The 3 Elements of Marketing Transcreation Voice-Over & Video Production

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Transcreation is the key to great multilingual marketing spots. Why? Because this service creates content specifically for each locale, maximizing the engagement of your international audience through expert copywriting, voice-over, dubbing, titles replacement, conceptual re-design and video production. And of course, it’s tricky to get right. So what do marketing and multimedia localization professionals need to know to ensure successful transcreation projects?

This post lists the 3 basics elements you must know for cost-effective and timeline-sensitive transcreation.

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How is transcreation different from audio & video localization?

Translation converts text from one language into another as faithfully as possible, effectively lining up linguistic equivalents. Localization is more holistic – it aims to translate within a total context, including visuals and any other cultural elements that are communicated to an audience. Transcreation goes a little further. It doesn’t translate or localize per se – rather, the idea is to rewrite content for a specific locale, in order to produce a similar effect as the “source” material. In a marketing context, of course, that desired effect is almost always increased audience engagement and improved sales.

For an in-depth look, see our previous blog post What is transcreation? How is it different from video translation?

Transcreation has actually been quite common in the advertising industry, since in-country leads have generally had a lot of input in local marketing and product campaigns. However, as companies and brands increasingly align their international marketing efforts, transcreation projects have involved more multimedia localization providers and US-based marketing leads. It’s critical that these professionals understand the three basic elements of transcreation that follow.

1. Script rewrite instead of linguistic translation.

Again, transcreation requires a full rewrite of the “source” script, rather than a translation. That means transcreation copywriters have significant leeway to rethink copy and story elements. This isn’t carte blanche, though – remember that the content still has to communicate very specific elements and elicit a specific response from the audience. For example, a radio or TV spot extolling the virtues of a product still has to extoll them in all locales, and still has to get the audience to buy said product.

Likewise, transcreation projects also require back translation – that is, providing a linguistic translation of the transcreated scripts, usually back into English. Since the transcreated scripts will differ significantly from each other, back translations are critical to communicating to stakeholders what is being said in each rewrite, giving them an insight into the cultural references and touchstones of the local version.

2. Non-linguistic elements re-recorded, re-designed & re-shot.

Transcreation also requires recreating non-linguistic elements. On radio spots, that usually means sourcing music that has more impact locally, and sound effects that are audience-appropriate, like a local ambulance siren or crowd noise. This requires a significant amount of post-production to clear, edit, re-synchronize and mix the new tracks.

Online marketing spots and TV commercials require further work. That can be relatively straightforward – for example, switching out text titles and images, or re-doing the spot’s color palette. But it can also mean re-shooting, which requires storyboarding, green-screen or on-set multilingual video production, and re-editing entire sequences. It’s critical to plan for this work during the initial pre-production, in order to design footage that can be reused, or even shoot alternate versions on set with foreign-language actors to maximize production days. Finally, it means asking editors to cut with longer handles and to hold on to B-roll to give the transcreated versions more options during re-edit.


3. Must involve in-country partners.

Finally, it’s critical to involve your in-country partners in any transcreation effort. (Same with any translation, audio or video localization project.) They will know better than anyone how your product or service is presented in each market, and have insights on how to communicate with their specific audience. Your in-country team may also have a strong direction for your spots, and will need to align them with local sales efforts and on-going customer interactions. So make sure to involve them early in the process, before any production starts. And remember that all stages of production will require longer and more involved stakeholder reviews.

Multimedia transcreation workflows benefit from an early start

Finally, keep in mind that an early start, preferably during pre-production, is critical to keeping transcreation projects cost-effective. For starters, involving your in-country partners early will give you a sense of their capabilities, as well as how labor-intensive the transcreation process will be for a particular locale. Likewise, knowing the direction for each spot before recording or shooting the “source” content will allow you to pick up elements that can be used later on, or even tweak shots to make them more reusable. And finally, getting sign-offs on storyboards, transcreated scripts and visual redesigns before the editing, voice-over recording, on-screen titles replacement, and all other labor-intensive stages of post-production actually begin, can save you costly audio pick-ups or video re-shoots. Transcreation requires more coordination than traditional localization – but the increased audience engagement makes it well worth the effort.