17 July

The Transcreation Tapes – the industry speaks

By Gordon Husbands | marketing translation, Transcreation | One comment so far

‘Transcreation’ has become a word much bandied around in the translation and localization industry. But to potential clients, what exactly is it, does it work, and where should it be used?

Over the years, I’ve discussed transcreation many times with a wide range of people both inside and outside our business. From people outside, the response is typically a short, “You do what?” accompanied by a worried look. Or else, “Really? Er, excuse me, there’s someone over there I need to talk to,” while they beat a hasty retreat. Inside the business, on the other hand, it appears to be a word heavily loaded with subtext: “Oh dear, this is going to be expensive,” or “These language services types sure do love their jargon.” In public, I have learned to follow the word ‘transcreation’ with “Let me give you an example…”. Things can then proceed normally and indeed, transcreation regularly proves to be an interesting and engaging subject of conversation – honest!

Over recent years though, a very definite market for transcreation has emerged and many language service providers now offer it in some form or another. So the time seems right to try and get a proper answer to some of these questions from inside the translation and localization industry.

The perfect opportunity arose at this year’s GALA Conference in Miami, where transcreation was already on the agenda. Over the course of three days we carried out six formal and several ad-hoc interviews around the conference with people who have been in the business for many years.

 For their considerable help in making this video, my thanks go to: Gary Muddyman of Conversis, Don DePalma of Common Sense Advisory, Gabriela Morales of Rosario Traducciones y Servicios, Meritxell Guitart and Miguel Martínez of Hogarth Worldwide, Lillian Alves Mautone of LocHouse, Robert Etches of TextMinded and Richard Estevez of Trusted Translations.

I could give you a summary of the findings, but as we went to the trouble of making a video it seems appropriate to let the results speak for themselves:

And here are the Scrabble videos that Miguel was referring to; the Spanish version is a great example of transcreation in action.

The original US ‘Q’ version

The Spanish ‘Ñ’ version

Maybe there’s a lot more transcreation going on than many might think?

Anyone who’s been around international marketing for a while is well aware that companies like Hogarth and Wordbank are doing this sort of thing. However, the video shows that transcreation is now being delivered by a wide range of vendors across many languages and not just in the obvious area of advertising slogans.

Also, it seems that while the very low cost per word of machine translation is fuelling a mass-market uptake of translation, we are also seeing increasing demand for value-added services at the other end of the spectrum, such as transcreation and search-optimized translation.

My own conclusion from all this is that as the market for translation and localization services continues to mature, companies and brands are better able to truly localize and adapt both their offer and their marketing communications, and in this way to maximize the appeal to their individual target audiences in each locale.

And that can surely only improve online experience and local consumer ‘stickiness’?

Could localization truly be coming of age? Is it finally being perceived more as a critical element of global marketing and less as a process carried out by language professionals?

Well, don’t hold your breath. But the increasing take-up of services like transcreation certainly cuts deeper into the heart of the matter, and that can only be a good thing for vendors, clients and consumers alike.

18 February

Transcreation: myth, manipulation or modus operandi? Have your say at GALA 2013

By Gordon Husbands | International marcoms, marketing translation, Transcreation | No comment yet

GALA Conference 2013 - Miami without the vice

GALA Conference 2013 – Miami without the vice

The 2013  GALA Conference is in Miami Beach in March – what a drag! What a place to hold a conference, what could the committee be thinking?

On top of all the other attractions, we’re giving you the opportunity to get a few things off your chest on the subject of transcreation:

  • What does transcreation mean and does anybody care?
  • What role, if any, does transcreation play in global marketing?
  • Who buys it when, where and why?

Over the course of the conference we will be filming interviews in and around the event. We are looking for candidates with a combination of experience and strong opinions on the subject, either for or against, to come forward now so that we can arrange the interviews. We want a good mix of client-side and vendors, to get a well-rounded view.

ClumColumbia pictures - bad boys on set

Interviews: body armor not required

If you’re not keen on doing a formal interview, don’t worry, we will also be carrying out some informal, vox pop interviews around the various congregation points to collect a wider and hopefully less reverent set of opinions, experiences and advice from you, the GALA members.

Why not get your voice heard and, what’s more, recorded for posterity at GALA Miami Beach. Contact me now through the comments section below, via LinkedIn or the GALA community and I will arrange an interview and brief you on what to expect.

Don Johnson, Bad Boys, eat your heart out. The GALA posse is about to hit town.

7 February

The medium is the message

By Gordon Husbands | International marcoms, Transcreation | No comment yet

Stunning, incredible, innovative, ground breaking… how did I miss it?

Shades of Jean Michel Jarre, Avatar and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. If you haven’t come across this advertising experience before, watch it now and be amazed and uplifted.

Back in 2010 – yes, this isn’t recent – LG created the most amazing product launch in Berlin for the LG Optimus One, in the dark and with a retail outlet as a willing backdrop. It was and is a stunning visual experience. It doesn’t shout out ‘this is in 3D’, just applies it to magnificent effect. (It’s not true 3D, but it certainly feels like it.)

There are no spoken words and, while the soundtrack is very effective and complementary, the lasting memory is of a sublime and rewarding visual experience. Not a comment you often hear applied to advertising.

The coup de grâce is the finale, where hundreds of LG smartphones float to the ground inside day-glow green ‘bot packaging attached to balloons. The previously entranced audience happily gambol around like kids at Christmas, grabbing the bots. According to the LG press release they were then encouraged to photograph each other and post the results on the media façade, which apparently they did in great numbers.

As some advertising guru once said: ‘the medium is the message’. In this case I have to agree. No words required, the visual story said it all. An English tag line appears at the end with the product name, but everyone got the message: LG – smartphone – cool.

If you’re selling digital, mobile technology, what better way to get your message across? And no translation required!

Also, having watched it a few times, I was at a loss to find anything that would be deemed to be culturally insensitive anywhere in the world. No nudity, no sexual innuendo, no religion or politics. Universal appeal? Well, close enough.

Whoever produced this highly creative work of global appeal – whatever they paid you, it was not enough!

My only question is, how did it I miss it back then?


Transcreation-interviewsP.S. I am conducting a set of filmed interviews on the subject of transcreation at the GALA Conference in Miami Beach on 17-20 March 2013. If you have something to say on the subject or experiences to share, please do get in touch with me through the comments link  as we are scheduling interviews now.

3 January

This ad is no Turkey!

By Gordon Husbands | Cultural sensitivity, International marcoms, marketing translation, Transcreation | No comment yet

In the dying days of 2012 I came across a post,  maybe a post-ironic one at that, which appeared to make fun of  and put down the latest in a series of  Turkish Airlines TV ads, albeit in a slightly tongue-in-cheek way.

In the commentary, by a certain , there was a whiff not only of ‘what do these Turkish Airlines people know about TV advertising’, but also a hint of ‘boys and their toys, how 1980s?’.  My words, not Barbara’s.

A link was kindly provided to the Turkish Airlines ad video, which had been posted on YouTube by the airline. And why not?

Take a look and form your own opinion.

As even the most casually involved in global marketing grasps, every culture has its own set of mores which must be taken into consideration. Indeed, none more so than the US itself, where many would gasp at the sight of a nipple (female) on primetime TV, despite the fact that the US remains the world market leader in porn production and distribution.

It’s always going to be incumbent on the advertiser to consider the tastes and standards of the intended audience if there is to be any hope that communications objectives are met. This particular ad ran in the UK over the ‘Christmas break’ (yep, we still call it Christmas) and to most viewers, it can be said to fit the family-centric flavour of broadcasting over this period.

Maybe because the UK has a history of ironic advertising, few viewers will really believe that:

a) this is taking place on a real aeroplane or

b) it is normal to kick a football (soccer ball) or throw a basketball around mid-flight or

c) that the kid would be in first class while these global stars are left  in cramped economy (coach, for any American readers).

In others words, surely this was a bit of fun intended to appeal to the whole family at a traditional time of goodwill and to portray Turkish Airlines as a modern, safe, westernized airline.

It’s hard to imagine the marketing folks back at Turkish Airlines HQ in Istanbul not being aware that negative stereotypes might easily be applied to anything with Turkish in the name. Hence they’re trying very hard in their branding activity to avoid or counter this.

While only a low percentage of Americans will have had the opportunity to sample the experience of flying with Turkish Airlines, my own experience of frequently flying the London/Istanbul route has always been positive: modern planes, crew, in-flight service and airport (at the Istanbul end anyway). Diplomacy forbids me to mention the late flights, old fleets and grumpy cabin crew that many a regular, US domestic flyer will be familiar with. The latter complaint may equally be levelled at BA in recent years.

The overall verdict on the video as a piece of TV advertising?

For what it’s worth, I found it well-produced and felt that it should resonate with a wide global audience. It retains the necessary Turkish flavour while avoiding cliches and stereotypes. Without doubt this was an upbeat ad with a feel-good finish.

For my money certainly, it is not as cheesy as the over-produced BA ads or as intentionally salacious and subversive as the Virgin Atlantic ads. I think they know their niche and are sticking to it. There might still be some work to do though to convince a specific US demographic that they are really gender neutral enough. If indeed that is their aim.

Beach basketball on the Bosphorus anyone?

21 December

World can’t end before Christmas!

By Gordon Husbands | Cultural sensitivity, International marcoms | No comment yet

Christmas has very much been globalized or maybe even become a global franchise. With Santa, reindeer and snow now common icons in China  India and the Middle East. While the only ‘god’ being worshiped here is commerce, it is slightly weird that this is all being threatened by the Mayan prophecies – or gods?

I mean c’mon Coca-cola, Sony, Apple, Samsung let’s park the end of the world until mid-January, when we are all depressed anyway (those of us in the Northern hemisphere that is).

According to the Sunday Times (London) the whole world is in a frenzy about the end of the World on Friday 21 December 2012 –  except the UK. The Russians, the Chinese and of course the Americans are all getting in the act.  More than 30,000 tourists are expected at the  Chichen Itza temple  complex in the Yucatan. Hopefully 99% of the tourists will be there to witness the feathered serpent  god Kukukan creep down the 91 steps as the sun rises at the equinox – well his shadow anyway.

It is hard to imagine that if the world is going to end you would pay good money to book a place at the apocalyptic ground zero.  Indeed some are doing the opposite and flocking to high ground in Arizona others to Bugarach high in the French Pyrenees.  Is this so that they are easily rescued by passing aliens or to keep above the resulting end of the world tsunami?

As I write this #mayans is trending on Twitter  - though no one seems to be taking it seriously. I have seen several reports that Russians have been panic buying matches, sugar, paraffin, water, candles and vodka. But that just sounds like the norm in Russia for the build to the long holiday which will  start the weekend before  New Years Eve and continue through the Orthodox Christmas a week later.

The BBC reports,  ”In China, police have arrested almost 1,000 members of a Christian group which has predicted that Friday will usher in three days of darkness. The group, called Almighty God, apparently urged its members to overthrow communism (the Big Red Dragon).”

Oops, probably not the best way to prepare for the end of the world.  However, in a step guaranteed to achieve  the opposite, it was also reported that, “To calm anxieties, police in Beijing have posted an online notice telling people that the so-called end of the world is a rumour“.

Well, that’s another rumour squashed then,  have they checked Weibo recently?

With Australia one of the first countries to see the sun rise on what is supposed to be the end of days, Tourism Australia’s Facebook page was bombarded with posts asking if anyone survived Down Under. If the world was ending even a bunch as sanguine as the Aussie’s are unlikely to post one last message as they disintegrate into oblivion – break open the last few tinnies maybe!

Now all we have to worry about is that Asteroid due to miss us by 17,000 miles in February – I hope NASA got their calculations right 17,000 is pretty close .  But then again it takes your mind of the Fiscal Cliff, or the PIGS meltdown, or North Korean ballistic missiles etc.

I leave you with the best comment I have seen so far which encapsulates the British attitude to all this, it is from a guy who reported that his nine year old son said:

Did you know that the world’s gonna end Dad? That’s why I’ve opened all the doors on my advent calender and eaten all the chocolates!”

Felice Navidad,  Joyeux  Noël, Buon Natale, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from all of us here at Wordbank.

1 October

Biggest Q2 Ad spend in Middle East and Africa

By Gordon Husbands | International marcoms, Transcreation | No comment yet

Ad in MumbaiNielsen’s Global AdView Pulse recently announced that worldwide advertising spending was up 2.4% to $139 billion in the second quarter of 2012. Not huge growth from a global perspective, but still welcome in these uncertain times. As ever the devil is in the detail, and the big surprise is that the Middle East and Africa topped the list with growth of 19.6% compared to the second quarter of 2011.

Traditionally, regions like Africa and the Middle East have been treated with some scepticism, if not apprehension, when being viewed as a new market opportunity. But when growth opportunities are increasingly hard to find and with the ad spend of the ‘Tiger’ regions like Asia only growing at a modest 2.9%, maybe Africa and the Middle East deserve another look?

The Gulf

arabic mobile adIn our recent ‘Getting Global Online Marketing Right’ whitepaper we highlighted the significant growth in mobile internet and Arabic search in the Gulf region. With Qatar hosting the 2022 World Cup and oil prices looking set to stay high, the region seems to be in a good position for sustained growth.

The Gulf itself is made up of several countries of various sizes and has a varied ethnic mix. Arabic, English and French are used to varying degrees and your target demographic will help to dictate the appropriate language, tone and style and media that best suits.

If you want to find out more about marketing to the Gulf, read the session summaries from our presentations at Marketing Week Live or request the ‘Getting Global Online Marketing Right’ white paper.


The London Evening Standard recently reported that Nigeria’s luxury shoppers rival Russia and the Middle East for London spending! Shoppers from Brazil and Russia both spend less than £1,000 each, the Chinese spend £1,310, and Saudi Arabia spends the most with £1,974. Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates spend £1,780 and £1,267 respectively. But the Nigerian luxury shopper spends on average £1,648 per transaction.

There is a burgeoning middle class in Nigeria, a country projected to become Africa’s biggest economy in 2013  and the world’s fifth most populous by 2050. According to the UK Office for National Statistics, the number of visiting Nigerians has  increased by more than 50% to 142,000 a year in the decade ending 2011. A branch of the Debenhams department store on London’s famous shoppers paradise Oxford Street has recently put up signs in Hausa, one of the official Nigerian languages. So far this year, the shop said, Nigerian customers are the biggest overseas spenders.

[A well polished example of Nigerian advertising in the Hausa language]
Hausa is the language spoken by some 25 million West Africans. It is the native language of the Hausa people who live mainly in Niger and Nigeria. However, Hausa is used as a trade language across a much larger swathe of Africa, covering countries such as Benin, Ghana, Cameroon, Togo, Côte d’Ivoire, Chad, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea and northwestern Sudan, particularly among the Muslim community. Interestingly, radio stations like the BBC World Service, Radio France Internationale, China Radio International, Voice of Russia, Voice of America, Deutsche Welle and IRIB all broadcast in Hausa.

So clearly a wide spectrum of major governments see both the region and the language as important. Many African countries are growing fast and it will increasingly be an important region for online marketers everywhere. However, any approach needs to be very selective and adapt to the eccentricities of the African continent.

But then that’s why we, Wordbank, are here – to help you with things like new-market entry evaluation, planning and execution.

STOP PRESS:  OCTOBER 1,  ZenithOptimedia predicts that global ad expenditure will reach US$525 billion by the end of 2013!


10 April

F*** the Diet! Unilever oops?

By Gordon Husbands | Cultural sensitivity, International marcoms, Transcreation | No comment yet

Well, I am kind of left speechless by this one.  You need to watch the German TV ad first, then read my piece – hopefully it’s self-explanatory.

No more video

[Unfortunately for those of us with a sense of humour the video has been removed so you can no longer watch. Sadly I have not been able to find a version from another source.  However I am sure that the campaign will live on in legend.]

Read more

7 April

Gala Conference Monaco 2012 – the full Monte

By Gordon Husbands | International marcoms, Social Media | No comment yet

Well, this year’s Gala Conference in Monaco  was a blast and certainly the biggest one yet for all us globalizers, localizers and international marketers. The contributors were great, the wit as sharp as ever and the sessions engrossing. And, oh yes, did I say the weather and location were rather amazing?

F1 circuit through Monaco Casino squareGreat time of year to visit Monaco: no crowds, no hassle and very relaxed. Plus, for all F1 fans, there was the joy of being able to walk some of the best turns and stretches of the Monaco Grand Prix up to the Casino.

The event is evolving into something for every taste: standards and processes for the ‘process-oriented’, technology for the tech-heads and SEO and social media for the marketers.

I particularly enjoyed the  session with Matthew Ogden of Lego, entitled ‘Building Digital Lego Bricks’. A great case study, warts and all, of how to take your digital presence global, for a well-known and well-loved brand.

Read more

10 March

ALS Court Chaos – the interpreter bites back

By Gordon Husbands | International marcoms | No comment yet

As mentioned in last week’s post, the Applied Language Solutions Court fiasco continues to run. Fired up and angry interpreters across the UK are now finding their voice and fighting back.  In a topic centred around justice, it appears that the interpreters’ anger is justified.

However, dispelling in any way the thought that the interpreters might just be a bunch of insignificant whingers, they  have come up with a biting and incisive parody based on no less a figure than a certain A.  Hitler, as featured in the acclaimed film Downfall.

Hijacking the classic scene where Hitler launches a humiliating tirade against the perceived ineptitude of his Generals and advisers, the parody succeeds in capturing and highlighting the key facts of the ‘case’. The humour is infectious and deadly, and appears to have a huge insight and detailed knowledge of the goings on.

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10 March

ALS Court Chaos- the Interpreter bites back

By Gordon Husbands | International marcoms | No comment yet

As mentioned in last week’s post the Applied Language Solutions Court fiasco continues to run. Fired up and angry interpreters across the UK are now finding their voice and fighting back.  In a topic centred around Justice, it appears that the interpreters’ anger is justified.

However, dispelling in any way the thought that the interpreters might just be a bunch of insignificant whingers, they  have come up with a biting and incisive parody based on no less a figure than a certain A.  Hitler as featured in the acclaimed film Downfall.

Hijacking the classic scene when Hitler launches a humiliating tirade against the perceived ineptitude of his Generals and advisers, the parody succeeds in capturing and highlighting the key facts of the ‘case’. The humor is infectious and deadly and appears to have a huge insight and detailed
knowledge of the goings on.

Read more

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