Transcreation: Bringing Ad Content to Life

Generating ad content that resonates with your target audience can be a daunting task in your own language. When adapting it to another language, the process becomes even more challenging due to colloquialisms, puns, cultural differences, etc.

It begs the question: Is it possible to maintain creative integrity in ads when translating the content into another language?


It’s called transcreation, the act of translating content without losing intent or style. The goal is to shape creative content for a specific global audience, so that marketing strategies will be in the translated material as well.

Transcreation shouldn’t be confused with localization. Although equally important, transcreation is a much more difficult skill to master; the linguist must focus on evoking emotion from the audience, without drastically changing the intent of the piece. It requires an effort that is both structured and creative.

Although the term “transcreation” is relatively new, the technique has been used for
Image courtesy of Saabworld.netdecades. In one example from the 90s, the automobile company Saab introduced a new convertible car, advertised with the slogan “Saab vs. Oxygen bars”, geared towards the then-current trend in the US. In their home country of Sweden, however, the slogan was “Saab vs. claustrophobia”.

Despite the different terms, both slogans conjure the same message: the Saab convertible gives you the freedom to breathe. (Source: The Internationalist)

Our own work with transcreation has been very exciting. Recently a client asked us to transform advertisements for search engines into appropriate, yet magnetic, translations. The client provided sample ads for direction, but asked that our linguists translate in a way that would be meaningful to the culture. The advertisements were limited to three lines, each with a maximum character count.

To ensure client approvaland satisfaction, the linguists provided literal back-translations, verifying both the content and the meaning for accuracy. Our client was thrilled with the results and our linguists were eager to transcreate again – a clear sign of success!

If you’ve felt that your translated material lacked the spark you wanted, rest easy: globalized ads can be creative! Embrace transcreation. It’s time to give all your projects the attention they deserve.

Image courtesy of