The Localisation Process

A translator who doesn’t understand the market; a copywriter who doesn’t understand the source copy. I do both. In one brain.

Here is the standard procedure in many German agencies, and it is not a very promising one: A global client wants to run an international ad in Germany. The local agency receives the master copy in English. The responsible copywriter declares himself unable to pick up the original tonality and subtleties, stating he was not hired to deal with foreign languages in the first place (in truth, copy adaptation is considered most undignified work in most agencies).

The agency consequently seeks the services of a translation provider, who in turn puts a usually freelance, underpaid translator to the task. The translator knows nothing about the market, the brand, the product and the target group and, moreover, has no idea of copywriting. (If the translator had any talent or inclination in that direction, that’s what he or she would do, and earn twice the money.)

What finally lands on the desk of the copywriter for repair is more often than not a totally mutilated string of words that not only has lost all of the original tonality and subtleties, but is at times reduced to utter gobbledygook. I have seen translations the meaning of which was beyond guesswork.

I, in contrast, am a trained advertising expert to start with. Over the years, I have written for almost any industry, and I am sensitive to style and brand assets. Even for me, it’s a three-fold process. It includes a raw translation to get the picture of what it’s all about, thorough research into the brand, product and, if available, the brief, and finally, rewriting the whole thing into a proper piece of advertising in the target language. Some people ask why I’m twice as expensive as a translation office. That’s why.