Transcreating or copywriting? It’s a fine line.

Translating marketing material is the bread and butter of Supertext’s services; transcreation – creative translations adapted to the local market – is the slab of Nutella that makes everything that little bit better. But sometimes, that isn’t enough. Sometimes, it makes more sense to start from scratch and actually copywrite the text.

It’s not what you say, but how you say it – this is true in most cases. Transcreators are bilingual, bicultural and experienced in bridging the gap between markets. Working with existing text, they will ensure that content is appropriate and the emotional impact of the copy is recreated in the target language. They are usually adept users of CAT tools and other reference material and understand the importance of consistency and company voice. But what if what you’re saying isn’t appropriate for the foreign market you’re targeting? What if there is information in the source text that isn’t relevant? Or if essential information is missing?

Say what?

A transcreation will create marketing copy that gets the message across effectively in the style and tone of the original and rings well with the audience. But there are limits to the extent to which a transcreator can cut, edit and rewrite the text. A copywriter, on the other hand, works with information – a brief. They have the freedom to take the information available and create a concept, set the tone of voice and write original copy that delivers the message precisely to the target audience.

Spoilt for choice

There are pros and cons to both approaches. For a multinational company, consistency and control across all markets may be the priority. There may be practical concerns, such as tight deadlines and limited flexibility in the layout. In these cases, a transcreation is probably best. Slogans and headlines may be worth copywriting from scratch, as every word counts. As far as cultural appropriateness is concerned, the general rule is this: the further apart the cultures, the greater the need for creative freedom. Either way, we’re talking about creating copy of the highest standard; comparing Nutella with chocolate spread – or Ovomaltine crunchy spread, if we’re being culturally relevant. But when you’re aiming for super texts, these differences matter.

Picture: Joseph_Canzani – 1960 Yearbook, licensed under Public Domain via Commons

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