MTM LinguaSoft partnered with Tierney, a full-service advertising agency, to create Spanish-language outreach materials for the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue’s Tax Amnesty Program. The campaign included print ads and online banner ads as well as scripts and voiceovers for radio.  In order to speak effectively and naturally to Spanish-speaking taxpayers, we provided cultural consulting, translation, and transcreation.

Transcreation is similar to foreign-language copywriting. Unlike straight translation, which conveys the literal meaning and tone of English source materials, transcreation gives the team more latitude to adapt the basic ideas and concepts. This is especially important for advertising and marketing, which rely so strongly on emotional association. Cultural consulting is closely allied with transcreation, as it involves reviewing English-language copy and images to identify which elements will and will not work for the target audience.

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Adapting communications aimed at Spanish-speaking audiences always brings several challenges:

Advertising plays on double meanings to convey a message in a humorous or catchy manner.  For example, the term “back” in English lends itself to notions of back taxes being a burden literally carried on one’s back. The term in Spanish for unpaid or delinquent taxes translates literally to “late” or “delayed” taxes (impuestos atrasados). One early idea for the English ads played with the colloquial “a monkey on your back,” but the concept would not have worked in Spanish because the double meaning is not there, and cultural associations with the animal itself didn’t fit the purpose or tone of the campaign.

A second issue is text expansion. It takes more characters, words, and time to say something in Spanish than to say the same thing in English. Because radio ads must be exactly 30 or 60 seconds, translators need to be able to condense the text without compromising the meaning.

Like any creative project, transcreation is an iterative process. Drawing on the creative brief, the transcreation team reviews the English source material and provides several options for each tagline or line of dialogue. The literal back-translation is also provided so that the client can see what metaphors or ideas the team has chosen. Internal review by the agency’s or the client’s own Spanish-speaking reviewers is often part of the mix, and their comments are also taken into account in the final deliverable.

The final print and radio ads appeared in Spanish-speaking media in Pennsylvania.