Advertising: Europe Gets the Right Message
Faith, Nicholas, The Independent (London, England)
IF YOU want confirmation that a unified Europe is a distant dream you have only to call in at 162 Wardour Street in Soho, London. There you will find a group of young copywriters grappling with the problems of adapting advertising copy into six languages.
The idea that advertising agencies need more than mere translation of their copy is not new. But it took a young copywriter, Simon Anholt, to transform the idea into reality. Previously, the delicate task of adapting copywriters' immortal prose had been left to translators, who were paid a mere pounds 40 per 1,000 words.
Mr Anholt saw his opportunity while enjoying the prize he was awarded as Young Copywriter of the Year - a tour of leading agencies throughout the world. He realised that even when advertisements were translated properly - which was not always the case - the work was handled by the least talented people in the agency, and usually no attempt was made to adapt the content to the local culture.
When he returned home, he set up World Writers, with the motto: "Translation no, copywriting yes."
To achieve his objective, Mr Anholt had to lure good copywriters to London from agencies all over Europe. This, it transpired, was not too difficult, since many bright young copywriters from Europe wanted to spend some time here. Selection was not a problem either: when asked why they want to write copy, candidates simply have to reply: "Because I love words."
He now has two writers each for French and German, as well as one each for Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Flemish, Swedish and Catalan - plus two for English, since many international campaigns, such as those of Olivetti, do not originate in Britain. Italy is also the source of European advertisements for Swatch.
Mr Anholt is aware of the danger that his writers may start thinking in English, so he tries to make sure that they remain tuned in to their own cultures.
"We subscribe to 400 magazines," he says. "We don't just read them; we pull them apart. We have cable TV in the office. We try to ensure that they speak only their own language and live in a sort of cultural capsule. In addition, they have a month's sabbatical every year to give them total immersion among family and friends."
These precautions may seem over-elaborate, given that the writers do not usually stay more than a couple of years: "They're young; they go back knowing that they've had great training in copywriting and in international advertising," Mr Anholt said.
World Writers is definitely not in the translation business. Mr Anholt has set up a separate company, Translators in Advertising, to cope with brochures, mail shots and other, more prosaic material.
"Any copy is a mix of facts, which can be translated by bullet points, and voices. The …
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Advertising: Europe Gets the Right Message. Contributors: Faith, Nicholas - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: February 27, 1994. Page number: Not available. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.