a particular place. This consists of a dual process of translation and localization: (a) translating the content and then (b) localizing it to the specific characteristics of the location.

Imagine translating ads for the Latin-American market (from English into Spanish). First, the ad must be translated, sure. Afterward, the tricky part begins. It is simply not enough to only have a standard translation. After the translation, it is important to localize the content for use in the specific market.

If the translated ad is going to Peru, for example, then it is important to either: (i) translate the content into some sort of neutral Spanish (think Mexico City neutral) or (ii) fully localize it into ‘Peruvian Spanish’. Such localization would demand focusing on Peruvian accent and jargon.

When we come to the translating process itself, we will realize that the process of localization can be applied in different moments. It can be undertaken in the process of translation or, after everything is done, a translator may choose to go through the text again and localize it.

Dubbing and Subtitles or Full Remake

A crucial question when translating ads is whether it is necessary to dub ads or simply subtitle. Alternatively, it is also important to consider if perhaps it is best to simply remake the whole ad. Note that these considerations vary if we are considering audio ads or video ads (audio ads will evidently not use subtitles).

Dubbing implies translating the script and then assembling a full cast of voice actors to provide new voices in the target language. Subtitling, on the other hand, simply requires the translation of the script and its use as text on the screen.

Remaking and ad is a whole new ballgame. There are times when simply changing the language of an ad will not to do and a total re-doing is needed. The client will have to choose between creating new subtitles, dubbing or remaking an ad altogether.

A translator can provide advice based on the following considerations: The key factor is being understood. If an ad can be understood merely by providing subtitles then, fine. If, however, the issue of localization previously explored, for instance, demands re-doing then this should be done. There are no hard and fast rules here, but rather an instinct for the market.

CAT Tools

When translating ads, the use of CAT tools is useful. The abbreviation stands for ‘Computer Assisted Translation’. This help centers around the following areas:

  • Translation Memory: This basically creates a memory of translated phrases. Whenever a phrase reappears in the original text, this memory suggests using the phrase/segment which was used already and is in storage.
  • Glossary: Another important function of CAT tools is being able to create a specific glossary of terminology. When one of these terms reappears, the glossary suggests using the term in storage. This glossary is quite similar to the translation memory, but it is a more deliberate compilation of terms by the human translator.

It is important to understand that CAT tools are not quite machine translation, like in the case of Google Translate. Machine translation creates a translation as such, whilst CAT tools are simply an aid for the translator.

CAT tools are particularly useful when translating ads which demand uniformity. If the campaign is quite vast, with many pieces of content, preserving the exact same translation for particular terms and words is crucial.

Translating Ads Process

There are several steps to translation which any reputable language specialist follows. Imagine that we have received and ad, with the following characteristics:

  • The ad has great copy written in the source language. No problem there and no need to polish or edit the original text.
  • Talks have been had with the client, who wants the translation to be as aesthetic as possible. There is free reign to stray from literal precision and towards aesthetics, within reason.
  • The campaign is in English (UK) and will be used in the Latin-American market at large. There is therefore a need to keep to a Neutral Latin American accent. The content will probably have to be voiced in Neutral Mexico accent.

Translate

Translation is, evidently, the meat and bones when translating ads. The key is to translate at a good pace but to do it with care. Missing a segment or phrase is a great risk, particularly in longer projects.

Some translators translate and then check that everything is there. This is a solid approach, though it is quite time-consuming. A better alternative is simply to translate and be mindful that everything is being translated and is there, simultaneously.

translating audio ads

Spell-Check

Once translation is done, it is time to check the work. Many translators prefer to give the work a read-through after they are done. Others, simply use a computer spell-check.

In longer projects, it is perhaps necessary to run a fast computer spell-check only. In smaller projects, and in ones where every word is crucial (like translating ads), it is better to give the work a final careful proofread.

Practical Example

Using the parameters mentioned above, let us consider this radio/audio ad, about nursing careers in the NHS. Imagine that it needs to be translated/adapted for recruitment in all of Latin-America of potential nurses for, say, the Red Cross:

Female narrator: We are here every day and every night of every year.
[Sound of ambulance siren/ hospital bed going through doors/footsteps down corridor.]
From new-born to old age.
[Sound of baby crying/scanner/beep of monitor/heartbeat/oxygen tank.]
We never panic.
[Phone ring tone/NHS employee answers: “How can I help?”]
We take a pulse, agree a plan, make a cuppa.
[Beep of heart monitor/talking/cup of tea being made.]
We’re doing our rounds… making our visits.
[Ring of a door bell/door opening/voice saying “Hiya”.]
We are Michelle, Adan, Alfie, Frankie, Yvonne. And at 3.49 this morning we were Maisie, too.
[A newborn baby’s cry.]
We are the NHS.
[Nurse leaves for the night saying “Night, love” to colleagues.]
We are recruiting now. Search “nursing careers”.

Challenges and Opportunities: NHS Ad

There are several problems with translating ads like this one into Spanish:

  • The first issue is the word “cuppa”. Tea is not widely used in Latin America. If we try to find the colloquial name for “coffee” in each market that the ad will appear, we will drive ourselves up the wall. The best translation is a standard “café”.
  • The other problem with this translation is in the names. Michelle, Adan, Alfie, Frankie, Yvonne and Maisie are unusual names in Latin America, obviously. The best alternative is to translate them into popular and relatively standard Latin-American names, which are similar: Miguel, Adrián, Alberto, Frankie (unusual but, why not), Ingrid, Manuela.
  • Since we are going to be translating into a standard Latin-American Spanish, we need to use standard form in writing and, crucially, we need to dub the ad with Mexico neutral voices.

Expert Translators of Ads

Bunny Studio has gained fame for its voice over/audio ad capacities. The platform, however, is also able to craft copy of all kinds, including print campaigns.

Crucially, it also has expertise in translating in all sorts of language combinations. Accordingly, it is in a great situation to be able to handle the full process of translating ads.

Clients looking to translate ads would be wise to consider Mr. Bunny.

Best of Luck with your Ads! Find the perfect translator today at Bunny Studio!