Translating Advertising

Depending on the type of advertising in question one can maintain that the translation of advertising is rather like the translation of poetry. When one translates advertising slogans every single word carries enormous weight. In fact for many translators the interpretation of advertising slogans is more difficult, time-consuming and stressful than working with poetic literature.

The greatest burden is the fact that the translator usually finds him- or herself working for a company large enough to be able to advertise or a PR firm that represents that company. Whatever the intricacies, a great deal of money is involved and a great deal of responsibility rests on the successful translation of the advertisement.

Not only does the translator have to render the slogan from one culture into another, but also tailor the text to a particular audience whilst also considering the product that is being advertised. There is absolutely no room for error. The translator becomes a PR specialist and copywriter who is solely responsible for the success or failure of a advertising campaign.


29 Responses to “Translating Advertising”

  1. Ewa Piekarz Says:

    Translating advertising is a very difficult job. SOmetimes the advertisement is not translatable. In one of the car advertisements you had a word “babe” and in the polish one “mały”. These both words do not carry the same massage thus the english one is more persuasive. Some commercials are not translated, for instance, Nike`s slogan “JUST DO IT” which is left in english because there is no perfect equivalent for it. Nowadays, more and more slogans are left untranslated, most of the times these are car commercials. IS it better to leave them like that? DO people sometimes understand them when they do not know english? And most of the time, commercials should be changed because there is no cultural equivalent in a specific country.

  2. transubstantiation Says:

    Concerning the Nike advertisement and the equivalence issue: there are NO perfect equivalents only shades of interpretation and attempts are equivalence. The question of whether it is better to leave certain slogans untranslated is a complicated one. However, in a multi-lingual society perhaps it is not the problem it once was. On the other hand, will an English slogan be received by an English audience in the same way that a Polish audience might perceive it?

  3. Iwona Wiśniewska Says:

    I agree with my predecessor, in a multi-lingual society leaving some advertising slogans untraslated is not the problem it once was. A good example of that is McDonald’s slogan “I’m loving it” which was not translated into Polish, perhaps it was too difficult to do so. Moreover, the language of advertising is extremely hard for translator to work on and people who deal with those texts are my idols;)

  4. Justine Says:

    Translating advertising slogans totally differs from translating other types of texts (no matter what they are). I believe it is so because it’s a word play and all possible grammar rules and structures are very often broken. Hence, I agree that it’s similar to translating poetry. Therefore, a translator must be a really skilled person and also have the “gift” for swopping some pieces of one culture with another, which seems to be the crucial issue in translation.

  5. transubstantiation Says:

    The “gift” that is spoken of here is hard to pinpoint. Perhaps there is some abstract concept/phenomenon which is a “gift for translation”, but what is more likely is that there is #experience# and #hard work#.

  6. Sylwia Borówka Says:

    I agree with you that translating advertising slogans is a really difficult job. In my opinion, there is something besides experience and hard work needed to cope with such a task. Maybe ii’s imagination… I like the comparison between translating advertising and poetry. In both cases “every single word carries enormous weight”. The translator is responsible for the text he or she translates. In the case of translating advertising slogans the effect of his/her work can more or less be measured by people’s interest in the product.

  7. transubstantiation Says:

    The interesting question is… is translating advertising #the same as# or #different from# translating poetry?

  8. Justine Says:

    I think the answer might be quite simple. Since nothing is the same and all kinds of texts differ from each other, these two “genres” cannot be the same. But as far as the similar difficulty in translating advertising and translating poetry is concerned, I believe we can say that they are comparable. I suppose the answer lies in the middle. It’s neither the same nor different. It’s similar.

  9. transubstantiation Says:

    Obviously the two genres are very different, but one cannot fail to notice the similarities between the two…

  10. Marta Jendrzejewska Says:

    I agree that translation of advertisements can be compared to the translation of poetry. They both require a lot of hard work and are time-consuming. There are many ‘ideas’ that do not have equivalents in various cultures. But still, there are many slogans that remain unchanged in the TL and they do not seem to be anything strange nowadays. In fact, the aim of advertisemsnts is to catch peoples’ attention…

  11. transubstantiation Says:

    Precisely, our role is to catch peoples’ attention, so the function of these texts are very different from the functions of other texts.

  12. Marta Kucewicz Says:

    There is a certain similarity between advertising slogans and poetry. They are both more difficult to translate than prose and demand more creativity, intelligence and language fluency from the translator.

  13. Language of Advertising « transubstantiation Says:

    […] by transub on August 26th, 2007 As we have seen in a previous post (click here), within the language of advertising the translator is often bound by more factors than when […]

  14. csilla Says:

    Hey Everyone!
    I am a student at the faculty of ‘Application of modern languages’,translation. I ‘m in my third year which means I have to prepare my diploma paper. My paper is about translation and advertising. I was surfing on the net when I came across this site and I thought I write a few lines here, maybe you could help me with some bibliography, some titles thatI should know about.The rage of books on this topic is not that wide as I expected. Thank you And have a nice day:)

    • transubstantiation Says:

      What do you have in mind?

      • csilla Says:

        Well, I thought of writing about the difficulties of translating advertising.I think this is a very interesting topic,that needs originality and I have always been interested in this. What advertising is about and how can a translation keep the same idea of an ad. Also mentioning translation theories,methods of translation. Do you think you could give me some book titles what I can use for writing my paper. Thank you!

  15. transubstantiation Says:

    It might be a good idea if you post your email address here so readers can get in touch with you directly.

  16. Tatoune Says:


    Do you have any bibliographical references concerning the topic of advertising slogan, brand names, film titles, book titles or even headlines translation?

    I would be so grateful…because I cannot find any.

    My email is:

  17. Lam Says:

    I have a lot of interset in Advertising slogans and decide todo a research on this topic but i havent found enough relevant information for this topic. My teacher are urging me to give her the link. If you have any want to share, please contact me via email. Many thanks in advance!

  18. Lam Says:

    Uhm, I am doing research in ” translation of Advertising Slogans “. I will do a survey among final year students who are studying translation. I long to find out how the student deal with kind of slogans.
    At first i have to write a Literature review of this topic, some features of slogans and principles of translating it that will help me to analyse the data i collect.

  19. Csilla Says:

    Hi Everyone

    I’ve put a lot of research and work in my diploma paper and now I’m writing my final chapter before doing my case study.I noticed that there are a lot of people interested in bibliography regarding the field of advertising and translation, so I decided to post some of the books I used( though I haven’t really received any help after my first mail here…)Anyway, here are some books and articles that were of great help.

    and some titels worth reading..

    1- de Mooji, Marieke, 2004, Translating Advertising, Painting the Tip of an Iceberg, Machester, St. Jerome Publishing/ The Translator, Volume 10, Number 2.
    2.- Gudieré, Mathieu, 2005, Translation Practices in International Advertising
    3.- Schäffner, Christina and Weisemann, Uwe, 2001, Annoted Texts for Translation: English- German, Great Britain, Cromwell Press Ltd.
    4.- de Mooji, Marieke, 2010, Global Marketing and Advertising, Understanding Cultural Paradoxes, 3rd Edition, United States of America, SAGE Publication’s Inc.

    Hope I helped!

    P.S At the moment I’m focusing on the untranslatability of adverts. I’ve red all the posts, interesting opinions 🙂 Can anyone give other examples of untranslated adverts apart from the ones already mentioned there (Nike, Nokia and so on..)?thanks

  20. manshuk Says:

    hello everyone. i gonna right ma thesis about translating advertisemnts. can you advice me, should i take this topic in general or is there any branch of translating advertisements? can you give me orientation in this topic.
    sincerely Manshuk .
    P.S:i will be glad if anyone can answer or give advice about this theme that have experience from this. plz send me ur email to my adress.

  21. manshuk Says:

    many thanks ))))

  22. Useful Reference Says:

    Hello, all is going nicely here and ofcourse every one is sharing data,
    that’s actually excellent, keep up writing.

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