What is transcreation?
I know many of you find the word intriguing and are curious about it.
So here are some interesting facts about transcreation from a transcreator.
But first, translation, from Latin translat-, means to ‘carry across’. Translators carry meaning, ideas, images and facts across countries, languages and cultures.
Transcreation becomes more specific than that. It carries creative packages across cultures and markets.
By creative here I don't mean the ability to be a creative person, but to be a creative as in a copywriter, a graphic designer, an illustrator, or a video specialist.
Transcreators work closely with the creative teams often found within the marketing department of a company.
They occupy themselves exclusively with the task of transferring a brand, tone of voice, images and emotions to a new market in a way that the market can respond and of course, buy the product.
Transcreators do not translate. They write copy in a second language taking inspiration from the language of the original.
Let's take a tanning product, for example.
Tanning in the UK is very popular because, let's face it, the sun doesn't come out as often as it does in other parts of the world.
So, a UK-based cosmetics company wants to sell this product in Greece.
They launched a TV campaign in which two female colleagues meet in the office kitchen on Monday morning and they catch up.
One of them asks the other: “Were you away?”
Meaning “you look tanned, did you go for a weekend away to a sunny place abroad?”
It’s amazing how much meaning we can pack in a short question, right?
Remember this is set in the UK.
For this ad to work on Greek TV, I need to change the question.
Greece sees more sun than the UK. This means that people do not need to go for a weekend abroad to get a tan. What they do is they go to the beach.
So, in a Greek office set-up, the question would be “Did you go to the beach?” (in Greek obviously).
“Were you away” and “did you go to the beach” are not word for word equivalents.
But the equivalency achieved here is the intention. And the intention is to start a conversation by saying essentially “omg you look so tanned what did you do?” And of course, the other person will say “oh no, I didn’t go anywhere, I wasn’t away, but I’m using this amazing tanning product”.
So, who is this product for?
It’s mainly for women, young, working, busy who don’t have time for trial and error who want a good product that works and gives a beautiful and natural result as if they have just come back from a holiday.
And how does it sell?
It sells because it generates a need and appeals to your emotion to fulfil that need. The woman is successful, young and radiates. She also feels fresh and rested on Monday morning. And her colleague can see that, and she wants that feeling too.
Transcreators are given this type of creative brief in advance. They know the brand, style, TOV, and key selling messages.
They create 2 or sometimes 3 copies in the target language and they produce a back-translation for each one of their versions. This is so that the brand can decide what they like the most. Transcreators are also tasked with producing rationales explaining their word choices and what they want to achieve with each one.
One of the challenges is timing. When it comes to video, words work with image and sound. Captions or audio have to fall at the right timings. Therefore, scripts in the target language need to match more or less the length of the original script, otherwise the voiceover artist will struggle.
The transcreator will see the final clip before it is released for television and they will comment on any aspects of it that need addressing. For example, they’ll be looking out for cropped text, captions falling on the wrong screens, VO being too long or too short or falling on the wrong timings etc.
You can see transcreation is quite a different job, but of course, aspects of it are very similar to translation.
Of course, nobody can argue that translation itself is not a creative process. The detail we need to remember is that the creative of transcreation does not refer to the ability of creativity only, but also to the creative industry; the industry behind every single ad you see whether it’s a banner, a poster, a billboard, a page in a magazine or a TV commercial.
And the people who make those ads travel are transcreators. They are linguists, translators who have cultural insight, marketing and copywriting skills. They are supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!
Vasiliki is a Consultant, Chartered Linguist, Translator, Interpreter and Director of Greek to Me Translations Lts, a company that helps businesses communicate their brand, products and messages to their target audience. She works with Greek and English and one of the areas she specialises in is the creative industries. She has worked on web copy and TV scripts for the beauty, cosmetics, luxury, personal hygiene, telecoms and coffee market. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can follow her on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.