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Parker’s embarrassment with translation of advertising

Sad experience in advertising translation

May 22, 2018
Linguistic jokes

One of the most common errors of translation in advertising texts is to ignore linguistic peculiarities and ambiguity of some words. This is another reason why it is important to involve native speakers in the development of advertising campaigns for each national market.

"Avoid embarrassment — use Parker Pens", i.e. "to avoid embarrassment, use a Parker pen". In Spanish - "to avoid pregnancy, use a Parker pen"
In what sense Bola?

Parker Pen Company spent a lot of money on litigation, because of inaccuracies in the translation of advertising into Spanish for Latin American market. One and the same word in different countries can have different meanings. Thus, North American copywriters in their advertising texts unknowingly used the word "bola" to describe a ballpoint pen. And this error has cost the company a pretty penny, because this word has a different meaning in different South American countries. In one country, "bola" is actually a "ball"; in another "quarrel"; in the third - "lies", and in the fourth — a completely obscene word.

"To avoid pregnancy, use Parker pen"

The company has not learned a proper lesson and made another global error in the promotion of its writing instruments on Latin America market.

The matter is that Parker Pen Company was the first to develop a reliable pen that one could carry in a pocket without spilling the ink. "With no fear to be embarrassed," was the ad text. Advertising, like the product itself, was so effective that the brand soon became famous.

Some time later, the long slogan was reduced to an expression "Avoid embarrassment — use Parker Pens", i.e. "to avoid embarrassment, use a Parker pen". This version of the slogan was also successful in the United States, as everyone remembered its old text. Then company decided to sell their products in Latin America, and copywriters translated the usual short slogan. But the sales were insignificant, although lots of money were spent on advertising throughout Central and South America.

Then they invited speakers who explained the reason for the failure. The matter is that there was a word with multiple meanings in the promotional text. It turned out that in Spanish, the word "embarrassment" is a homonym of "pregnancy", and slogan sounded something like this: "To avoid pregnancy use, a Parker pen". That is, the famous brand offered to use their pens as contraceptives to Latin Americans.

How to avoid embarrassment?

To avoid such embarrassment, contact our professional Translation Agency — we work with experienced native speakers. Contact us — we are happy to provide you with high-quality translation of advertising! Order right now!

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