2 July 2019In Transcreation, Case studies10 Minutes

Double feature: transcreation + voiceover direction for TV commercials

Transcreation as a consulting service

Transcreation (translation + creation, i.e. copywriting) is the practice of writing advertising or marketing copy for a specific market, starting from copy written in a source language, as if the target text had originated in the target language and culture. In other words, transcreation means adapting promotional texts from one language and market to another. As I explained in this article published in the Journal of Specialised Translation, transcreation requires four skills: source language comprehension, copywriting skills, cultural sensitivity and local market understanding. Such a skillset does not necessarily coincide with a translator’s specialism, and this is one of the reasons why I believe transcreation and translation are different services to be used in different fields. Yet transcreation should not be regarded as an alternative service to translation – when it comes to advertising and marketing copy, the only way to ‘translate’ it is in fact to ‘transcreate’ it. And transcreation specialists are hired precisely because they have the expertise to decide how to go about it. Based on the brief received from the client, and deciding on a case-by-case basis, transcreation professionals establish whether a faithful rendition of the source text retains the original effectiveness and provokes the intended reaction, or whether the copy has to be rewritten to achieve that end. In the latter situation, they end up creating a new original.

The fact that transcreation is different from translation is also reflected in the non-transcreation tasks that may be performed within the general framework of a transcreation project. Before adapting copy, for example, the transcreation professional may be asked to check whether a brand name has negative associations in the target language, or whether a certain creative concept is used by a brand’s competitors. After adapting a TV or radio commercial, the transcreation professional may have to direct the voiceover recording session in the recording studio. I consider these tasks to be an integral part of transcreation as a service, which in view of all of the above turns out to be more of a consulting service than a language service strictu sensu.

Case study: Avon

Let me be more specific. When Avon launched the Super Extend Winged Out Mascara in 2015, I adapted the print ad as well as the television commercial, serving as VO director for the latter too. The analogy between a woman’s eyelashes and a bird’s wings and feathers, which permeates this entire advertising campaign, starts from the very product name and is reinforced by the copy as well as the visual. Here is the Avon advert in the original English. The tagline “You make it beautiful” was not part of the transcreation assignment.

you captivate with lashes that SOAR UP and OUT


Our exclusive Precision Tapered Brush reaches every corner lash, with a Raven Black formula enhanced with lengthening fibers. Lashes lengthen up and way out, so you can spread your wings with ultimate flare.


you make it BEAUTIFUL

Since the product name would remain in English for the Italian market, I felt that the Italian audience would not get the bird analogy right away. That’s why I decided to make the connection explicit in the Italian adaptation of the headline. On the other hand, “wingspan” (“apertura alare” in Italian) is a technical term you would only hear in a documentary – Italians would never use it to talk about lashes. For the product benefit, the link with birds had to be dropped.

Below is the Avon advert in Italian (transcreation by yours truly). Although I am aware that the visual in the Italian advert slightly differs from the US version, for the purposes of this article I am focusing only on the copy.




Il nostro esclusivo applicatore affusolato raggiunge con precisione ogni angolo delle ciglia. Grazie alla formula a base di fibre allunganti color nero corvino, le ciglia si distendono, si aprono e volano verso l’alto.

Ciglia fino al 60% PIÙ DISTESE

tu lo rendi più BELLO

Below is the English backtranslation of my Italian transcreation.



Our exclusive tapered brush reaches with precision every corner of the lashes. Thanks to the raven black formula with lengthening fibers, lashes stretch out, open up and fly up.

Lashes up to 60% MORE STRETCHED OUT

you make it more BEAUTIFUL

I followed a similar approach for the television commercial, which partly shares the same copy. Below is the script of the American version of the commercial.

Introducing a new way to spread your wings

Avon Super Extend Winged Out Mascara

With our feather inspired precision tapered brush [super: precision tapered brush], lashes lengthen up and way out

Lashes flare out for instant wingspan

With Avon’s raven black formula enhanced with lengthening fibers, you captivate with a winged out lash look

New Avon Super Extend Winged Out Mascara

Avon. You make it beautiful.

For my Italian transcreation of the TVC I tried to retain all the references to birds, feathers and wings, starting from the opening line, where I used a different bird-related metaphor, however.

È arrivato il momento di spiccare il volo

Mascara Avon Super Extend Winged Out

Grazie al nostro applicatore di precisione ispirato alla forma delle piume [super: applicatore di precisione], le ciglia si allungano verso l’alto e verso l’esterno e si distendono come ali

La formula color nero corvino arricchita con fibre allunganti ti assicura uno sguardo aperto che ti renderà irresistibile

Nuovo Mascara Avon Super Extend Winged Out

Avon. Tu lo rendi più bello.

Below is the English backtranslation of my Italian transcreation.

The time has come to take flight

Avon Super Extend Winged Out Mascara

Thanks to our precision brush inspired by the shape of feathers [super: precision brush], lashes lengthen up and out and stretch out like wings

The raven black formula enriched with lengthening fibers ensures you an open look that will make you irresistible

New Avon Super Extend Winged Out Mascara

Avon. You make it more beautiful.

After the copy was approved, I went to the recording studio to supervise the session and direct voiceover talent Mariagrazia Errigo, making sure that the voiceover lines tied in nicely with the video. As a matter of fact, a VO director’s tasks is not only to help actors nail the takes, but also to make sure the script fits the length and the sync points – slightly tweaking the copy on the spot, if need be.

Best practice for the transcreation of television commercials

Are you looking to implement your global television campaign in the Italian market? Make sure you work with a real transcreation specialist who also has extensive experience in voiceover direction. This way you can get the full package:

  • a script that packs a punch while fitting the length and keeping the synch points (no mean feat if the professional you hire has little to no experience in TVC transcreation!)
  • advice on the best voice talent to use for your ads
  • expert voiceover direction in the recording studio.

Simply put, make sure you work with someone like me.

Contact me to discuss your project.