12 May 2022In Transcreation, Case studies8 Minutes

Transcreating lip-synch spots for the TV: refurbed case study

Three types of TV ads for international brands

Let’s say an international brand wants to advertise on Italian television. What options do they have?

Most TV ads involve a voiceover telling a story or sharing information about the advertised product or service. An example of this is Ryanair’s first pan European campaign, which I worked on several years ago (transcreation + voiceover direction).

Then there are ads, like these Vinted TV spots, where the actresses deliver almost all their lines on camera, i.e. while on screen.

And there’s also a third type of TV spot. The actors say their lines on camera, but in a foreign language. So to use this ad in the Italian market, we need to adapt the script, taking into account not only the length of the lines, but also in a way that matches the actors’ lip flaps. And this is what happened with refurbed’s TV campaign, which has just gone on air in Italy.

German refurbed spot

Founded in Vienna in 2017, refurbed is the marketplace for refurbished electronic devices. Buying a refurbished product from refurbed is a safe choice (30 day free trial and a minimum of 12 months’ warranty), affordable (average savings of 40%) and sustainable (for every sale, a tree is planted).

In January 2022, refurbed launched an advertising campaign in German-speaking countries with a strong emphasis on sustainability. It was executed by the advertising agency Jung von Matt. Each time a character says the word “refurbed”, a tree pops up, until the waiting room they’re sitting in becomes an actual jungle. Let’s take a look at the German 30” spot.

This is the original script:

Schau mal, mein neues Smartphone von refurbed.

Oh, wooow… refurbed?

Ja, refurbed: erneuerte Technik.

Also wie neu, nur besser weil günstiger UND nachhaltiger.

Also da gibt’s auch Laptops und so, bei refurbed?

Ja, genau!

Außerdem pflanzt refurbed bei jedem Kauf einen Baum!

Klingt super, dieses refurbed.

Neueste Technik, vollständig erneuert.

refurbed. Wie neu, nur besser.



And this is a literal translation into English:

ook, my new smartphone from refurbed.

Oh, wooow… refurbed?

Yes, refurbed: renewed technology.

Like new, only better because cheaper AND more sustainable.

So there are also laptops and stuff at refurbed?

Yes, exactly!

Moreover plants refurbed with every purchase a tree!

Sounds great, this refurbed.

The latest technology, completely renewed.

refurbed. Like new, only better.


The company decided to use this ad for the Italian market too, albeit in a reduced 20” format. And they asked me to create the Italian version of the script which would then be used to lip-synch the spot. The tagline “Wie neu, nur besser” (literally: “Like new, only better”) had already been adapted inhouse. In Italian, it became “Come nuovo e molto di più” (literally: “Like new and much more”) and I would need to use this phrase in the script.

My German to Italian transcreation

My challenge was to capture the meaning of the original using Italian expressions which matched the mouths of the German actors as closely as possible.

Some examples?

  • The spot starts with “Schau mal!”, i.e. “Look!”. However, because of the way the German actress moved her mouth, I felt that “Guarda qua!” (Look at this!) worked much better.
  • (At roughly 00:07): “erneuerte Technik” could be rendered literally as “tecnologia rinnovata” (renewed technology), but I used “un cellulare rigenerato” (a regenerated mobile) instead. It matched the lip movements better, but I also liked how the word “rigenerato” (regenerated) makes you think of nature and the jungle.
  • (At roughly 00:12): “Außerdem pflanzt refurbed bei jedem Kauf einen Baum”. Here, not only did I have to deal with the lip movements, but the word order presented a particular problem. Since this sentence begins with an adverb (describing an action), German syntax meant that the order of the subject and verb needed to swap, literally “moreover plants refurbed for each purchase a tree”. My Italian script needed to keep the word “refurbed” at the same place in the sentence that the German actress used it, and so I switched the sentence like this: “E per ogni acquisto su refurbed viene piantato un albero” (and for every purchase on refurbed a tree gets planted).
  • (At roughly 00:15) “Neueste Technik, vollständig erneuert” (the latest technology): this line is very short and I would never have been able to translate it faithfully (“tecnologia” [technology] and “completamente” [completely] are pretty long words in Italian!). Keeping the lip-synch in mind, I chose “Novità hi-tech ricondizionate” (reconditioned hi-tech novelties). Here in Italy, “ricondizionato” (reconditioned) is the most common word to describe refurbished devices, and so it seemed sensible to include it in the script’s key line.

This is the final result in Italian:

Guarda qua: il mio nuovo smartphone… è refurbed!


Sì, refurbed: un cellulare rigenerato.

Come nuovo e molto di più: più risparmio e sostenibilità.

E per ogni acquisto su refurbed viene piantato un albero.

Novità hi-tech ricondizionate.

refurbed. Come nuovo e molto di più.

And this is a literal translation into English:

Look at this: my new smartphone… it’s refurbed!


Yes, refurbed: a regenerated mobile.

Like new and much more: higher savings and sustainability.

And for each purchase on refurbed, a tree is planted.

Reconditioned hi-tech novelties.

refurbed. Like new and much more.

As I always say in my courses, transcreation is not creativity in its purest form, but creativity with limitations. And in the refurbed spot, the limitations were the mouth movements. If you’ve enjoyed reading about my approach to transcreating lip-synch TV ads, then you might also be interested in my Avon case study (transcreation + voice over direction for TV commercials).