Copy Transcreation

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Copy Transcreation

In today’s globalised world, companies strive to speak their audience’s language so that they can deliver their marketing messages directly and accurately. It is vital that the message remain as clear and appealing as it was intended in the original language. Consequently, direct translation is not the best solution for creating creative marketing materials into target languages.

Translations are useful when a company has, or intends to expand its presence on an international scale. Many companies must offer their products and services in the respective languages of regions they operate in. Direct translations are a clear choice when localizing materials, such as operation manuals or official documents, where the message must remain unchanged. Conversely, relying solely on translation is insufficient for marketing materials where cross-cultural and linguistic differences risk miscommunication in international advertising. This can contribute to the core message of a company being inadvertently lost in translation. 

Transcreation, which combines creative translation and copywriting, serves as an apt solution to this problem and ensures that the right message is communicated. Good marketing aims to create an emotional response within a target group, evoke specific imagery and efficiently communicate the brand. In order to evoke an emotional response, the communication must appeal to the target group’s linguistic and societal nuances. 

Transcreation differs from standard translation and localisation because it oftentimes creates new material that may not link directly to the source materials. So, while transcreation can utilise a master copy, making only minor spelling and vocabulary changes, it can also recreate the copy using entirely distinct linguistics while still remaining true to the original message. Transcreation is purely creative, so it may use the original materials as a reference to create effective, regional assets.

Transcreators must possess in-depth cultural knowledge of the source text and its target markets. Therefore it is also important that they are aware of any cultural taboos or idiomatic expressions that can cause any embarrassment or offense. By combining local culture, language, and emotional connection, they can generate creative output that resonates globally. Cultural references, wordplay, sayings, jokes, rhymes, and acronyms illustrate some of many examples of language that are likely to fall flat in direct translations. These require creativity, and in some instances, complete revisions, to guarantee intelligible local adaptations across all markets. 

As mentioned, translation or localization are the obvious choice for longer, straightforward materials, such as operational manuals. Transcreators mainly create shorter texts. Slogans and catchphrases often require transcreation services, because they may mean something entirely different in another language when using a one-to-one translation. For example, rhyming catchphrases are even less likely to resonate in another language.

While in specific situations, advertising can be effective in foreign languages if used properly. However, studies have proven that audiences prefer to engage with information in their native languages. A 2014 study from the Common Sense Advisory found that when customers experience content in their own languages, they were more likely to buy. Furthermore, according to a 2018 study from the Journal of Consumer Research, “in general, messages expressed in consumers’ native languages tend to be perceived as more emotional than messaged expressed in their second language.”

Some real-world examples that require creative alternatives include the Frosties’ “They’re Gr-r-reat!” slogan, in which the phonetic wordplay is not readily translatable to other languages. Heinz’ “Beanz Meanz Heinz” slogan, which utilises rhymes and spelling twists to mimic the brand name, is similarly untranslatable. In more reserved cultures, McDonald’s substitutes their “I’m Lovin’ It” slogan with the more culturally sensitive “I Just Like It”, which succeeds in conveying the same message. While in countries with high English proficiency, they have chosen to refrain entirely from translation, with the idea that the original slogan is understood.

It may seem obvious that words can lose their impact when being directly translated into another language. However, cultural differences play a big role as well. For example, Coca Cola has well-known advertising that includes a jolly Santa Claus and other Christmas features. The campaign is intended to emotionally impact their target audience by allowing them to reminisce about the joys of the Christmas holidays and, ultimately, how Coca Cola helps to bolster the Christmas spirit. 

These ads were successful even in non-Western countries, such as China and India due to shared pop cultural references. However, many countries don’t celebrate Christmas at all, and are unlikely to resonate with cultures that experienced the “magic” of Santa Claus and gift giving as a child.

Transcreation process

In the initial phase of the transcreation process, the transcreation agency and client must determine whether a direct translation is sufficient, or what degree of recreation is necessary. Transcreation is not needed for all advertising and marketing content. Since direct translation or localization is more relevant for certain materials, it is important to first decide which service works best for the respective copy. This can depend on several factors, including length of the campaign, cost, budget and impact of the copy.

Transcreation should not be rushed, and therefore, the time frame should be planned before distributing content into the market. The length of time it takes to properly achieve effective transcreation materials depends on the quantity of assets, type of content and target languages intended for transcreation. For example, emotive copy, such as a slogan, may be completely recreated to communicate its intended message, while a technical manual or learning guide would require a more rigid approach. Therefore, it is important to balance expectations before starting work. Both parties, the marketer and transcreation partner alike, must agree on an achievable “checklist” of requirements, ensuring that the transcreation partner fully understands the content, intent of the materials, goals, as well as the target audience and region.

Once the requirements are understood, marketers and transcreation providers should discuss deadlines, as well as pricing. When specifying a budget, marketers must consider the scope of the materials needed. As transcreation involves higher costs, below the line work generally has a lower impact and may not warrant the additional cost. Above the line work, on the other hand, has further reach and a higher budget, warranting transcreation

High-quality transcreation services begin with a detailed brief of the product and service, as intimate knowledge of the brand’s core values, beliefs, and target audience is necessary for success. For example, if the company’s target audience is pre-adolescents, the transcreator needs to know this so that the copy corresponds to this demographic. Establishing the tone early on is also crucial to upholding the creative style of the original copy. If the original tone is casual or humorous, the transcreator must use their knowledge to meet the challenge of recreating it.

Legal content tends to be verbatim with little room for creative change, as miscommunication can result in severe consequences. Due to this associated risk, the process may be carried out using machine translation, and some countries ensure validity by requiring certification to transcreate legal documents. Examples of documents that might require this include terms and conditions, contracts, witness statements, patents, transcripts, financial documents, and certificates. 

CMOs in global organisations understand that geographically relevant content incorporating a localised look and feel are critical to their sales and engagement strategies. In fact, output that resonates with diverse audiences on a local level is a new global mandate for CMOs.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to advertising a brand across multiple markets and a  global network of experienced local copywriters and transcreators who understand their local language and culture and can adapt their texts to their respective local markets. Moreover, effective transcreation heavily depends on effective collaboration between marketers and transcreation providers. Creating a clear outline of expectations decreases the risk of miscommunication and, inevitably, helps to build a faster, more efficient process. In addition, it helps to ensure that the brand's message is delivered efficiently and effectively to a global audience.


Copywriting is written text for the purpose of advertising, with its end goals being consumer engagement, click-through, or a purchase. Copywriters compose everything from slogans, taglines, CTAs, product descriptions, blogs, press releases, social media posts, to numerous other global marketing material. With online platforms currently oversaturated with advertising copy, creativity and uniqueness are indispensable. Copywriters must have a thorough understanding of the brand, product, and subject matter in order to create efficient and effective copies. Freelance copywriting is a practice that reduces the per content costs while still generating high-quality work.


There are numerous challenges to subtitling or audiovisual translations (AVT) that go beyond the translations themselves. For example, the timing of the text is key to comprehension. If the text disappears before the viewer has finished reading, remains for too long, or is out of sync with the visuals, the overall production quality will be affected. Subtitles are a tool made to benefit the viewer and should not distract them from the content or on-screen visuals.

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