Anagha Shukla
Creative Consultant
anagha@ethnopedia.co.uk

Lost in translation
March 26, 2009

I had been to a restaurant in southwest London, popular for it’s British curries. For someone who comes from the land of curries, the idea of a ‘British Curry’ in itself was rather amusing. Nevertheless, I ventured in to the restaurant for a savoury adventure. When the curry was served to me, it did somewhat resemble a ‘curry’ sans the usual aromatic aura that any great curry proudly displays. Being a curry lover, I must admit that the British curry did little to seduce my palate. I wondered stirring the leftovers in my bowl if the curry was, like a lot of campaigns aimed at the multicultural market.

The more I thought of it, the more I was convinced that the fate of the curry was no less similar to a number of campaigns in the multicultural market. I have, in the last few years, working in departments of various big advertising agencies, witnessed the growing inclusion of a mandatory phrase in a number of pan-European and Global briefs- ‘Use simple language. Should be easy to translate.’

Sure translation has turned out to be the easiest and most cost effective solution to our global advertising woes but is it cost effective in the real sense? As a copywriter, I have witnessed some fantastic campaigns losing their X-factor in the process of translation and I won’t blame the translation agency for that. For the truth is, it is never too easy to recapture the nuance of a language or the essence of its rhetoric.

A lot is being said in the media about the marketers missing out on a major chunk of the ever-increasing multicultural population in the UK. But are advertisers taking it seriously? Even if they are, are they thinking about campaigns appealing to the multicultural senses? Targeting the multicultural masses shouldn’t be an afterthought but a quintessential part of brand strategy with a dedicated multicultural advertising agency to serve the purpose.

As reaching out to the right audience becomes a more and more complex with every passing day, we need to think up of innovative as well as original communication alternatives to tap the growing multicultural audience in the UK than merely rushing to translation as a recourse.