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Translations for Advertising – Lost in Translation?

Recently I travelled through Brussels airport and the choice of imagery on the site of a vending machine caught my eye. It was not the translation of an advertisement, but rather the images and how they might be understood by the viewer.

If I think of an advertisement for a fruit flavoured drink I generally expect to see pictures or images of fruit or tropical settings. If it is a drink focused on sports I might expect to see pictures of runners and cyclists. On this occasion they presented an image of a small boy urinating while standing on top of a bottle!

What might the viewer think or believe? That the drink contains pee?

However, it is all about the location. These vending machines were placed in Brussels Airport and one of the most famous landmarks is a statue named the ‘Manneken pis’.

With this knowledge we can understand that this is imagery of Brussels landmarks and that we might expect the Eiffel tower on equivalent vending machine in Paris. However, I know Brussels pretty well and have seen the statue, but I was still amazed by the choice and wondered if they might not have at least excluded the swish of pee hitting the bottle. I suspect that they would not use such imagery for a swimming pool!

So I also wonder if the choice of imagery included an intentional shock element. Lady Ga Ga might be able to sing and create a catchy song, but how much of her success is down to her continuous efforts to shock us? I believe so as if the choice was only based on landmarks then where is the Atomium?

I should also add that I was only transferring through the airport and many travellers may therefore not know about Brussels attractions and the statue. Many might just see a boy standing on a bottle have a pee.

These images show how difficult and subtle advertising translation can be. We must think outside the box, how the translation might be perceived and if the correct translation might not be appreciated by the target market. We also enter further into the arena of stylistic choice; where one viewer might think that the Nike logo ‘Just do it’ is a little too suggestive even though it has been very successful.

So what do you think? Did this choice of advert increase your thirst and make you want to buy a drink? I can say that I did not even buy a coffee in the airport (which might have been by coincidence) and wonder if drink sales have changed on the vending machines or the airport as a whole.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, June 15th, 2011 at 2:14 pm and is filed under Language Translation. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

One Response to “Translations for Advertising – Lost in Translation?”

  1. maria Translator says:

    I have just search this link wwwfreelanceuk.com/news/3433.shtml

    which give details how marketer, PR and advertising people use pictures without knowledge of there after effect. this article has done a survey and providing related details. hopefully help to other translators

Leave a Reply to maria Translator