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The Top 5 Pitfalls of Transcreation – And How to Avoid Them

It’s one of advertising’s most delicate balancing acts: to create a global campaign while retaining maximum local impact.

Today, we look at one key piece of the puzzle – generating copy that protects global brand equity with no loss of local effectiveness.

By now, thankfully, most of us have learned the basics of transcreation – for example, using only professional copywriters (not translators) who live and work in the target market.

But not so many of us have overcome the less obvious pitfalls, which make the difference between the so-so and the stellar.

Pitfall 1: Flying Without a Map

Localizing one TV spot into two languages is relatively simple. But it’s no longer uncommon for a concept to be adapted into many languages, and repurposed in many media and sizes.

Most companies lack a formal process to maximize efficiency and repurposing. The result is lower quality, stretched timelines, and ballooning budgets.

The answer lies in a simple, documented process:

  1. A standard sequence of actions, ideally with online workflow to allow real-time handoffs around the world (to take advantage of time differences and avoid delays)
  2. Standard role definition, with requirements for each role (many companies have people doing tasks for which they haven’t signed up or for which they’re not qualified)
  3. Standard tools (e.g., a database to store past translations for future reuse; online proofing tools that work in all languages)

Pitfall 2: Starting Too Late

Many companies start localizing only after the master (usually English) is complete. By then, it’s too late to correct the problem. The solution:

  1. Build localization into the adaptation plan: the global master is not created without formal input from local markets.
  2. Don’t settle on concepts before vetting with local strategists and markets, or you may cause campaign inconsistencies down the line.
  3. Adopt the ‘happy medium’ of a flexible, regional strategy: build leeway into the process so local markets can have input on visuals, colors, and copy direction. Meanwhile, they cannot stray too far from the global or regional master in order to preserve brand equity.

Pitfall 3: Failing to Field-Test

You might have the best copywriters and localizers in the world – but how do you know their copy works?

The answer: field-test before launching. Smart companies will use quick market feedback (typically online surveys) to test concepts and copy for effectiveness. One technique that we in Craft find very effective: make sure that local copywriters generate multiple alternatives for headlines – that way you can test which has the greatest impact.

Pitfall 4: Stopping Too Soon

Running an ad is not the end point of a project, though many think so.

Smart companies have mechanisms in place to generate data and metrics on effectiveness of the localized versions. Some will even run different versions of the ad at different times or in different locales, to compare impact.

These metrics then feed back into the process, so the quality bar keeps getting raised in each market; data will also help pinpoint weak areas, such as copy, design, or cultural issues.

Pitfall 5: Skipping Local Buy-In

You can run into political headwinds even with a well-localized campaign, if you haven’t secured buy-in from your local representatives.

Centralized transcreation generates huge time and cost savings – but often the pendulum swings too far toward centralization, potentially distancing representatives from local markets.

The solution: identify regional and local reviewers, and tie them together through an efficient online, real-time workflow tool. This way you’ll create strong local ads, on which local reviewers can have input from very early in the process.

Where Do I Start?

The best first step is to benchmark where you are and identify gaps. Craft can help guide you on both a local and a global level, with do-it-yourself checklists or more formal process reviews. Give us a call and we’ll give you some of our best insights to get the ball rolling.