Marketing to people overseas is a lot more complicated than simply translating word for word what’s worked for you in the UK and as the UK’s leading translation services provider, we know this.
Languages have subtle differences in style and tone to which marketing material must adapt if it’s to be successful
Here are some great examples of adverts that can simply only work in their original language.
This particularly amusing example in German can’t be translated because the main joke uses a pun that doesn’t have an English equivalent. In German, the word for a Donner Kebab is Dönnerteller, which translates more literally as donner table or donner plate.
The main joke here is that the word, and by association the food, bears a rather striking resemblance to a certain controversial fashion designer…
Honey, I bought you a ring
This Dutch example is more culturally than linguistically untranslatable. The Valentine’s Day advert from Durex translates into English as ‘Honey, I bought you a ring.’ The meaning of the phrase translates well enough into English, but there’s just something about The Netherland’s famously liberal attitude, to which this advert particularly appeals. And sure enough, there’s no English version of this advert.
Fick die Diat!
This example from is a warning of what can happen when your marketing campaign doesn’t translate quite as well as you think it does.
Here, the English phrase, ‘f**k the diet’ is used in Germany, as the marketers are trying to both entertain and find a common ground with their audience by displaying a care-free attitude. They’re assuming that the phrase is representative of a casual synonym for ‘let it be’.
Germans, however, are pretty savvy when it comes to the English language and know the overtly-vulgar use of the word in English which ends up missing the mark and alienating the audience.
If you want to avoid eyebrow-raising moments like this, make sure that your marketing material is professionally translated before it hits the billboards or websites.