Lost in the Translation


Too often do I see companies just simply translate their English language ad and push it out to the Asian public believing they are speaking to this audience. While they may be speaking to this audience, however, is this audience really listening? The majority of the time the answer is resounding “NO”. Not only does the tone and messaging of the ad get lost in the translation but there are aspects of the creative that just does not resonate with the intended audience. “But…but…the ad is in language, so what’s the problem?” one might ask. The simple answer is all the mainstream ads that are created are developed to resonate with a North American audience. Naturally there are some translated ads that will work with an Asian audience but that is few and far between.

What works for an English speaking North American individual may not work for an Asian person and vice versa. Allow me to put some perspective on this. Imagine transplanting yourself somewhere in Asia after being born and raised in North America your whole life. Would you be able to relate to any ads that you see in your new country? The following link contains a multitude of Asian TV ads and will give you a brief glimpse of the kind of commercials you could see here.

While a few of these ads may have made sense, did you watch some of the ads with a perplexed countenance? Chances are you did. To North Americans, some of the ads are very corny and strange and most will have a difficult time relating to them. But Asians on the other hand will find them funny and can easily relate to them.

One would think that a lot of North American companies would catch on to this and finally produce creative that speaks to the ethnic audience, but more often this is not the case. I am curious as to why Asian audiences are consistently an afterthought with marketing especially in a city like Metro Vancouver where they make up approximately 43% of the population.

If ads don’t make sense to people in their new country, what will they think of the brand? …….Not very much I would imagine.

– Stewart

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