Beyond the Words: The Translation of Television Adverts


de Pedro Ricoy R (1996) Beyond the Words: The Translation of Television Adverts. Babel, 42 (1), pp. 27-45.

It can be argued that the most elementary message behind every commercial advertisement is 'Buy this', or, alternatively, 'Use this'. In consequence, we should perceive all the different adverts devised to promote a given article worldwide as interpretations of this single, basic message. The form given to this message when it was first conceived and devised, i.e. the images, the sounds, and the words that conform the proto-advert, will be subject to various changes or alterations in order to target different markets in the most effective manner. All the different forms under which the original message appears in different cultural and linguistic communities are, therefore, translations.The purpose of this study is to examine the different translation strategies that may be applied in the case of television commercials. The first part deals with television as a medium for advertising. The second part, with the translatability problems that arise in the specific case of a hybrid message of this kind (visual plus acoustic signals), as well as with the different ways in which such problems can be approached and solved. The procedures listed range from the simple literal translation of the text and a repetition of the same images in every case, to the creation of a completely new advert for each of the markets targeted. Finally, we aim at illustrating the effectiveness and/or drawbacks of each of those translation strategies by means of examples that have been extracted from British and Spanish televisions.Issues such as the way in which cultural gaps condition advertisements, and how stereotypical notions about national communities operate as publicity devices will also be explored. The opinions of some of the most prominent experts in international advertising, and those of the bodies that regulate this field of communication will be quoted when relevant.

Babel: Volume 42, Issue 1

Publication date31/12/1996
PublisherJohn Benjamins Publishing