How to localize rich media for your global market

According to Cisco’s Visual Networking Index forecasts, video consumption will make up 79% of all global consumer internet traffic in 2018. However, the 2014 “Can’t Read, Won’t Buy” survey by Common Sense Advisory notes that 75% of consumers say they would be more likely to buy a product with information in their own language. This means that marketers looking to boost their video advertising spend will need a strategy for effectively rolling out these rich media assets to their global audiences. Following the traditional approach, translating rich media assets can be expensive and time consuming. For most companies, localization is an afterthought, but building campaigns with translation in mind will save time and money. To increase efficiency and consistency, companies need to establish a global campaign localization process upfront. 

Determine what will be translated

Localizing and managing distribution of rich media assets presents numerous challenges. Before starting a campaign, decide which assets will be translated. Then build them with localization in mind. Because they are comprised of so many interdependent components, it is essential that all the elements are developed to appeal to global markets and be easy to translate.

For example, video components such as the music and effects tracks should be kept separate from any voiceover. Also, place text separately in the native design program or an external XML file for animated screens. Eliminate layers and compile assets using a localization-friendly editor such as Final Cut Pro or After Effects whenever possible, to simplify the translation process and avoid rework.

As for graphics, design them with enough space for language expansion. Introduction screens and title cards need to be created in an editable format such as Photoshop and the text needs to be easily accessible. Embedding text within images will result in more designer time and increase costs when localizing them into multiple languages. Also, keep in mind that the fonts used need to be compatible with the translated language. This is especially important in Asian or Arabic languages, where the character sets are not supported in the same Western font sets. However, some font families such as Myriad have options for different languages like Hebrew.

These different fonts, writing styles and sentence structures can also complicate animations. For example, any Arabic or Hebrew flying text animations would likely need a change of direction. So it’s a good idea to avoid complex simulations that fire when certain words in a sentence enter the screen. Also, all on-screen text should be saved in an external XML file so it’s easy to extract for translation. Or, at the very least, complete phrases should be located within the same text fields. For instance, we worked with a client who had made a beautifully animated image in 3D Max Pro by creating a different graphic file for each letter, so they could all float in independently. In order to localize this, a vendor would need to translate 1200 different .JPEGS, which, in a typical translation process, would cost approximately $1800 per language. Luckily, we were able to recreate the image from scratch in 3D Max Pro to achieve the same effect, while simplifying the structure, and thus were able to localize it for $65 per language.

While voiceovers can be a great way to capture an audience’s attention, they can also be expensive — especially when recreating them for multiple languages. Subtitles are always an option, but there are other tricks to keep voiceover costs down. For example, limit the number of actors or characters and use voiceover narrative instead of live screen action. This will reduce costs by minimizing onscreen events that need to be in sync with certain words or phrases and save time by eliminating dubbing to carefully match the voice or refilming altogether with a native-speaking actor. Also, it might sound obvious, but one more thing that can make a huge difference is to keep an up-to-date version of the English script so it doesn’t have to be transcribed during the translation process.


Localization process

Get the localization team involved from the beginning. In order for global marketing campaigns to be effective, the brand needs to be aligned globally, but relevant locally. Different regions have unique concerns and priorities, and campaigns that are developed at headquarters without any input from the local region run the risk of missing the cultural mark entirely. So it’s a good idea to develop the core message and strategy centrally and then get input from the local stakeholders to find out if the concept will work for each locale. For example, a Captain Money avatar may not resonate with the teams in China, and it’s better to know this before the assets have been created.

Intel does a great job of this. When launching its Turbo Boost Technology 2.0, the company put together an overview animation, which featured two cars racing side-by-side to demonstrate the improved performance and speed of the superior one, which turns out to be a Transformer-style avatar for Intel. To get its global sales advisors and customers excited about this key technology for second generation Intel Core, the company had the video translated into 11 languages (Figure 1), including Arabic, Portuguese and Turkish. The concept works across locales and the commercial features only a few words that need translating.

Next, establish a localization process and asset control solution. It is essential to have the source files (not just .MOV, .PDF or .GIF versions) for each rich media project available and easily accessible during the localization process. Otherwise, they will need to be recreated from scratch in order to be translated, which is not only expensive, but time consuming. One way to do this is to build a translation file manifest, also known as a localization kit, which serves as a map of what to translate and where to find it. Having a system that is easy to navigate will save everyone time and money during the translation process.

Source files are also essential for the translation vendor to estimate the price for the project correctly the first time. Without the source files up front, it’s impossible to know exactly what is involved in the translation process. We frequently find hidden issues during the localization process that we couldn’t see until we started working in the source files. While everyone might be using the same software, there are often different ways to accomplish a particular goal and some people take a unique approach that requires the localization vendor to unravel the steps that were taken in order to apply the translation. This adds extra time and increases the final costs for the translation work.

In addition, it’s important to build in time for review cycles. For example, it is crucial to have the translated video reviewed by a native linguist for things that a nonnative speaker could never catch such as dropped characters, truncated text or incorrect animations.

Develop style guides and glossaries. Glossaries and style guides are the primary vehicle for global brand consistency. A glossary is a comprehensive list of commonly used terms, phrases and product names with the appropriate translations and definitions. A style guide provides advice on writing style, convention and formatting preferences. They create a common ground for discussion and brand progression to build upon and keep even the best translators and internal reviewers from getting tangled up.

When executed correctly, rich media assets can be a very effective way to make a global campaign stand out and capture consumer attention. The key for successful, cost-effective localization is to plan for translation during the content development process and to create a clear and collaborative regional review strategy.