How to successfully localise TV and online video adverts

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 national 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 continents, the differences between rules and regulations can be enormous. 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. Whilst 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, but before creating the source material. 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.

  1. Timing restrictions

Depending on the nature of the content and your chosen platform, your advert might also be subject to timing 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

Choice of platformsTo ensure the timing 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.

There are three main TV formats in the world: NTSC, PAL and SECAM:

  • NTSC can be found in North America, some countries in South America, Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines and South Korea
  • Overall, the PAL format is most common in Western Europe, Africa, Australia and many more countries around the globe
  • But in France, Russia and some parts of Africa, the SECAM format is the most popular

The time of video advertisements being solely confined to televisions has long gone. Online and social video is becoming an increasingly popular and cost effective alternative to buying time slots for TV during prime time. The main differences between formats are file type, file size and resolution.

Now the moment when the commercial break starts the consumers’ attentions is drawn away from the TV screen, usually to mobile devices. This has a significant impact on the level of engagement with commercials. Take this into consideration when deciding if TV is really the right medium for your campaign.

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 which local platforms you want to show your video on. Global platforms might differ from the most used, and therefore the most effective, local platforms in your target countries.

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 advertisement to be compatible for those.

  1. 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 make the most out of the local nuances or cluster the markets to align your creative as opposed to rushing through last minute fixes to meet the local legal requirements. Cultural consultation

For example, the ‘A-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.

  1. 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. TV is a big investment and trying to save money when it comes to localisation is a false economy.

Carefully calculate the timing of your multi-lingual video’s 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 lead language otherwise new filming will have to take place and revisions will add up.

Forget about only using machine or literal translation, it just won’t deliver the quality you need to have your creative shine through in the local markets.

  1. Centrally managing localisation

When localising any type of global advertising , any changes made to the source material will require amendments to the deliverable in every language which can be difficult, costly and time consuming. These are best avoided, but when impossible, excellent communication, between every department involved in your localisation process, is key to successfully launch any multinational campaign.

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

  1. Costs

The leading cause for standardisation across TV advertisements is cost But cutting cost on ad localisation is a bad idea for any global 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 to language and culture are taken into account and tailored accordingly. If not, the results of bad translation and localisation can leave a number of your customers confused or even frustrated which will damage your brand, and suppress sales and revenue. If you plan ahead for localisation and local distribution this will help you to keep campaign costs under control.

Key takeaways

  • The differences between the rules and regulations can be extremely different per country, make sure you understand them and amend your ad accordingly. Alternatively, a global marketing implementation expert can advise you on the best approach
  • 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 local industry specialists
  • Consult 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 them
  • While working with in-market linguists, maintaining a central point of accountability will make it easier to keep track of the overall process

To view examples of how we localise TV and online video advertisements for a range of clients 
click hereIf you have questions about localisation, TV clearance or approvals process for multiple markets then our global marketing implementation experts are always happy to advise you. Visit our services page to find out more.


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