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Marketing Document Localization?
Thread poster: Harvey Beasley
Harvey Beasley
Local time: 02:28
Japanese to English
Mar 21, 2007

Hello everyone,

I have a question about a business model I was considering. I'm thinking it might already exist... It's something I would like to try.

Basically, the business would translate and localize print advertisements, while adding extra value by retaining, or improving on, the visual appeal of the ad in addition to simply translating the language.

It would work like this... the client would send the biz a completed ad in the source language. The biz would translate it, while being sure that the ad does not lose any visual appeal. In addition, using knowledge of the industry in the target country the biz would give suggestions to the client on how they might change the ads approach to be more effective in the country they are targeting. If necessary the designers at the business would go as far as redesigning the ad.

The business would have language translators, industry specialists, and designers.

I'm specifically thinking of foreign companies that want to get into Japan, or Japanese companies that want to advertise abroad... as you can tell by my language pairs!

What do you think of this? Has it already been done? Is there some fundamental problem with the idea? All opinions/feedback appreciated!

If you know any companies that already do something like this, company names or links would be great!


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 20:28
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
You might try Mar 22, 2007

But I'm afraid business will not accept easily your model. Translators are translators, most will think. (Translators are not visually creative is the general impression). If you know the right people locally, you might succeed, though. It will take some foodwork.

Cheers
Heinrich


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Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:28
German to English
+ ...
I think it could work Mar 22, 2007

but I think you need an "in" to the ad agencies, as well as the companies. It is likely that the companies would want to run their ads simultaneously in various markets, not sequentially. Translation/adaptation would have to take place during the production process, not after. You could be working from briefings rather than a finished product, but that's probably even better. However, you really need copywriters for this, not translators (unless they are also copywriters).

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invguy  Identity Verified
Bulgaria
Local time: 20:28
English to Bulgarian
It exists. Mar 22, 2007

Hi, Harvey,


Actually, the adaptation of marketing/ad materials while accounting for cultural differences across markets is an integral part of what every good ad agency does. What's more, it is a must - especially where differences are considerable. This is becoming more and more true nowadays, when preserving national/cultural identities is becoming a major concern in the light of globalization.

That said, I presume such adaptation (very often - sheer transcreation) is a fairly common necessity for the ad market in Japan.

I've been a freelance graphic designer and art director for the last 17 years so I'm saying this out of experience. The differences between the market in my country (Bulgaria) and the US/WEU markets (where most importers come from) are not so significant, so here you could often go with 'quoting' original ads created for another market. I mean, few are the cases where the original message would turn out to be so inadequate in its very concept that it needs to be reconceived from scratch; also not many are the instances where messages would need substantial interference. Therefore I don't think a business idea like yours could be viable here. But it might be in Japan.


Typically the responsibility for the adaptation process falls on the ad agency (and there goes the big money, too ). It is not by hazard that renowned agencies like Ogilvy & Mather, Leo Burnett, Young & Rubicam, Saatchi & Saatchi etc. have local offices in every important market around the globe.

Ad adaptation is first of all teamwork. The leading figures are the marketing pros who know both the client (strategy, image, corporate values), the branch market in general (competitive environment, trends) and the local specifics (target audience characteristics, cultural peculiarities etc.) They set the goals and measure the results.

Then the ad pros review the concept of the message, aided by copywriters and translators - and either approve or modify it. After that creative directors, art directors and designers adapt its graphic expression, if necessary.

What I can say for sure is that you could hardly pretend to do complete ad adaptation *basing* on translation. The linguistic component is only a part of the process: an important one, but definitely not the leading one. Your ad adaptation might be brilliant in linguistic terms, but if it doesn't have a professional marketing, advertising and design foundation/backup, it would risk to remain a mediocre product. Trust me, I've seen that.

What you could possibly do is *specialize in marketing translations*, servicing specifically ad agencies. Admittedly, this is a very narrow market niche. Many big ad agencies use their own in-house linguists. You could eventually aim at servicing the mid-sized ones - who work basically for local clients and only rarely land a job from a foreign client migrating an existing (abroad) ad campaign to the Japanese market.

My advice (FWIW): avoid competing with the lions (meaning the names I listed above, and the like). You simply can't have their resources, in the first place. If you are determined to try this business idea, better position yourself as a supplier of strictly specialized services - let's say, multilingual copywriting or something like this. But make sure that you employ people who combine knowledge in a variety of areas: languages (preferably more than two), writing, marketing (a must!), theory of advertising, history, social sciences etc. Only then you could hopefully achieve the point when major ad agencies would find it more efficient to hire your team instead of relying on their in-house staff (or just hiring a good translator on a case-by-case basis).

Hope this helps.


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 20:28
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Hear, hear! Mar 24, 2007

What Invguy here wrote is the most profound posting I have read for years.
Regards
Heinrich


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invguy  Identity Verified
Bulgaria
Local time: 20:28
English to Bulgarian
Thanks, Heinrich Mar 25, 2007

I might be a bit long-winded when it comes to discussing such matters, but it's understandable... don't bug a car mechanic to talk about engines...


Actually, I failed to mention an idea that could IMO considerably ease Harvey's first steps - keywords being *labels & packaging* (further - L&P).


Point #1: Most manufacturers who sell on multiple markets prefer to print multilingual L&P because it is economically efficient.

Point #2: Aside from internationally accepted requirements to the content and layout of L&P, there are many local regulations at branch and/or regional market level. Sometimes even manufacturers are not aware of the latest changes.

Point #3: As far as my observations go, too many manufacturers don't pay proper attention to the tiny text on their L&P, especially the one in foreign languages. Very often it's written (and even translated) by the company's technical staff. I guess each one of us has happened to groan when reading the label of some imported product

Then, the use of various quality and other compliance marks in L&P is subject to individual application guidelines, and often bears different legal implications across markets. It is not uncommon to see these wrongly applied, too.


So I think that if Harvey gathers a solid enough database on L&P content regulations (which he could do relatively quickly) and combine it with linguistic precision - down to the correct way or writing abbreviations, acronyms, measurement units etc. - he could start his business as a proofreader/editor of L&P content. These would be mostly small jobs but they could help gain experience, establish contacts, build a reputation, as well as bring some running income. Then, as soon as a client trusts you as a proofreader of such pretty specific stuff, it is very likely that next time they'd rely on you to do the translation.

I believe many - both manufacturers, ad agencies and freelancers like me - would sigh with relief if they knew there was someone competent enough to do that. For manufacturers it's usually a trifle they overlook while focusing on production and sales issues; for ad people and designers it's a nuisance because it distracts them from doing their main job. I've cursed many times while correcting the nonsense in the "approved" texts sent to me to incorporate into a design. It is not my responsibility, since the client has hired me as a designer, not as a linguist; at the same time I know that if I don't interfere, maybe no one else will - and the result would be good design with sloppy text, which is quite unpleasant. An additional problem for me is that when I suggest corrections, most clients get defensive - like "Who are you to tell us what to write?" - and I have to waste even more time proving that I'm right.


Indeed, proofreading (or even translating) labels and packaging is not the most creative of tasks, it's rather a technicality. However, it could be a logical bridge between 'typical' translation and the specialized market niche in question.

Harvey, if you decide to make the endeavour, I hope you'd let us know how it goes. I guess it would be interesting for many ProZians. Good luck!


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