an apple ad translated into thai

Advertising translation opens doors for new audiences to connect with your brand. But only if you do it the right way.

Keep reading to discover the role of translation in advertising and marketing, plus our top tips for hiring agencies you can trust to adapt your brand’s content effectively. You’ll also find a few examples of successfully translated ads and others that missed the mark.

What is advertisement translation?

a billboard of ads including top global brands like Coca-Cola

Translation is essentially the conversion of text from one language to another. In advertising, this is most commonly seen with slogans. Think of McDonald’s popular slogan in the US and much of the English-speaking world: “I’m lovin’ it.” In Mexico and Guatemala, this becomes “Me encanta,” (literally: I’m loving it). 

However, advertising translation applies to much more than just slogans. It also includes promotional images, videos and other audiovisual content. Depending on the market and target language, advertising translation services often adapt the graphics, formatting or even color palettes of advertising materials. This process is called localization and is more in-depth than a simple transliteration.

Adapting advertising materials for each local market is vital, as some markets will have different considerations according to their culture or language. 

For example, Spanish copy tends to be longer due to the language’s structure. Spanish advertising translators often have to edit the spacing around the copy to fit the new text. 

“You have to let your client know that you need more space for Spanish copy, or make completely new images for each country.”

Jake Fagan, former project manager at VeraContent

Examples of VeraContent’s advertising translation for Spanish petcare brand, Sanicat. The translation was part of an award-winning multilingual marketing campaign spanning eight markets

Meanwhile, German copy isn’t necessarily longer than English, but German audiences prefer longer, more descriptive headings packed with information rather than catchy, slang-filled slogans. 

Being familiar with your target market’s expectations and preferences is important, but you don’t need to be an expert or even a fluent speaker to begin creating excellent advertising translations.

Agencies that offer professional advertising translation services have access to talented linguists who know their local market’s cultural style, emotion and values. 

See also: Multilingual graphic design: Why it pays to hire specialists

Tips for hiring agencies for marketing and advertising translation services

VeraContent management team

Here are our tips to finding the right agency for your marketing or advertising translation needs. 

1. Look at their portfolio and work samples

Look for agencies that have significant work in transcreation—this shows they’re capable of adapting content to different markets. Case studies, work samples and client testimonials can all serve as proof that an agency will be able to offer what you’re looking for. 

For more on VeraContent’s portfolio, take a look at our client stories and work samples

2. Ask if they have experience in your industry

A translation service specializing in legal work is going to approach translation very differently from one that specializes in creative marketing copy. Find an agency that works with clients similar to your brand, both in sector and scale. However, don’t let this hold you back if you find an agency that ticks all the other boxes. At VeraContent, while we may not be specialists in every industry, we know how to find linguists that are.

3. Find out if they work with native linguists from the countries you’re targeting, and how they vet their linguists 

Every agency will have a different process for finding and nurturing talent, and translators are often accredited by organizations like the American Translators Association. Make sure to ask the agency what their recruitment process involves and how they put together their teams.

4. Know what services they offer

Are they purely a translation agency, or do they offer services that can help with other aspects of your global marketing strategy? An agency like VeraContent can help with not only translation but also every step of the localization workflow, from transcreation to scheduling and local community management. 

See also: Choosing the right transcreation agency for your business

5. Send them a test assignment

After answering all of the above questions, we recommend sending them a short test assignment before signing a contract. Most agencies will understand this is a necessary step before forming a long-term partnership.

At VeraContent, for example, first, we offer a free consult consultation for new clients so we can both ask questions and see if it’s a fit. If we decide to move forward, then we ask the client to send us a short test assignment so they can be sure of the quality of our work.

Ready to hire a translation agency? Get in touch with our team at VeraContent!

VeraContent advertising translation examples

VeraContent advertising translation team

As a multilingual marketing and localization agency, VeraContent partners with international brands to translate and adapt their content for new markets. 

Here are just two examples of our successful advertising projects:

1. PopSockets

Examples of Norwegian and Finnish marketing translations VeraContent created for PopSockets. 

PopSockets is a popular mobile phone accessories brand with a highly visual advertising focus. Since 2019, VeraContent has worked with the brand to provide advertising and social media translations using a strategy of highlighting style with catchy, local and fun copy. 

One specific project was translating and localizing short marketing campaigns into seven different languages: French, German, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Swedish and Norwegian. 

The project featured a few language combinations we work in less frequently, so we were excited to find and collaborate with talented freelancers in these markets.  

In 2019, a year after beginning to work with VeraContent, PopSockets EMEA reached all its yearly targets. EMEA is now the second fastest-growing region for the brand after the US. Pierre-Antoine Colonna, former EMEA social media marketing manager at PopSockets, attributed a significant part of its 100% growth in followers in the main countries to localized content. 

“The feedback I receive directly from the community managers is the best kind of qualitative insight I can get, because they really understand the culture and context much better than I do.”

Pierre-Antoine Colonna, former EMEA social media marketing manager at PopSockets

For more information about our partnership with PopSockets, see our client story: How a localized social media strategy propelled PopSockets to success in Europe.

2. Sanicat

Multilingual launch video for Sanicat’s multilingual marketing campaign

In 2022, we launched a multilingual campaign for Spanish petcare brand, Sanicat, to raise awareness around black cats and the many superstitions surrounding them. A key part of the campaign was encouraging followers across the globe to get involved by sharing their personal stories of how their black cats brought them good luck and love into their homes.

Our team at VeraContent crafted the entire campaign, including the above video, nine social media creative pieces based on user-generated stories, and two original blog posts. We then created and localized the campaign into seven different languages for eight markets: Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands and Latin America.

“Our campaign was conducted in seven different languages and everyone involved worked very closely together, sharing valuable insights from their own market, and putting their heart into sharing real heartwarming stories.”

Aurélie Berson, Project Manager at VeraContent

And in 2023, the European Content Awards recognized the campaign under the category “Best multilingual content campaign of the year.” 

For more on our work with Sanicat, check out our client story: How VeraContent developed an award-winning multilingual content campaign for Sanicat

4 examples of bad translations to learn from

man and woman discussing an advertising translation mistake

Even top global brands can miss the mark with their advertising. Now that you’ve seen successful examples of advertising translations, take a look at four bad advertising translations that cost their companies lots of time and money, from funny slogan translation mistakes to mistranslations.

1. HSBC Bank’s “Assume Nothing” campaign

In 2009, HSBC Holdings, a UK-based bank, promoted its security and transparency with the slogan, “Assume Nothing.” As a global company, they needed to translate the slogan for new markets according to their multilingual marketing strategy. 

Unfortunately, the phrase “Assume Nothing” was translated into several languages as “Do Nothing,” which made the bank look careless and inactive. 

The financial institution spent $10 million dollars fixing a disastrous translation mistake, finally going with “The World’s Local Bank” and more effectively translating it to different markets. It worked, and the slogan is still in use in multiple countries today. 

2. Coors’ “Turn it Loose” Campaign

American beer company Coors, encouraged consumers to take it easy and relax with their slogan, “Turn it Loose.” 

As the company expanded into Spanish-speaker markets, they mistranslated their slogan. What meant “Turn it Loose” in English became “Suffer from Diarrhea” in Spanish. Obviously, this is a terrible mistake for any company, especially one selling drink products. 

Idioms and cultural expressions are notoriously difficult to translate across languages. Before publishing any creative translation, we recommend checking with a native speaker if the content makes sense or has an unintended effect. 

See also: Too funny for words: How to translate humor in multilingual content

3. Ford’s “Every Car Has a High-Quality Body” Campaign

Ford, the American automotive company, began using “Every Car Has a High-Quality Body” in their ads to promote the character of their cars. 

Unfortunately, as they began to apply this slogan to other markets, the Dutch translation for the Belgium market turned out as “Every Car has a High-Quality Corpse,” which not only sounds nonsensical but also suggests Ford cars are unsafe. 

4. IKEA’s Storefront Ad Blunder

IKEA advertising translation mistake

Renowned Swedish furniture and home goods store, Ikea, recently published an error in their storefront ad in Bahrain

Above is the English slogan, “Create your perfect night’s sleep.” Below is supposed to be the Arabic translation—except it reads, “The same as above, but in Arabic.” The slogan sparked debate about whether this was an intentional gaffe or not, but most saw it as a translation quality error.

Having a second linguist on projects to oversee quality and accuracy should always be a part of any translation process, and it’s something VeraContent includes in every project.

See also: How to create a strong editorial process for your content marketing

For help with adapting your content to local audiences, download our free interactive worksheet below:

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Don’t waste resources—work with a qualified advertising translation service

Every advertising translation disaster demonstrates the same thing: more professional writing talent and local expertise were needed somewhere along in the process. 

Relying on a professional advertising translation service and their native experts can save lots of time going back to the drawing board. At VeraContent, we offer a full package from content planning to execution for brands looking to expand their advertising in new markets. 

If you’re looking for a marketing or advertising translation agency, we’d love to talk! Get in touch to find out if you qualify for a free content consultation.