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Creative Content Localization in a Marketing Agency

Localizing creative ads into exotic languages is about routine and creativity at the same time. It is an excellent opportunity to learn how to tackle different kinds of challenges. What is more, it provides you with invaluable insights into the things that colleagues from other teams do.

My name is Nastya. I manage a localization team at the Dataduck marketing agency. Our company provides a full cycle of marketing services to fintech companies. We create ads for products that are promoted all over the world. Localization is just a service for a complex creative process, but its role is important.

Digital marketing did not stop developing even when the whole world has entered a remote era. Companies that offer IT products are actively exploring new markets in remote corners of the planet. Against this background, localization is becoming an increasingly promising area for experts in translation and intercultural communications.

However, many in the industry think of the day-to-day work of freelance translators or, conversely, translation agencies whenever they hear the word “localization.” I want to tell you about my experience of working directly with a customer in the narrowly focused digital marketing sphere. And, of course, I’d like to shed some light on the difference between localization and translation.

Paradigm Shift

I’d been in the translation industry for many years before I joined Dataduck. First, I did marketing translations. Then I was managing projects for big translation agencies. And there was yet another paradigm shift: I ended up performing narrowly specialized tasks for an agency in a very creative environment.

It was a real challenge at first. I joined a team of ad professionals who create advertisements to promote fintech products in South-East Asia and Latin America. The process of localization in this agency was anything but streamlined, and my colleagues had a rather vague idea of what content localization is about.

As a result, I have come a long way from getting Slack requests from my colleagues to translate a packshot text into four languages asap to managing a well-structured localization process tailored to the needs of our clients.

Familiar Routines

My experience in establishing routine processes came in handy in the new creative atmosphere: I started with selecting contractors, creating instructions, compiling glossaries, implementing quality control procedures, and adopting modern translation tools.

So there was no problem with the expertise in this field. But it turned out to be hard to set up processes so that everything could work flawlessly in our specific agency. My colleagues had to understand that localizing ads does not mean translating the words.

Dataduck creates advertising products for digital marketing. And there is a multi-step localization process for each ad type, whether it is a video made for media buying purposes, a promo presentation, a landing page, or a banner.

Localizing different kinds of ads means working with different file types and translation tools. Nevertheless, our processes are based on the fundamental principles familiar to all localizers: using translation memory, maintaining terminology consistent with the help of the glossary, checking the quality with QA checkers, and, finally, proofreading of the ad creative.

Localization of commercials is the most complex multi-step process. I want to tell you more about it.

Lights, Camera, Localization!

Any video production starts with idea generation. Our creative team comes up with ideas. Copywriters write scripts for videos. While writing the script, a copywriter creates special documents with the text content for the video and a script for professional voiceover. We translate this content into English, our team’s basic language, and assign a task to our native English-speaking editor.

After the editing is done, we can start localizing the content into the languages we need. The draft video (3D animation or a video shoot) is created in parallel with the localization of the texts, so we have to give our translators as much information about the visual component as possible. Besides, we need to regularly remind them that the translations should fit the length restrictions, and they need to use our terminology glossary.

Voiceover is the next stage after translation. We outsource both translating and voiceover acting. Animators use the completed translations to create video clips. But this is not where the process ends.

The final stage is the check of the commercials. And a localization manager may need all the patience in the world to do it because the number of check iterations can vary from one to infinity.

Сonvincing my colleagues of the need for checking the finished videos was not easy, but we did it. Along the way, I discovered a lot of exciting things about advertising production.

For example, few people know that the commercials we see in various social networks and applications are produced in dozens of formats and resizes. And if a commercial is translated into ten different languages, a localization manager has to check a huge number of short videos for possible errors in the final stage of production.

We call this stage proofreading of the videos. At first, linguists from the target countries watch the videos, recording the linguistic errors they find in a special form. Then it is the manager’s turn to check whether the visual content and standard product information are displayed correctly.

When you deal with hundreds of similar videos, it is essential to maintain clarity of perception. This is what the pieces we check look like in the cloud repository interface:

The process of creating a video creative can be schematically described as follows:

Complex Squiggles

Localization of advertising content into right-to-left or non-Latin script languages is a separate story. Our list of such languages includes Arabic, Hindi, Bengali, and Thai.

It turned out that the problem with the display of the Devanagari (Hindi) script in videos that our translators constantly complained about was caused by the fact that the software used by our video designers was not customized to the use of such characters. We solved this problem by writing a script for localizing videos into Hindi.

The Thai language also throws up problems with the way characters are displayed in videos. The Thai vowels are particularly challenging: the tiny squiggles above the main characters that denote them are almost invisible to us, but they are really important. Consider a couple of examples:

เทรดขึ้น is the Thai for “up trading”.

If we remove squiggles above the characters, we will get เทรด ขน, which means “hair trading.”

Or let’s take ความเสียง, which means “voice”. If we add a tiny symbol above the squiggle we already have, we will get ความเสี่ยง, which means “risk” (you have noticed what we’ve changed, haven’t you?) Such errors can confuse and mislead users and, as the final result, do a disservice to the company’s reputation.

In our team, things got to the point that our video designer learned to recognize such errors independently. Although, of course, it is no reason to decline the services of a translator.

Another difficulty with Thai is that this language does not use spaces between words. But hyphenation cannot be random. We have found a solution to this problem as well.

But Arabic is the most challenging language. We have to deal with a different text direction, which leads to misuse of punctuation marks and mirroring any content. Bulleted lists, hoverboards and flowcharts, and even user pictures in the review section require mirroring.

Not all of these parameters can be mirrored by simply applying proper algorithms and software settings. To make the product look native to a user from an Arab country, we need to take into account the local standards, and this is what our partners and outsourcers help us with.

For example, the landing page blocks will look like this in English:

The same blocks will look differently in Arabic:

Creative Process: Why Localization Does Not Mean Translation

As routine as localization processes are, the translator will need their linguistic skills and creativity when it comes to marketing translation, especially if the advertisement is targeted at different markets. Here, it is important to remember that localization and translation are different processes.

First of all, localization is a complex process, and translation is just one part of it. In this sense, a translator, a multilingual video editor, a designer who works on a landing page in Arabic — all of them are making their contribution to the localization process.

There was a case when a 3D animator had to help us with localizing: a flipping coin he was drawing needed to be drawn differently depending on the target country of the advertisement.

This is what users from Indonesia could see:

And here is a version for the Brazilian market:

Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, when creating advertising content, we consider the specifics of our target regions. For example, in some countries, it’s better to show a male in a video than a female if you want your ad to be more effective.

Besides, we use specific colors or symbols in certain ads because they are believed to bring good luck in some countries.

We used the orange color and cute fish images when creating a landing page to target the Vietnamese audience:

In india, a landing page goes in the purple color:

At the same time we stick to the customer’s brand style guide.

We once designed a character for an advertisement. This character was holding a coffee cup with his left hand. And a lot of people disliked it because the left hand is considered unclean in Muslim countries.

Of course, we are also very careful when dealing with slogans — sometimes we simply rewrite them in the local language.

Finally, a localization manager will not be surprised if colleagues ask them to find out which European music hits are popular in a particular country before setting the task of localizing a new creative piece. Other teams’ members might also ask whether some specific visual content will be appropriate for an advertisement targeted at Malaysia, for example.

Why It Is Interesting

I have been localizing ads for fintech products for over three years. And whether I get tired of such a narrow specialization is the most logical question to ask, taking into account that I have dealt with completely different topics for many years. The answer is no; I’m not tired. And here’s why.

Localization of advertising content in a full-service marketing agency is about direct interaction with colleagues from other teams, which allows me to constantly learn something new from them since their tasks are completely different. Even if sometimes it can be somewhat nerve-racking. No creative atmosphere is stress-free, is it?

For example, we had to cross swords when creating a video with an animated finger of the app user. The producer and I could not agree on the Thai voiceover actor. But in the end, the team produced a very original commercial.

I learned a lot about video production processes, especially dubbing. I began to notice nuances in voice pitches. I realized that the sound of Portuguese puts me into a blissful trance, and it makes me as happy as a clam to hear the voice of a familiar voiceover actor in radio advertisements.

While building the processes of web content localization, we realized that we lacked knowledge about layout designers’ work, and the whole team took an excellent intense training course in HTML coding.

But the biggest revelation for me was diving into details of the user acquisition process. When I joined Dataduck, I spent a long time trying to understand what it means to “drive traffic.” Finally, a colleague clearly explained that when people say this, they are speaking about increasing the number of visitors to our website.

Sharing knowledge and experience is a common practice at Dataduck. Colleagues from different teams hold presentations and lectures, in which they talk about how things work in their teams. It is a great way to tell people from other teams about your work processes, to build respect for one another, and recognize the importance of everyone’s work.

For instance, such lectures helped me convey the message that it cannot take one day to localize a page of text into 14 languages, including Vietnamese and the Brazilian version of Portuguese. At least for the reason that the translators work in different time zones.

And we’ve also managed to solve a pain point related to the difference between a language code and a country code. And finally, we are actively trying to make other folks aware that there is no such thing as the “Malaysish” language.

The main thing I have learned over these three years is that localization in an advertising agency gives me an opportunity to combine moving in a streamlined path, being guided by my work experience, and applying non-standard approaches. Along the way, you can learn a lot about unexpected features and traditions of different countries.

Working in a creative environment helps me realize that there is always room for creativity and learning new things, even in a localization manager’s work routine. What is more, it gives me knowledge about how other teams work, which is especially valuable in the fast-paced digital marketing environment.

Anastasia Taymanova, Localization Team Lead at Dataduck

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