How to successfully localise TV and online video adverts | Blog

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Your budget requests have been signed off for your latest video advertising campaign. Now you need to deliver your message effectively across a number of different languages, markets and platforms. But where should you start? Several aspects need to be taken into account before you begin the creative production process.


Localising step by step

1. The legal aspects

Make sure you understand the local rules and constraints that might apply to your advertisement in all of your target markets.

It’s extremely important to get clearance and validation on the localised creative assets. If they are in conflict with the country’s code of broadcast advertising it could delay your campaign and significantly increase your costs.

Even within the same region, the differences between rules and regulations from one country to the other can be tremendous. For example, in some European countries it is illegal to advertise spirits and beers above a certain percentage of alcohol, and in others advertising alcohol is banned completely.

In the USA, the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) prohibits the use of profanities and displaying violence, but the rules and regulations for advertisements vary per state. On the other hand, in the majority of Muslim countries it is prohibited to advertise feminine hygiene products, underwear, contraceptive products and medication.

Another important criteria to consider is advertisement substantiation; you must have reasonable evidence to back up all of your claims. It is in fact illegal to state you sell the most efficient car, if there is no real evidence to support that claim.

The legal aspects should be taken into account after having selected target markets and before production start. It is worthwhile discussing the legal aspects with specialists to save you paying for the production of assets which can’t be used in some of your key target markets.

2. Viewing time restrictions

Depending on the nature of the content you wish to produce and your chosen platform, your advert might be subject to viewing time restrictions. For example, advertisements for gambling should not be viewed by an underage audience. Customer acquisition price on TV is very high, so you want to make sure your advert is displayed at the right time of day in order to reach your target audience. If restrictions apply, one or more codes will be assigned to your advert. These can differ for normal broadcast or linear advertisements, social video or video on demand (VoD) ads, the last being more descriptive because these can be watched at any time.

Three examples of time restriction codes in the UK*:

  • DC: Applies to all alcohol adverts. If your ad is giving this scheduling restriction code it means it’s not to be transmitted during or adjacent to religious programmes and children’s programmes, including all programmes commissioned for, directed at or likely to appeal to under-18 audiences
  • 55 BETTING: Applies to ads for betting products and services, this code means ads are not to be transmitted before 21:00. But it does not apply for sports betting around televised sporting events
  • FH (for linear ads)/ VFD (for VoD ads): Applies to ads for products assessed as high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) in accordance with the Food Standards Agency’s definition. This code means your advert is not to be shown around children’s programmes, directed at or likely to appeal to under-16 audiences

To ensure the viewing time restrictions are correct for your target market, Freedman advises clients on the restrictions they might be subject to and communicates these to media teams, so that the bookings are adequate or the creative can be changed, before it’s too late.


3. Video channels

Before you embark on your creative journey, you must decide on the channel you want for your video. Video does not necessarily mean TV anymore (and inflated budgets). Digital and social videos are cost-effective alternatives to TV ads, which perform just as well, if not better as they are a lot more targeted. Besides, when viewers are watching TV and the ad break comes on, their attention is drawn away from the TV screen, usually to their mobile devices. This screen competition phenomenon has had a significant impact on the level of engagement with TV commercials. Take this into consideration when deciding if TV is really the right medium for your campaign.

Moreover, the amount of consumers watching TV on their desktops, tablets or other mobile devices is increasing rapidly. TV is shifting from television to online platforms such as YouTube and Netflix. Think about the platforms you want to braodcast your video on in each of your target markets. Platforms will differ from one country to the other in terms of their use and popularity.

For example, in China it would be more relevant to use QQplayer or Youku Tudou additionally to YouTube. Make a list of the most popular and widely recognised platforms and amend your advert to be compatible for those.

4. Understanding the nuances

Understanding the nuances in language, culture, values and beliefs that exist in specific regions is absolutely vital when it comes to making sure your advertisement resonates with the local audience. We strongly recommend researching the cultural meaning of your creative and its specific elements before going ahead with production as it will impact the ROI of your campaign. Make sure you understand local nuances as well as local legal requirements before any production begins, to ensure that your ad performs well and does not end up being banned.

For example, the ‘OK’ hand gesture in Europe and North America is generally considered to be an indication that everything is in order. However, in countries such as Tunisia, France and Belgium it could be interpreted as zero or worthless, while in Japan, it refers to money or coins. Making sure that your advertisement does not include symbols, hand gestures and language that might be interpreted in the wrong way by your target audience, is definitely time well spent.

You may also want to film different shots for specific target markets in order for your campaign to resonate on a higher level with its audience. For example, a sports wear brand for Scandinavian markets originally filmed in Australia focusing on rugby and cricket might not resonate as well as if sections were re-filmed to include popular winter sports. So it’s good to have some spare footage and different takes in case some are not usable or preferable for certain markets. Planning for these in advance will save you time and money in the long run.

5. Translation and voiceover

Translation quality is key, whether you decide to use subtitles, voiceovers, dubbing or a hybrid of all three, you should start by considering what language support you will need.

We recommend using in-market linguists who live and breathe the language and its evolution in a given country. They will be able to capture colloquial differences and retain the style of the original creative whilst giving it the right local flavour. The more creative your big idea (humour, words play, etc.), the more creative the local translators will need to be. It is always best to use copywriters for TV adaptations.

Another point to be wary of when localising is timing. You must carefully calculate the timing of your multi-lingual video and define duration. Depending on the content, French, German and Spanish usually expand by 5-20% while most Asian languages tend to contract when translated from English by around 60%. Again, copywriters will be able to help here by creatively adapting the copy to also make sure it works from a timing / logistical point of view.

Criteria such as subject matter, sentence structure as well as the speed of the spoken language can influence the script’s length. Costs can escalate if translation isn’t considered from the outset. Make sure you take this into account when filming in the source language otherwise new filming will have to take place and revisions will add up.

6. Managing localisation centrally

When localising any type of global advert, it’s important that your source asset is final before it gets adapted into different languages. If changes are made to the source material after the localisation has begun, any change will have to be carried out across all the deliverables, in every language which can be difficult, costly and time consuming. To avoid this situation communication is key between all stakeholders involved in the localisation process.

Maintaining a central point of accountability while working with in-market linguists and local teams will make it easier to keep track of the overall progress and launch deliverables simultaneously across markets.

7. Costs

It’s quite natural to want to achieve cost efficiencies when working on a global campaign. However, it’s important to ensure that no corners are being cut and that quality is preserved at every stage of the process. For instance, cutting costs drastically on localisation can result in translation issues, which can be extremely detrimental to your brand. The objective of an advertisement is to connect directly with the minds, values and beliefs of a specific audience. This can only be achieved when the sensitivities of a language and culture are taken into account. Bad translation may seem anecdotal, but long term it can truly damage your brand, and lead to poor campaign performance. So rather than taking a blind cost-cutting approach, we recommend that you plan your global campaign right, from the start, which will result in cost efficiencies, without impacting quality.

Key Takeaways

  • Rules and regulations can vary greatly from one country to the next, so make sure you understand any restrictions and create your video content accordingly.
  • Research what cultural aspects might influence the way your message comes across so that specific elements in your ad are not interpreted incorrectly. This is best done by testing your ad in market, with local experts.
  • Only use in-market linguists to ensure the highest quality transcreation, which your target audience can relate to.
  • Choose the right platform; make a list of the most widely recognised digital platforms in your target country and make sure your advert is compatible for these.
  • While working with in-market linguists and local teams, maintaining a central point of accountability will make it easier to keep track of the overall process.

If you need some help to take your TV campaigns global, get in touch today.


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