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How Transcreation Impacted a Global Ad Campaign for Recycling Tech

The brand-design practice Solidarity of Unbridled Labour asked Eriksen to assist reverse vending recycling leader TOMRA in tailoring its message to the French-Canadian market.

Design for the Greater Good

Located on the waterfront in a 45,000 square -foot historic former grocery warehouse  in Burlington, Vermont, Solidarity of Unbridled Labour partners with progressive, mindful companies and their leaders to bring strategically informed design across all platforms.

Solidarity’s client, the Norwegian recycling multinational TOMRA, is a world leader in developing sensor-based solutions for the recovery, use and reuse of earth’s resources, with a vision to lead the resource revolution.

Eriksen’s alignment with the mission-driven entrepreneurship of both companies is clear from a quick glance at its history. Founded in 1986 by Vigdis Eriksen, the Brooklyn-based Eriksen Translations shares TOMRA’s Norwegian heritage and Solidarity’s creative spirit. Eriksen Translations is the go-to language service provider for top-tier progressive organizations and cultural institutions, from UN Women to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Challenge

Eriksen’s challenge was to translate TOMRA’s key messaging about recycling from English into Canadian French. The language included various phrases, and each one employed a different descriptive technique. One was a newly minted play on words: “Clean Loop Recycling,” which speaks to TOMRA’s ambition to empower people and influence the creation of a movement in the emerging circular economy. A second was the question “Are You in the Loop?” a common idiom that—somewhat sneakily from a linguistic point of view—contained at its core an environmental twist on that idiom. A third example, “Do You Loop?”, was perhaps the most challenging: the retooled idiom was used to forge a new verb.

As any advertising professional can attest, literal translation is useless to travelers in these parts.

How-To: Sourcing, Transcreation, Back Translations

Eriksen’s challenge was to “transcreate” these quotes, ingesting these plays on words, loaded idioms, and slang-in-infancy, and then re-creating them, fully dimensional, in Canadian French. At this level, translation is mercilessly local. Although English speakers the world over can generally understand one another, you wouldn’t want to run a campaign developed in Edinburgh for an audience in Houston, at least not without some very close scrutiny. A similar issue arises for differences between France and French Canada: for the purposes of transcreation, the two require different teams.

The difficulties of transcreation go beyond sourcing a creative team of in-country linguists. It’s not uncommon for a team of linguists to work toward a solution by developing multiple options internally: putting the terms into different parts of speech, gauging their ability to carry alliteration or rhythm, assessing their messaging power in multiple contexts.

Still another aspect of transcreation is the “back translation.” In order for the client to understand the transcreated text, literal translations back into the original language—known as back translations—are supplied so that the meanings and connotations are clear.

Close the Circle

In this particular case, for the project’s semantic core, the word “loop,” the team toggled between the word “cycle,” which is closely related to the idea of recycling in Canadian French, but is dryly universal, and other options. Ultimately, they chose to convey the playfulness of the English text with the more idiomatic “boucle,” or, in this instance, “loop.”

Thus, “Clean Loop Recycling” became the buzzy “Recyclage en boucle propre” (back translated: “Recycling in a clean loop”). “Get in the Loop” was transformed à la québécoise as the idiom-laden “Bouclez la boucle.” (The French expression “close the circle” means to finish something properly, but it also conveys things that are cyclical in nature.) And the not-quite-teen-speak “Do you Loop?” became “Faites-vous partie de la boucle?” (“Are you part of the circle?” reiterates the boucle concept, but with a positive twist on being part of the solution.)

The project closed with three satisfied parties.

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