Advertising In Spanish:

How To Adapt Creative And Stay Relevant

Advertising In Spanish: How To Adapt Creative And Stay Relevant

By Leirum Rivas, Copywriter

 provoke pic

“Me tenías un hola” – “You had me at hello”

Quote from Jerry Maguire movie -1996

If you come from a bilingual background, one of the biggest “mysteries” you’ve probably encountered is crazy movie translations as they get adapted to a different audience. While it might sound like a simple task, adaptation is one of the most complex efforts we face when advertising in Spanish, trying to successfully reach a specific market.

It’s Ok To Translate, But Not From Google

Growing up with a bilingual formation, I always remember watching movies in English and following the subtitles in Spanish. I have to say that sometimes, the translations were even more amusing than the story itself. Not to mention the movie titles that dramatically changed from one language to the other. Remember “Home Alone?” Back home I knew it as “Mi Pobre Angelito” (aka –My Poor Little Angel-). It might seem unimportant, but come to think about it, that title translation was already setting a different mood for the movie.

In order to not get “lost in translation” and really get people’s attention when adapting creative and advertising in Spanish, we need to begin from the basics: language. By language, we mean using cultural nuances, local expressions, colloquialisms; even a simple word can change meanings from one country to another. But when language is addressed appropriately, the challenge comes down to local culture relevancy.

Ask your team:

  • What tweaks are necessary to make the story fit a specific audience?
  • How do we make them fall in love with our content?
  • How do we have an authentic conversation with them?


Learn From The Champs

Disney is a true “local” chameleon when it comes to adapting creative work to each country and culture…The Walt Disney Company genuinely reflects American values but, in order to succeed in other countries, the company had to incorporate local customs, where appropriate, as well as stories and history of the host place.”

Nowadays, brands have to be both global and local. At first reading, this statement probably doesn’t make much sense, but it is one of the secrets of great creativity and effective adaptation. Start by taking human behaviors and insights as a strategic base, and then enrich them with local context.

Pixar’s tiny yet mighty move shows us that even powerhouse brands in the world have to tailor-fit their content to win every market they target. Inside Out’s strategy is not solely built on ensuring brand leadership. To gain loyalty, brands must be relevant at all times, at all costs, and all in real-time. Inside Out went all out…. Having to redo about 28 graphics in 45 locations worldwide has earned Pixar another badge of approval from a diverse audience. The result? A staggering blockbuster beater record, yet again.

– Alvene De Ramos

Is There A Formula?

That being said, is there a formula behind a good adaptation when advertising in Spanish? There are many, but the most important one comes from being a good cultural listener. An expert is all-ears, researching and soaking in the ways of a particular culture: their mindset, values, language, customs, etc. to work out a truly strategic and relevant “transformation.”

Besides being a good listener, there are a few ingredients that can also help:

  1. Talk local: use the real “urban” language and idioms of the market. Make them feel your creative piece is having a conversation. Do not try to make direct translations from English puns.
  2. Acculturate: think like your market, step into their mindset. What dreams do they pursue? What are their values? The only way to be relevant is to adapt the main story while taking into consideration the audience behavior and their way of life.
  3. God is in the details: details are the fine way to effectiveness. The “story” or creative concept as a whole, may work perfectly. But to make it stronger we should look up for all the little things we can tweak to fit our market. Maybe it’s just a subtle change in the scenery, the accessories, the props or the characters reactions. An expert can find those gems within the story.
  4. The story is king: at the end, it all comes down to clever ‘storytelling’. With all the content noise out there, we need to have interesting material. We need our audience to take some time in their hectic lives to turn around and notice us. Sometimes, we force adaptation to a certain market believing it will be embraced. However, in some given occasions it’s a bit of a stretch.

Original Work Anyone?

When adaptation falls short, it’s time to take a step into a custom-made story inspired in more specific cultural insights. Original work is a great opportunity to reinvent ourselves and have a more authentic conversation with our audience. In order to stay relevant, it’s good for a brand to have its own unique creative piece where the storyline speaks in a clever and personal way.

But no matter what route you take, the challenge will always be giving the content a tailor-made feeling. That feeling that comes from knowing the person you’re speaking to: their values, traditions, beliefs and behaviors.

At Dieste we look into each project as an opportunity to effectively reach our multicultural audience and give brands an authentic storytelling. Be sure to subscribe to Provoke Weekly to learn how advertising in Spanish can go beyond translation and always stay relevant. 

Dieste Inc