5 of the worst translation mistakes in ad campaigns. Interpretation and translation work is not easy, but when it comes to investing large amounts of money in advertising campaigns, it is certainly a job that should be prioritized. Companies always want their campaigns to be successful and to give a good image, therefore, translation errors cannot occur. This is why, during the creation process, it must be taken into account how the advertising campaign will be seen and perceived when it reaches other countries with different languages ​​and cultures.

These errors can occur either due to a lack of communication within the company, due to the hiring of unqualified translators or due to the use of automatic translators. This type of error can be avoided if you have professional translators for the respective languages ​​in which the campaign will be carried out. You have to be very careful when making these translations, especially when talking about very large companies whose advertising is going to reach millions of people from different countries and a large amount of resources are going to be used. It is essential that there is a group of people in charge of the revision to confirm that all the texts are linguistically correct, are coherent and are free of spelling errors or idioms that compromise the culture of the regions targeted by the campaign. Some of the famous errors in advertising campaigns are:

  • HSBC: In 2009 the bank spent millions on its “Assume Nothing” campaign. It was pretty good in America, however when it was brought abroad it was translated as “Don’t do anything”. After this, the company had to invest around 10 million dollars in a rebranding campaign to solve this error.
  • Pepsi: In a marketing campaign during the years 1963 to 1967 Pepsi took out the slogan “Come living with Pepsi”. In Spanish and English this slogan made sense, the problem was when it reached the Asian market. Here it was incorrectly translated as “Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead.” This clearly was not the image that the company wanted to be given with the advertising campaign.
  • Mango: In 2014 the Spanish fashion company Mango described a collection of bracelets and necklaces as “slaves”. This term is often used in Spain and in certain Latin American countries to describe a type of bracelet. However, in France the proper translation was not carried out and the term slave was used as the person who does not have freedom and is dominated by another, tarnishing the image of the brand in this country.
  • Ford: The company launched an advertising campaign in Belgium in which it wanted to highlight the quality of its cars through the slogan “Every car has high-quality bodywork.” By an unprofessional translation the slogan reached the target country as “Every car has a high-quality carcass”.
  • KFC: Many know the famous KFC slogan “Finger lickin’ good”. In 1987, when the company opened its doors in China and after investing a large amount of money in advertising and products, they realized that this expression was not common in this country and its translation read “Eat your fingers”.

These five cases are a clear example of the importance of hiring professional translators, with high linguistic knowledge and mastery of the languages and cultures of the countries in which the campaign will be carried out. The work of the translators not only ensures that they correct grammatical errors, they are also in charge of ensuring that the message is coherent and that it is culturally accepted in the destination country. In cases of international campaigns, it is advisable to hire native translators or interpreters from each of the regions where the message is going to be carried. They already have a high knowledge of the jargon and customs of the country, therefore they can determine the best way to translate the message. By hiring native interpreters, companies make sure that there are no errors like the ones mentioned above.