Animation in International Advertising Strategies

Tara Parachuk | December 22, 2020

A man working in the background with a globe in the foreground

Creative professionals often find themselves asking “how do I create one animation video that will be suitable for all international markets?” That common question is paired with others like, “how to create culturally neutral characters,” and “how to make an advertisement appeal to many audiences.” That’s where translation, localization, and transcreation come into play. We’ve explored all 3 options and provided industry examples of localization and transcreation to serve as inspiration.

The Power of Culturally Neutral, Emotionally Rich Character Design
How Brands Are Using One Animation for Global Advertising
Voice Over in International Animation Projects
The Difference Between Localization and Translation
Why Transcreation is Important
To Recap on Animation in International Advertising

In this article

  1. The Power of Culturally Neutral, Emotionally Rich Character Design
  2. How Brands Are Using One Animation for Global Advertising
  3. Voice Over in International Animation Projects
  4. The Difference Between Localization and Translation
  5. Why Transcreation is Important
  6. To Recap on Animation in International Advertising

The Power of Culturally Neutral, Emotionally Rich Character Design

Anyone who has travelled to a country that speaks a foreign language can attest to the importance of body language and emotional expression to communicate.

Regardless of what language is being used, effective communication goes far beyond the spoken and written word. It is rooted in the physical expression of emotion. While there are definitely some expressions that differ from culture to culture, a body of research suggests that there’s at least seven core universal expressions that convey the same meaning, no matter the spoken language that accompanies them. A smile, for instance, is a way to show happiness and joy around the world.

Animators who produce characters that accurately communicate these universal signals of body language open up their stories to more accurate interpretation from audiences around the world. If done well, the message won’t just be understood, it’ll resonate so deeply with the audience that they’ll feel inclined to share it with their inner circles.

How Brands Are Using One Animation for Global Advertising

In a world where creative professionals are under pressure to do more with less, animation can be like an ace up your sleeve. A single well-made animation can equip a brand with an asset that can be leveraged for multiple uses. For example, one animation can serve as the content for online video advertising, social media video engagement, television commercial spots, corporate videos, tradeshow event videos, in-cinema commercials, etc.

Animation works even harder for the modern marketer with a little careful planning. Incorporating neutral characters keeps the video ‘evergreen,’ in that it can be consumed by a diverse audience and be amplified on an international scale.

A perfect example of this global-scale animation is from the Emmy-nominated Coca-Cola “Happiness Factory” series. The 2006 Coca-Cola Super Bowl commercial showcased an elaborate “factory” which was actually the inside of a vending machine. It features fictitious characters and inanimate objects helping to move a Coke bottle along its journey through the vending machine and out to the customer. It’s an oldie but a goodie!

These characters were ambiguous enough (in terms of cultural identifiers) that the video remained relevant to every country it was aired in, and was used for online advertising as well.

Voice Over in International Animation Projects

In the cases of Coca-Cola and Oreo mentioned above and below respectively, the commercials don’t animate any characters to speak, so the brands were able to reuse their videos all over the world without needing to use dubbing.

However, technological advancements have enabled animators to so closely lip sync a character to its voice that you’d swear the lips were matching up with the voice, regardless of what language is being used for dubbing. So in times where there are animated characters with dialogue, adding voiceover in different languages (dubbing) is easier than ever!

An example of voice over applied to international marketing is Oreo’s “Play With Oreo” campaign. This video shows the same commercial produced with 14 different languages of voice over. The commercial was able to air in 40 countries as it maintained the neutral characters that don’t necessarily hint to any specific culture. Smart cookies!

Other big brands have done an excellent job of showing how one piece of content (for them, their films) can be authentically and realistically tailored to many different international audiences all while using voice over dubbing.

The Disney film ‘Coco’ cast native Mexicans and Mexican Americans for the vast majority of the roles in the film, with most reprising their roles for the Latin-Spanish dubbing of the film. Coco ended up with rave reviews for how it was able to deliver cultural accuracy though initially produced in English. When it was dubbed in Spanish, the film was applauded for providing natural and seamless dubbing.

Though this film is culture specific and doesn’t lend itself to the use of neutral and ambiguous characters, it still appeals to the world at large as it delivers an educational message about a Mexican holiday. Catch a quick video of Gael García Bernal voicing the character of Hector in the musical number “Everyone Knows Juanita” from the movie!

The Difference Between Localization and Translation

This is where the idea of localization comes in. In essence, localization differs from translation in that it more effectively adapts a voice over script to the colloquialisms of the specific geographic audience. It reduces the risk of a literal translation not properly communicating the intended message.

A few examples of localization versus translation, for your amusement:

In Italian, the phrase ‘prendere Roma per toma’ is used to say, “I don’t understand anything,” but the literal translation of the phrase into English says “take Rome for cheese.”

In Romanian, the phrase, ‘îi sare muştarul’ is used to describe someone who is angry, but the literal translation of the phrase says, “his mustard will jump off.”

In Greek, the phrase ‘Έφαγα τον κόσμο να σε βρώ’ is used to say, “I’ve been looking everywhere for you,” but the literal translation of the phrase says, “I ate the whole world to find you.”

These, and other phrases, stress the importance of localization in marketing communications. To appeal to the geographic audience, the communications need to sound like them – not just in accent, but vocabulary and phraseology-wise too.

Incorporating voice over into international marketing campaign animation videos will help them to be more successful as it provides the local component to a global campaign.

Why Transcreation is Important

stairs depicting translation, localization, and transcreation as treatment to animation in advertising

Localization typically offers the same visuals paired with different voice over. To take it the next level, advertising professionals all over the world are employing the power of transcreation.

Sergio Cordoba, Voices Manager of Global Markets, notices transcreation being used by big global brands who want to maintain control over the creative message, and also recognize that the message needs to be conveyed very differently in each country.

[With transcreation], the main message stays intact, but the language and visuals incorporate local nuances.

This works for brands who employ international network advertising agencies with locations all over the world, who deliver the best results for the country that they’re stationed in. Headquarter offices typically play a major role in the campaign strategy, and pass down the tactical planning and execution to the location-specific offices.

But, that doesn’t mean only large brands can use transcreation! Any brand looking to reach a more global audience can tap into its power and use it for their own. To do so, a brand needs to consider cultural nuances and understand how a product or service might impact countries differently.

A brand that constantly shines for its transcreation efforts is Coca-Cola.

The Ogilvy and Mather Advertising Agency supplies the vast majority of Coca-Cola’s international advertising. They have mastered the idea of transcreation by enabling each of their in-market locations to build the creative around the marketing message in a way that appeals to the audiences in their given territory.

A perfect example of Coca-Cola’s transcreation is the “Taste the Feeling” campaign, which was a global, fully integrated campaign that incorporated the help of four international network agencies, including Ogilvy and Mather. This powerhouse team created TV commercials, digital and print ads, and more for their individual markets.

David Studio is the in-house post production studio for Ogilvy & Mather Colombia who handles the majority of audiovisual work for Coca-Cola in the Central, Caribbean, and Andean regions. They played a major role in the development of the “Taste the Feeling” collateral for their markets by untangling the slogan to make sure it had the same effect on residents of Latin American countries as it did in other parts of the world. They discovered that “Feel the Taste” was a more accurate portrayal of the campaign than the translation of “Taste the Feeling.”

To Recap on Animation in International Advertising

When scoping out what medium to use for the next global marketing campaign, animation is an option that will certainly provide more bang for your buck (speaking of phrases that don’t translate well into other languages). Especially if you incorporate universal body language, neutral characters, and voice over that can be easily applied to reflect the local language. Those elements will enable a brand to make an emotional connection with the audience that fosters sharing. No matter if that means social sharing, or by word of mouth, the campaign will benefit.

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