Marketers urged to lift their game for non-English speaking consumers


Businesses are being encouraged to rethink their advertising, with a new survey revealing a quarter of Australian consumers are being ignored by marketers due to ill-conceived campaigns.


Sherpa Concept, a multilingual communications firm based in Sydney, recently conducted a survey of 200 people who speak English as a second language.


According to Sherpa, many advertising campaigns for those born overseas are “insulting”, “patronising” and “ineffective”, and are not always understood by the target audience.


In one current radio marketing campaign aired in another language, just 14% of the people surveyed actually understood what the marketer was trying to convey.


Rajish Aryal, managing director of Sherpa Concept, says even brands that do translate their advertisements could be getting it wrong.


According to Aryal, approved translators don’t always provide adequate translation for video or audio advertisements.


“Marketers need to understand that just because someone can speak a second language, it doesn’t mean they’re necessarily the right voiceover talent,” Aryal says.


“In many cases, advertisements that have been translated into another language are a complete waste of money.”


“The problem is that translators often use literal translations without understanding the content of the advertisement or the meaning it’s trying to convey.”


Aryal says an advertisement for breakfast cereal, for example, cannot retain the same creative and marketing intention simply because it is translated from English into other languages.


Aryal says he’s surprised by how many brands use patronising language or tones in their scripts, or “completely miss the mark” with their target audience.


“Just because you’ve produced an ad in another language, it doesn’t mean it will be effective,” he says.


According to Aryal, more thought needs to be given to the target audience and the right language, rather than simply translating a marketing message “in bulk”.


Aryal says advertising campaigns produced by the Federal Government are a classic example, with many education campaigns intended for people born overseas assuming everyone is either educated or uneducated.


“For example, the education level among the Arabic-speaking audience might be different to a Hindi-speaking audience, so the scripts for the campaigns need to reflect that,” he says.


Businesses also need to devote more effort to the quality of their campaigns, Aryal says.


The news comes on the back of the latest census data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which shows almost a quarter (24.6%) of Australia’s population was born overseas.


The United Kingdom is the leading country of birth for the overseas-born population, followed by New Zealand, China and India.


The number of people born in India has experienced the biggest growth, with an increase of 148,261 people since the 2006 Census, followed by China (112,379) and New Zealand (93,934).