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Author: Textappeal

Ad Professionals Do Good in Cannes

  |   News


We believe global advertising has the power not only to drive a brand’s results, but also to do some good. That’s why for the 6th consecutive year the Textappeal team is proud to support ACT Responsible at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

On Wednesday 18th June at the Palais des Festivals in Cannes, ACT Responsible will launch its annual exhibition of the best creative work for sustainable causes. It’s an amazing, inspiring and sometimes shocking experience! Come and visit Hall Riviera – beachside entrance.

All the translations of creative work were provided by Textappeal.

* ACT Responsible is a Swiss-based not-for-profit organisation created in 2001. ACT stands for Advertising Community Together. Their mission is to federate the international advertising communications industry around social responsibility and sustainable development and share good practices. Contact ACT Responsible

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North Korea Fashion, Lost in Marketing Translation

  |   CultureShocks Blog

In mid-2012, a North Korean army minister named Kim Chol was reportedly ‘obliterated’ with a mortar round, on the orders of leader Kim Jong-un, for ‘disrespectful behaviour’.

The news was only one rivulet in a stream of concerned rumour winding out of the isolationist Communist state, where reports of disappearances, poverty, summary executions and starvation form a complimentary backdrop to the Kim dynasty’s cult of personality.

For the outside world, most of these atrocities are symbolised by an overwhelming wave of moss-green nylon, gold medals and red stars, the uniform of the North Korea People’s Army and the epitome of the iron fastness that the country’s rulers lock around their own subjects.

However, Elle Magazine has seen something of worth in the iconic attire, featuring it in a recent online piece as ‘North Korea Chic’. The magazine informed its readers that “some iteration of the military trend stomps the runways every few seasons. This time, it’s edgier, even dangerous, with sharp buckles and clasps and take-no-prisoners tailoring.”  The piece included the image of a single gold stiletto poised next to a North Korean soldier at attention.


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The death of choice for global brand owners

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creation services

An Elephant in the Room

Could it be that even Sir Martin Sorrell was a little shocked by the deca-billion consolidation of the ad industry? As Adage reported, August 27th at WPP’s half-year earnings conference he displayed a chart that naughtily painted the result of the future Publicis-Omnicom Group in a “sludgy brown colour” (his words).

He explained this is what you get when you mix the purple and orange corporate tints of the new Franco-American couple. He name-called it “POG”, and wished Maurice and John’s marriage trouble with regulatory approval.

Like a Che Guevara battling murky monopolies, comrade Sorrell defended the so-called collaborative “agency team” unite dogma for all. An anomaly designed years ago to help HSBC bank bring global order to the marketing of a disparate multi-local financial services group built by acquisition, now generalised into a single client-catch-all. Like a Richard Branson rebelliously standing up for customer rights and delights, he astonishingly dismissed scale in global creative services as a bad thing!

WPP is nothing if not a consolidated top-down empire. The performance was a smart, funny, cynical piece of propaganda to differentiate what in effect are monopolies jointly cornering over 70% of world client spend.

Jaded perhaps but not blind (clients have gone through their own ruthless series of consolidation and restructuring), the industry knows the next round, if it happens, could push the needle into the 90s.

The elephant in the room Mr. Sorrell deliberately ignored is the only one of real significance to brand owners and that is ‘the death of choice’. (more…)

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Why Translate Words when You can Steal Them?

  |   CultureShocks Blog

Achtung! Of the 5,000 new words that feature in the latest edition of the German equivalent of the OED – the Duden – one has raised a few more eyebrows than the rest. It’s an Anglicism, or a loan word from the English language, that has gained intriguing popularity in the German-speaking world, even appearing on the lips of Chancellor Angela Merkel. The word is Shitstorm, and means in German roughly what it means in English.

This last point is one worth making, because the German language has a longstanding tradition of borrowing words from English and distorting their meaning ever so slightly, giving them a new life of their own in English. Pseudo-anglicisms have become engrained, the unwitting German speakers largely unaware that the words have not travelled well: that in English a Streetworker is not an outreach worker, and that asking for a Handy is likely to get you a slap rather than a mobile phone.

France is traditionally much more protective over its language, with the much-vaunted Académie française dictating what should and should not be said. Or at least attempting to dictate… In this technological age it has made some admirable attempts to resist the (new) lingua franca by introducing such terms as courriel – a clever way of combining “courrier” (mail) and “électronique” – and mèl as substitutes for the English “email”. But few of their attempts to safeguard their linguistic shores against English invasion have been successful, and some of them have invited ridicule, as with this recent #hashtagdebacle. And reading virtually any French popular culture or fashion publication is enough to show that the prescriptivists are increasingly fighting a losing battle.

Japanese is a language from further afield that is a big borrower, not just from English but from other tongues too: sarariman – a salaried office/white collar worker – from “salary” + “man”; sekuhara, from “sex(ual) hara(ssment)”; abekku – or “romantic couple” – deriving from avec (“with”) in French; or igirisu, meaning England, from “ingles” in Portuguese, one of the many Japanese words that evidence the countries’ shared history.

It’s no secret that the English language is prone to pinching words at will, now more than ever deserving of its reputation as the “bastard tongue”. There is not enough space even to make a start in this blog, but suffice to say that our vocabulary reflects our rich and varied history in terms of trade, colonisation, cuisine, immigration and much more besides.

Any bastard favourites that you can think of from home or abroad? Let us know in the comments section or via Twitter or Facebook!

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  |   News


act responsible cannes

We believe global advertising has the power not only to drive a brand’s results, but also to do some good. That’s why for the 5th consecutive year the Textappeal team is proud to support ACT Responsible at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

On Tuesday 18th at the Palais des Festivals in Cannes, ACT Responsible will launch its annual exhibition of the best creative work for sustainable causes. It’s an amazing, inspiring and sometimes shocking experience! Come and visit Hall Riviera.

All the translations of creative work were provided by Textappeal pro bono, and we are delighted to be taking part in ACT’s Pure Picnic event on Thursday 20th July. If you’re around, contact us and we’ll send you an invite!

* ACT Responsible is a Swiss-based not-for-profit organisation created in 2001. ACT stands for Advertising Community Together. Their mission is to federate the international advertising communications industry around social responsibility and sustainable development and share good practices. Contact ACT Responsible


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marketing to china,ad campaign translation

Marketing to China’s New Elite: When Ad Campaign Translation Falls Short

  |   CultureShocks Blog

We have previously discussed the importance of avoiding typecasting when launching campaigns in Saudi Arabia, but now we are turning our focus to another “emerging” (or should we say “re-emerging”?) consumer market – China. Recent reports suggest that the world’s most populous country is now the world’s largest luxury market, having leapfrogged the U.S. to account for 27 per cent of global spending on high-end products and services.

The two main segments driving this consumer boom can be divided into the aspirational, urban-based middle class, and a more traditional, established class that could be termed the “new nobility”. We are going to focus on this second group. Who makes up China’s “new nobility”? What are they like? What makes them tick? And what makes them different?

Traditionally members of the business and industrial elite, the “new nobility” represents ultra-high-net-worth individuals descended from the “founding fathers” of Communist China. They are therefore typically more accustomed to wealth and status than their nouveau-riche counterparts, and could be said to be concerned with conventional Chinese values and codes. One would therefore expect members of this elite to be more discreet and less ostentatious than other luxury consumers across the country. Basically, you won’t catch them putting Coca Cola in their Château Lafite…

Part of this is emphasis on discretion is to some extent politically motivated. China’s ruling classes have historically been accused of corruption, with high-end officials living the high life while much of the country remains poverty-stricken. But in an age of increasing media scrutiny and transparency, the most far-reaching anti-corruption campaign of recent times is under way. The inevitable consequence of this is that garish, excessive flaunting of wealth among this “new nobility” is neither fashionable nor advisable, “conspicuously embracing a more conspicuous lifestyle” as this blog puts it.

Another important feature is that there is an ever greater focus on “buying local”. While Western luxury brands are undoubtedly extremely popular in China as Eurozone gloom persists, the “new nobility” are more intent on supporting home-grown talent. The recent appearance of China’s elegant, understated first lady, Peng Liyuan, wearing an outfit by local designer Exception, and the subsequent press coverage, was a case in point.

Finally, another salient characteristic of this elite demographic is an increasing focus on brand loyalty. Evidence suggests that these luxury consumers, with their appreciation of heritage, durability and tastefulness, are more concerned with service and quality rather than with status. The use of good materials and subtle craftsmanship register higher in their priorities than other high-end shoppers and service users in the region.

Understanding the make-up of China’s vast population of big spenders is a complex task, and one that is open to inaccurate profiling and prejudice. One thing that is for sure is that a “one-size-fits-all” approach to the market is not satisfactory. 

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cannes lions festival 2013


Consumers shape the marketing agenda, NOT brands. Global brands now follow where local consumers lead.


That’s why real time local insight is more important than ever to fuel global thinking.

With Textappeal, what used to take weeks took days.

What used to cost thousands cost hundreds.

What used to be subjective and complex is objective and simple.


Meet us in 3.14 hotel just off La Croisette. Let’s talk about your international marketing challenges.

Email us for a chat. 




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image that indicates someone is saying sorry across cultures

Global Brand Translation Misfires, Corrected by Culturally Smart Apologies

  |   CultureShocks Blog


We have already talked about how lightly brands need to tread in a world where everyone is watching, where companies have unprecedented access not only to an enormous raft of potential consumers, but also to the ever-vigilant eyes of potential critics. “Trial by Twitter” is a process that has found many brands guilty, and unfortunate gaffes are never far from mind. Take Waitrose’s social media misfire last autumn, where its “Reasons” campaign was hijacked and turned on its head by teasing tweeters. Rather than issuing an apology as such, they did feel they had to acknowledge the jocular nature of people’s reactions. Other brands to have faced similar cyber-ribbing have reacted in various ways, either by adopting a similarly ribald tone, or by going on an unrepentant offensive, as this blog post discusses. And we can’t forget the reaction to Nick Clegg’s apology video, which went viral last year and totally undermined his attempt to clear the air with the British electorate.

People around the world apologise in different ways. In Japan, the act of apologising is considered a virtue (more on this later). It is no surprise, therefore, that their language and culture have such a diffuse number of ways to express the sentiment of sorriness. The same cannot always be said of the West, where people can often be found saving face by issuing ‘apologies’ that are entirely devoid of any sincerity or meaning. Or the classic British reflex-action apology, where “sorry” is used so unsparingly that it is roughly akin to “hmmm”.

Whatever the ‘right’ approach, there can be little doubt that the apology is an important art when errors in communication are so easy and public. And things only get more complicated when that apology has to be made across cultures, where different conventions, traditions and politics, not to mention different languages, are at play. Last week, Apple found themselves issuing a public apology to their Chinese customers following criticism from state media outlets about the company’s warranty terms. The apology received extensive news coverage across the country, to the bewilderment of many Chinese people, who found the authorities’ glee at events somewhat baffling compared to the veritable silence over more significant matters of public interest. What was perhaps most interesting about Apple’s apology was the way it was worded – “At the same time,” they said, “we also realize that we have much to learn about operating in China, and how we communicate here.” In this knowledge, a comprehensive global communication audit might have saved any embarrassment, taking advantage of local expertise and insight to achieve a “finger on the pulse” – essential for survival in the modern technology jungle.

As we’ve already mentioned, the cross-cultural apology is a complicated process due to the linguistic, political and cultural considerations that need to be taken on board. Indeed, an episode at the end of 2012 shows the extent of the complications in China, with the reporting of an “apology” made by the new Leader of the Communist Party, Xi Jinping. When arriving late for a speech, he made a comment which literally translates as “made everyone wait a long time”. Does this mean “sorry”? According to the presiding English interpreter, it did. Later on, however, opinion was divided among observers, with some objecting to translations from various international media outlets that played up the “sorry” aspect, while others felt the literal translation – with its more unrepentant connotations – was appropriate.

An extreme example of how cultural conventions can differ came with the public apology offered by Japanese popstar Minami Minegishi following revelations that she had spent the night with her boyfriend. She appeared with a shaved head, begging the public for forgiveness in a traditional act of contrition.

There is no escaping the fact that, were the divas of Europe or the US to so flail themselves for such minor misdemeanours, the blogosphere would be utterly saturated. Yes, it might have been over the top and unnecessary, but it was also on some level based on cultural tradition.

These examples show the challenges faced by brands operating internationally, and the need for expert, sensitive cross-cultural communications strategies. Saying sorry is never easy. Saying sorry across a cultural divide is even harder…

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