Advertisement Translation: What Is It, Who Needs It, How Does It Work, And How Much Does It Cost?

Translating ads involves more than just converting a text from a source language into a target language. The process is fraught with cultural nuances — more about those in this article. We’ll also cover the topic of how to go about translating an ad independently, and who you can turn to for professional help.

What Is Ad Translation?

Ad translation converts an advertisement intended for one audience into a format that’s suitable for a wider international audience Not only does this process involve the direct sense of translation from language to language, it also involves translating social, cultural and linguistic factors.

What’s the Point, Where’s the Value? 

It’s cheaper to translate an advertisement than create a new one for every audience The wider your audience is, the higher the ad’s performance will be, measured by clicks, sales and reputation. But in order to reach a wide audience, you need to translate the advertisement properly. Netflix proved this in 2021, when the series Squid Game produced in South Korea reached 111 million fans around the world within less than four weeks. It became the biggest-ever series launch. And it was all thanks to the comprehensive translation of both the series and its advertisement in a multitude of the world’s languages.

Context When Translating Ads 

Not all brands have the kind of resources at their disposal that Netflix does. But there are some things you can do to help your brand reach an international audience. Context is key, which needs to be taken into account. A successful advertisement should fit into the cultural, historic, narrative, and linguistic context. Oh, and it shouldn’t offend anyone.

Cultural and Sociohistorical Context 

Every advertisement contains nuances that are unique to the culture in which it was created. Things that are familiar to creators and their home-country audiences can be new, unusual or unpleasant to people from other countries or social backgrounds with different lived experiences and levels of expertise.

Narrative Context

No matter how convincing language is, the narrative needs to conform to the audience’s existing knowledge about a brand. Narrative context plays a key role here. For example, an oil company advertising environmentally clean energy will raise questions. However, if this company speaks openly about the environmental damage caused by the oil industry, and shows how it’s moving towards the future of clean energy, then that’s another story. Consumers are more likely to accept this narrative.

Linguistic Context

The wrong choice of words or a clumsy phrase can cause offense.  You need to consider how fragments of the advertisement could sound if taken out of context. Do you need to read the full text for parts of it not to cause offense? If the answer is yes, it might be worth looking for an alternative way to deliver the message.

Culture-Specific Offense 

Symbols and imagery which are considered culturally acceptable in your domestic market may be seen as offensive in foreign markets. 

Further Considerations When Translating Ads  

Global Context 

If you can’t consider the context of the country your ad is placed within the wider global cultural context, your message probably won’t get through or will soon come across as outdated.

Marketing Channels  

Before you start translating, you need to research which marketing channels are popular in the target country:
  • Will print media be an effective way of reaching the audience, or a marketing campaign via email? 
  • Perhaps using social media would be the best option. If so, which platform?
The ad type will also dictate the channel. as different channels (social media, messanging apps, websites) all have their limitations.

The Country’s Laws 

Laws are a key consideration. Before the translation and launch, research:
  • Which laws on data confidentiality apply to your target audience? 
  • Are cold email campaigns legal? 
  • What do you need to do to collect email addresses? 

Market Research 

If you make any kind of claim, you need to do your research in order to determine whether it’s correct for the target market.  Let’s say you sell beard oil in the UK. You now plan on selling it in France, Portugal and Denmark. You’re more than likely to discover that attitudes towards wearing a beard differ from country to country. That’s why your survey which found that x-number of men in the UK have beards will have to be repeated for each of your target markets. And based on the results, you’ll need to update the advertisement.

Tips on Translating Ads  

If you just translate an advertisement word-for-word, it’s guaranteed to fail. You need to take a creative approach to the task instead.

Don’t Translate, Transcreate 

This approach is a combination of translation and adaptation. The core message will be preserved, while all other aspects — images, videos, text, structure, brand or product names — will be adapted for the audience. 

Change Design if Necessary 

Your initial advertisement was so thoroughly thought-out that the text harmonized perfectly with the visuals from a design point of view. The same harmony needs to be achieved in the adaptation. Suppose the word count of your English text is 38. That doesn’t mean the translated ad in, let’s say, Spanish will have the same word count. Languages differ when it comes to the number of words needed to say the same thing, as does the length of each word. When translating, you’ll probably need to make some changes to the design. 

Plan Video Ad Translation 

Ask yourself these questions:
  • Will the translation use subtitles or hire actors to provide a voice-over? 
  • Will the visual elements be appropriate for the target audience? Or will some parts of the clip even need to be reshot? 
  • If you’ve decided on dubbing, will the length of utterances in the target language match the original? Or will you need to slow some scenes in order to leave more time for speaking?
All of this needs to be thought through before you begin translating.

Difficulty of Translating Ads 


We’ve already mentioned that it’s cheaper to adapt an ad than it is to create a new one for a new market. But it still requires some investment. That’s why you need to determine which markets are worth investing in and which ones aren’t from the outset. This research can be very time-consuming, but it will save money in the long run.  This will allow you to pinpoint the markets which are most likely to respond positively to your message and your product.

Desire to Preserve the Original 

When you’ve worked hard on an ad placed in one country, it can be difficult to watch transcription specialists pick an advertising advertisement apart and make changes to it.  Many advertisers strive to preserve elements of the original. But it’s better to trust the experts — that’s what they’re paid for.

Risk of Offending the Audience 

Language isn’t the only risk factor: symbols, imagery, and many other factors can also cause offense. 

How to Analyze the Results of Active Ads 

When running an advertisement campaign in any language, you need to monitor how it’s performing.

A/B Tests 

These are used to compare the user experience of websites, emails, newsletters, advertisements on social media and much more. Running A/B tests is a must every time you adapt a creative solution, and they should be compared with the results of previous versions. 

Traffic or Calls 

When using print media or TV to air creative solutions, you can use website traffic analytics to monitor increases in user visits or analyze incoming calls over the period the advertisement is run. However, these performance indicators can also be influenced by other factors.

Link Clicks

When advertising a creative solution online, you can track link clicks to your website to gauge how effective it is.

Who to Consult for Adaptation 

Turn to professional linguists with:
  • a deep understanding of your target culture
  • experience in translating ads 
  • desktop publishing and graphic design skills
  • transcription, subtitling, and other forms of video translation skills.


Companies usually have a large team of designers, translators, transcribers, and localization specialists, who can work swiftly to deliver results around-the-clock. In companies, one specialist can take over after another. This certainly doesn’t come cheap. Companies can usually translate:
  • marketing and advertising texts
  • advertisements, including newspaper ads
  • accompanying sales literature
  • packaging
  • press releases
  • flyers
  • banners
  • brochures
  • newsletters
  • catalogs
  • and blogs.


Another option is to hire freelancers with translation experience. This is a more budget-friendly option. In this case, you’ll need to be extra careful in choosing your translator to ensure they understand the country’s culture.  You may also need to hire a separate graphic designer to adapt the creative elements. If only you could say that a freelancer costs x-amount and the services of a company cost y-amount. But these figures can be provided by a company.

Translating Ads at INLINGO

INLINGO offers:
  • A network of certified translators, transcribers and localization specialists who specialize in 120+ languages.
  • A clear interface for placing orders and tracking projects.
  • Video localization and voice-over, including subtitling, dubbing and transcription.
Create your overseas advertisement with INLINGO. Contact us for a pleasant offer.