Independent transcreators: a worthy alternative for advertising agencies

Jo Pires-O’Brien

Translation in the area of marketing and advertising is different from ordinary translation because it may involve changing both the words and the implicit meanings of the original copy, whilst maintaining the attitude and desired persuasive effect. This is why the translation of copywriting into another language is known as transcreation. A good transcreator must have the capacity to understand a brand and a brand’s voice, and to communicate the message through a subtle use of cultural metaphors. In other words, a good transcreator must be a reader, a thinker and a writer.
When a translation agency contact me about my availability to carry out a translation in marketing or advertising, I try to ascertain whether there is any remuneration for this type of translation. If the answer is ‘no’ and the job’s word count is small, I normally turn it down, for I know how time-consuming a short text in marketing and advertising can be. I bet that most experienced translators do the same.
It is part of a company’s strategy to keep their costs down but it is a dangerous strategy to save money at the expense of quality. A translation agency that fails to differentiate between ordinary translation and transcreation is compromising on quality. If by chance such a translation agency manages to recruit a good translator who is willing to receive ordinary remuneration to do transcreation, chances are that the translator will eventually feel resentment and quit the project. A business to business deal between an advertising company and an uncompromising translation agency is doomed to fail.
The advertising agencies who need to have their copywriting translated from English into another language should hire freelance translators directly. Those that are UK-based can find a list of translators in the websites of the two main professional translators’ organizations: the Chartered Institute of Linguistics ( and the Institute of Translators and Interpreters ( These sites are only a starting point. There are plenty of good translators available, including some with the right competence to appreciate the apparent simplicity and the subtlety of copywriting. The direct sourcing of translations with the translators themselves could prove cheaper to the advertising agencies in the long term even if they pay a premium for the higher level of difficulty that the translation of copywriting entails. I am sure that the translators contracted would be happy to receive a fair remuneration for their special job, and this would be an incentive for them to give their best every time in order to secure future business. A partnership between an Advertising Company and a Language Service Provider has all it takes to be a win-win situation.

Jo Pires-O’Brien is a Brazilian-born Portuguese translator based in the UK. She is also the editor of PortVitoria, a trilingual biannual magazine aimed at speakers of Portuguese and Spanish worldwide:


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