Buying Transcreation: Do You Know What You’re Paying For? Public  

Transcreation is one of the hottest buzzwords in the language services industry. Everybody wants to have their content transcreated because it sounds fancier and more sophisticated than translation. Some would say that adapting puns and idioms from one language to another is transcreation or creative translation. For example, if we translate “it’s raining cats and dogs” into Spanish as “llover a cántaros” (it’s raining like someone is pouring water directly from a jug), then we are transcreating. But is that all there is to transcreation? Not quite.

What is transcreation, then?

Truth is, there is no simple answer. Depending on who you ask, you may get any of several nuanced answers. Some might be very similar, some of them completely different.

We’ll do one better, though – transcreation is about understanding the message that a company is trying to convey. Transcreation is cross-cultural, transforming the original message in the home market so that it can be passed onto another market, in a different language.

The more you ponder it, the more you wonder whether that is what translation is supposed to do? Because translation is not grabbing a dictionary and writing down a text word by word. Translation is understanding the original message, its cultural context, what the writer meant, what the target audience in their cultural context is expecting, and so on. Translation is about building communicative bridges. How is transcreation different, then?

Even if in theory translation and transcreation may be the same thing, transcreation has, decades ago, been established as a different service within the language industry. Transcreation, as most people understand it nowadays, is usually applied to the field of advertising and marketing. In this article we are approaching the concept of transcreation from that point of view. In these fields, transcreation has been established as something different from translation as well as from copywriting.

Transcreation in the world of advertising and marketing

We talked to Kristy Sakai, CEO of Supertext USA, to learn more. At Supertext, where they claim to “transform your Quarter Pounder into a Royale with cheese,” they offer a wide range of services including copywriting, transcreation, translation, and editing. Supertext is a company that falls between a copywriting agency and a translation bureau, and they are well-known for their creative edge. We set out to learn how a company specializing in transcreation sees the service.

We asked Kristy about the differences between translation, transcreation, and copywriting. According to Kristy, all translations are a creative kind of endeavor.

“However, transcreation focuses more on the ‘creation’ part of the word. You must first understand the bigger picture of what the company is trying to communicate or achieve with the copy. The source text is part of the brief. And then, you create copy that resonates.”

Transcreation is best suited for content that is key for building a brand. The original marketing team defines a strategy and a concept, and has a clear objective for the content. Within this framework, the transcreator has the freedom to come up with a different solution, while striving to appeal to the readers’ emotions.

Finally, the difference between transcreation and copywriting is that with transcreation the idea or concept is already there, in the source text and the briefing. Whereas in copywriting, you have a briefing but you start with a blank slate and it’s up to you to come up with that idea.

The transcreation pyramid according to TAUS Transcreation Best Practices and Guidelines

How do I know if I need transcreation services?

Let’s imagine that your company is releasing a product or a service and you need it localized into several languages. You’re also launching a global marketing campaign for that product or service. You’ve heard about transcreation and how important it is to get your content properly adapted for each locale, but you’re not sure about what needs to be transcreated. Or even what the difference between translation and transcreation is.

We asked Supertext how they would advise a client in such a hypothetical situation:

First, you need to analyze the content to be translated and properly categorize it:

  • Technical/legal/other specialized translation: This type of content requires specialist translators with expertise in the field and may have no need for transcreation.
  • Creative content, which can be usually divided into:
    • Long copy: For example, the landing page of a website, the description of an app or a product in a digital store, blog posts to increase traffic, etc.
    • Short copy: For example, headlines of the landing page, slogans, calls to action, social media posts, etc.

Then, it is very important to understand what the client is trying to achieve in the specific markets. Are they trying to sell something with the content? Raise brand awareness? Increase traffic or subscribers? Or is it just informative?

Depending on the type of content, your intentions and needs, you decide the best approach.

Transcreation applied for marketing/advertising purposes

And how much do I pay for that?

Transcreation services are usually charged by the hour. When we talk about transcreating a catchy slogan, or maybe a headline in a website aimed at generating leads, we should spend more time researching and thinking about which unique selling point is going to be most effective in each market. It is not just about adapting a pun or a cultural reference, but contributing to the marketing campaign of a company, helping them reach their customers, and sell their product.

The hourly fee for transcreation services is similar to the fees that we find in the copywriting industry, rather than in the translation industry.

The rates that we find in the copywriting industry may vary depending on several factors. The seniority of the copywriter and the type of content affect the hourly fee. A junior copywriter will charge less than a senior copywriter. Also, writing a blog post of 300 words,a sales landing page, content for different pages on a website or a LinkedIn profile are not the same thing. Depending on the difficulty and the impact of the content on the brand, the prices may go up or down.

However, sometimes we can find long copy that has a relatively high impact in a marketing campaign. For example, newsletters, brochures, content on a landing page or a website, or social media posts generating leads. We may not rewrite the text from scratch if the quality of the source text is decent. However, market research and adaptations may be necessary to make the text suitable for the target markets. In this case, per word fees are acceptable.

Regardless of whether it’s paid by the word or by the hour, the fee should reflect the additional work that comes with the cultural and market consultancy that is an inherent part of the transcreation effort.

Where do I find transcreators?

Some believe that any translator can be a transcreator. But the truth is that transcreators and translators do not share the same skill set.

This is very important to understand if we want to get transcreation right. When we asked Kristy about what they look for in a transcreator, she confessed that finding very good transcreators is not easy.

“Just like with writing, you either have it or you don’t.”

The perfect transcreator is the one whose skills overlap between those of a translator and a copywriter. So, either you find good copywriters who happen to have another language skill, or you find translators who are very skilled writers.

Basically, a good transcreator should:

1)     Be a talented writer in their mother tongue and know at least two languages.

2)     Have marketing knowledge, understand the different concepts and be up-to-date with the social media and digital landscape, especially in their countries.

3)   Deeply understand the source and target cultures.

The key for a company offering transcreation services is how to find such talent, then direct and manage it. Pro project management at its finest.

What kind of companies can I buy transcreation from?

There are three different types of companies who you can go to for transcreation services:

1)     Local marketing or copywriting companies: Imagine that you have a very specific target market where you want your campaign to succeed because it’s key for your product or service. Then, your marketing team could go to a local marketing company asking for advice on copywriting or transcreation services.

2)     Language services providers (LSPs) that offer transcreation services: If you want to localize your content in several languages and you want a homogeneous campaign across countries, then you can buy from an LSP. However, make sure that they understand how transcreation works. They need to provide you with added value for your campaign apart from translating your content. If you don’t see that added value, you may as well find a better option.

3)     A mix between a copywriting and a translation agency: If you’d like to have a global marketing campaign that is tailored to each market but still retains the overarching concept in each locale, a company that integrates copywriting, transcreation and translation services may be way to go.

Beware of buying from an LSP quoting transcreation per word only… they may not really know what they are doing when it comes to true transcreation. Ask them what they’re really offering before buying!

What to do before buying transcreation services?

  1. Analyze the content that you need to localize, looking for potential candidates for transcreation. What content will have an impact on the buying behavior of your potential clients? What content do you consider having a creative nature? What content will have a bigger impact on your brand (for example, the slogan, the landing page, social media posts, mailings, etc.)? What do you want to achieve with your content?
  2. Talk to your marketing team. Does your company have a marketing team? What type of content are they creating? What do they consider to be more relevant for your marketing campaign? Ask them for advice regarding what type of content they consider to have a higher impact on the brand, so that you can decide what content needs to be transcreated.
  3. Prepare a good briefing and brand guidelines. You want whoever is taking care of transcreating or translating your content to understand your brand and what you want to sell and communicate to your clients. Prepare this material in advance – a good transcreation agency will be able to help you ask and answer the right questions.

Enterprises’ linguistic and cross-cultural needs are evolving. Translation and editing is not enough anymore. Clients are increasingly requiring market consultancy services as well as geocultural insights before they decide on a localization strategy. Going global in this world is so easy and so complex at the same time. There is a fine line between success and failure. Making the right decision when choosing the partners who will help you succeed in your global campaign is of paramount importance.

If you’re not sure about your next steps, Nimdzi has a team of professionals to support you with research, consulting, education, and geocultural intelligence while you navigate your way through international expansion.



This article was researched and written by Belén Agulló García. If you wish to find out more about this topic, please reach out to Belén at

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