Direct Translation and the Entertainment Industry

The entertainment industry worldwide is a competitive market that crosses cultural and linguistic divides. Behind the scenes, the marketing strategy on an international level involves a degree of translation to successfully deliver a product that maximises revenue. Using the film industry as an example, we will show how direct word for word translation may on occasion be correct but is no substitute for a comprehensive and localised title name check.


Marketing in the film industry is vast and budgets are orientated towards the successful reception of the movie in the target country. A good picture with an ambiguous title could inadvertently drive viewers away. There is no need for translation if lead characters like Erin Brockovich and Forrest Gump relate directly to the feature itself.

Movie Titles

Movie titles may deploy adjectives to better explain the film. Hacksaw Ridge was released worldwide this year and it required a title change for European cinemas because it made no sense to foreign audiences. The word ‘ridge’ is often an adjective as it describes a hilltop, however in this case it became a noun when the word ‘Hacksaw’ was applied. Since we have two nouns and no adjective or verb, these two standalone words infer nothing. To counter this, the war theme resolved the translation issues and in France the picture was now called ‘You will not kill’ whilst in Spain the billboards read ‘Until the last man’.

Inaccurate Translations

If a deeper meaning cannot be mirrored in the target language, a different form must be used. The term ‘Hacksaw’ reflects a colloquialism attributed to the two jagged plateaus of the battlefield. When paired together for the Anglophone market it was reconciled but not reflected accurately enough in a multi national brand check to successfully appeal to a foreign audience. The inaccurate translation of a character’s personality is another concern. Clint Eastwood played an ill disciplined policeman called Harry Callahan in the film ‘Dirty Harry’. Using direct translation it was inferred he had poor hygiene therefore this negative connotation was avoided by simply entitling the movie ‘Inspector’ rather than focusing on his behaviour.

Brand Name Blunders

Cultural awareness is integral for successful movie branding. In China, the film ‘Pretty woman’ suffered a marketing nightmare when the translated title crudely gave away the plot. The headline checking wasn’t incorrect, however the result of their efforts was tactless and spoilt the conclusion. Brand checking relies on close engagement with the client to ensure that any results are properly considered. It is essentially a service that advises specifically on how a product can be successfully marketed in a target country. When brand name blunders happen, it is normally due to inferior checks or none whatsoever.

Manipulation of Words

Another obstacle concerns subtle inference being interjected into the title. The precision is so technical that the quality delivered by any name checking organisation must be replicated to the same conclusion. When the movie ‘Grease’ was released, the name was deemed unfit for Argentine audiences and replaced with ‘Vaselina’. It did not convey aspects of the movie involving car racing and oil stained mechanics, however it portrayed the fifties hair styling methods in which Vaseline was applied. Efforts were made to keep the double meaning of the word, yet in order to do this the foundation of the original title was manipulated.

Absence of Detail

When we consider the massive investment made in bringing a product to the global market, businesses cannot afford to overlook their company’s appearance. Intensive checks are key to spotting any problematic nuances and for a fractional expense, the immersion into local society with a culturally aware business is priceless.

If you are launching your brand in a new marketplace, our comprehensive translations will allow for you to avoid any Global Market catastrophes. Just email

This entry was posted in News