Case Study: How the in-country review process works for translations

Posted: 11 Sep 2023

We could talk all day about how important reviews are for translations. Collaborating with in-country reviewers or local market teams is a really valuable way to get on the ground insight and build a sense of ownership and unison between different markets for translations.

However, if this process isn’t handled the right way, it can result in wasted time and growing costs. If you don’t have a system in place for these reviews, the process can become unruly with back and forth feedback and miscommunications. But if you decide to omit the review process altogether, you run the risk of creating translations local markets aren’t happy with.

Process makes perfect – a strong plan, the right translation technology (and a great translation partner) will mean you can make the most of this invaluable asset. Rather than continuing to tell you how great a well-managed review process is, we caught up with one of our agency clients to explain things from their point of view.

Ben Bonner is Account Director at McCann Central, the world’s leading ad agency network. Working across more than 100 international locations and specialising in international business and global networks, it’s no surprise that Ben’s work involves global market reviews and translations. But with pressure to deliver award-winning creativity and strategic innovation, just how does the translation process work and gel with everything else that McCann Central does? Ben sat down with Comtec to explore the process and how other businesses can best integrate translations into their work.

JB: Ben, could you give a quick overview of the work we collaborated on?

BB: Sure, yeah. One of our specialisms at McCann Central is international business, so we work with clients that have a global network, something that I specialise in. What we do for our clients is a full end-to-end process, so starting with the commonalities and differences across the markets… That’s both commercial and in communications. And then we define a centralised strategy and we implement that across markets.

In terms of campaigns, creative and implementation, we create everything from the English master, and then we adapt it through the centre, which, in this case, is into each local language. So this is where our translation partner comes in.

We’ve worked with Comtec to ensure that the translation is more like transcreation. We trust Comtec to ensure that the message, the tone, the style, the sentiment, and actually the core creative concept that we have is adapted in each language. This process includes local briefings, test samples, full translation process, and also a review and supply of what we do and we’ve worked on together.

When we adapt content it goes through a multitude of checks, and I think it’s worth mentioning that with Comtec, you know, we do a lot of reviews as well. So there’s a lot of value, in my opinion, added into where we have a look at local grammar issues and kind of just bring it all back together at the end. It’s something that we quite enjoy, bringing it all back together at the end, and making sure that that central thought we had, six months down the line, is still… You know, it is still there!

JB: We went on a bit of a journey working together, didn’t we? We had an initial briefing call with you and your team at McCann Central to share the creative brief and the intentions. We then set up some calls with the local markets for briefings with them, kicked off with an initial sample, and then, what was really useful is we had a series of feedback calls with the local markets which again, we then got feedback as we went along. And then we saw, throughout the rest of the campaign, that it just was going so smoothly, and we were already capturing the local market preferences, so that was really interesting to cover it with you.

BB: I think, you know, working together, we probably thought it was more translation at first [rather than transcreation]. And I think together, you know, working with a partner that understands it better than we do in some instances, is something that I’ve really taken a lot of value in, you know, over the space of the last few years.

JB: Transcreation is creative, and it’s always a process and a journey. But it’s very rewarding when you get there.

What would you say the main benefits were of allowing Comtec to engage with yourselves and local markets in the review process and how did this help your relationships?

BB: As soon as a translation is part of the scope of a project, whatever you’re doing, that’s the point to get your translation partner involved. That’s where the value started for us.

It’s about how best to approach the task. So, you know, considering how we work with a central and a local team, consider their different needs, how best to get the information from them, and then, obviously, do the translation, review it, and supply.

So you might always think it’s just the translation bit, but the value Comtec brings comes way before that. I think with a hub-and-spoke model, which means we kind of work with the local businesses, it’s natural to try and control from the centre, but it’s a two-way system, and that’s probably something to bear in mind. Taking advice from a translation partner is paramount. Doing that ensures that you’ve considered the full end-to-end process to be as efficient as it can be.

In terms of collaborating with local markets specifically, we’ve tried a few ways, and having a translation partner’s support here is the most efficient. Having the opportunity to speak to the linguist I think is key. There are obviously local nuances, and I think you can easily build confidence and value in really having them involved, and having a two-way conversation with your local client, yourself, and your partner, your translation partner.

JB: In terms of sharing some advice, what are some of the ways agencies or companies can get their translation partner involved?

BB: I think in terms of getting them involved, it’s always going to be part of the planning process.

One of the simple misconceptions can be that a translation is an output, and it’s a supplier. But I think the clue might be in the name – translation partner. I can’t reiterate enough that the value that we feel, and that we see every day, is from involving a translation partner on board from the planning process. We’ve learnt that having a partner involved early on to be able to shape the plan, not just the translation, is where we’ve seen the most value.

JB: What would your top tip be, then, for a company or an agency looking to involve the local markets in the translation process, or in the localisation process, to ensure you’re succeeding?

BB: I mean, it’s a big question; it usually has a lot of questions within it. So I think if you look at it from a marketing function: take a step back, consider what type of model you need, and don’t rush into it. Use an outside-in approach, listen to all stakeholders – and I’d see Comtec as one of those stakeholders – define commonalities and outliers across the market, and build from there.

You know, you can consider everything from your timing in the markets, the process, who the decision-makers are, and also where the budget sits. There’s lots to it. But I think when you reach the natural point of localisation and adaptation, involve the translation partner at that point, and use them as a collaborator rather than a supplier.

My third tip would probably be to review it often. Challenges do come up, and things change quickly, and it’s quite easy to think what works now will always work in the future. But I’ve probably got a lot of value in the odd conversation with Comtec, just to discuss a new way and not always trying to solve it ourselves when it comes to something that’s specifically translation or transcreation driven.

JB: Well, thank you so much, Ben. I think you’ve given so much good advice and food for thought for lots of companies and agencies out there looking to support their clients better, and involve their translation partners in the localisation process.

BB: Yeah, it was a pleasure. Thanks for having me, James.

We love sharing our knowledge and expertise on this, and many other language, culture, translation, and localisation-related subjects. Please do get in touch, our friendly team is always very happy to help.

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