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The Horrors of Cross-Cultural Advertising Translations

When it comes to translating a word or a sentence to another language the quickest way is to use an online translator that gives you a hopefully near-perfect translation. But what happens when these go wrong?

Brands and agencies spend millions of dollars each year translating their content to precisely share their message with speakers of a foreign language, or residents of another country. However, the high expense does not necessarily mean that the message will directly translate and be culturally relevant to the consumer. As we examine deeper, American companies have made some funny, yet horrible cross-cultural advertising translations to Spanish speakers worldwide. These errors have likely cost the companies dollars as well as lost opportunities to make relevant cultural connections with potential new clients.

Parker Pens won’t make you Pregnant

parker penA prime example of a historical translation error was when Parker Pen marketed their ballpoint pen in Mexico. Their English ad slogan was, “It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you.” Though, the company mistakenly thought that the Spanish word for ’embarrass’ was embarazar, which actually means to be pregnant. The Spanish ad comicly stated, “It won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant.”…

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Leading the Majors: The Man behind the D-backs Hispanic Sports Marketing Initiative

I combed the mid-town Phoenix coffee shop, looking for a familiar face amidst the well-caffeinated clientele. I finally recognized the satisfied smile from the face behind one of the most influential Hispanic social media presences in baseball; Jerry Romo. 

jerry romoAs the 2015 Hispanic Heritage Month (HHM) wrapped up this October 15th, it was a great time for our sister company OYE! to research how baseball teams and the MLB itself drove conversation celebrating Hispanic contributions to the sport. OYE!’s research on Hispanic conversation during the 30 days of HHM for all major league teams that have a Spanish language social media account discusses the findings among the thousands of mentions about kick off events, Latin music performances, fiestas, and special events to reach the Hispanic community. Of all teams analyzed, OYE! found that the Arizona Diamondbacks had the highest amount of mentions, driving 23% of the overall Hispanic MLB conversation.

Wanting to know more, I asked for Mr. Jerry Romo to meet with me and discuss the Diamondbacks overall Hispanic sports marketing strategy. As he explained that morning, the Hispanic effort from the Phoenix area ball club is both original and robust. 

The Diamondbacks Focus on the Hispanic Market

Romo’s …

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Straight Outta Compton – Hispanic Culture & Movie Marketing

Movie Ticket This weekend the film Straight Outta Compton made over 60 million dollars in its debut. This is the highest revenue music biopic that has ever debuted, and the fifth biggest August opening of all time. The movie has performed well in reviews, with an 8.4 rating out of over 10,000 user reviews on IMDB, proving it has universal appeal to the total market.  The movie, with a $29 million budget, is extremely profitable and the marketing used to promote the film has been exceptional.  Universal Studios savvy strategy included a very viral approach including UFC product placement, popular memes, and even skywriting among other more traditional tactics.  However, an un-discussed piece of their strategy was their Hispanic push that helped drive these numbers.

Banners were seen in Hispanic neighborhoods in large metro areas throughout the country. - image courtesy of

Banners were seen in Hispanic neighborhoods in large metro areas throughout the country. – image courtesy of

As you see from the Instagram screenshot below, Universal Pictures used their Hispanic focused Instagram account to promote this blockbuster. They knew that the film would resonate well with a Hispanic audience and chose to advertise it not only on digital forums such as this but also on traditional media such as banners, billboards, and more. With record …

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CASE STUDY: CDC: (National Influenza Vaccination Week Outreach Campaign for the Latino Community)


Every year during the month of December, the Nativa team collaborates with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to implement an outreach campaign for the Latino community with the important message about flu vaccination.   This campaign is important for its efforts to reach a minority demographic that is growing faster than any other US ethnic group.


The Nativa team has strong relationships with many Latina Bloggers that have a robust influence in the Latino community. The role of the Nativa team is to reach out to these influencers and collaborate with them so they can share the message about the importance of flu vaccination with their blog readers and their followers on their many social media platforms.


Just in the month of December 2013, the outreach campaign me-vacuno-featurereceived the collaboration of a total of 16 bloggers, located within Latino hubs such as Los Angeles, New York and even Puerto Rico. The campaign received a total of 484 engagements across digital platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, G+ and blogs.  This quantity of engagements in turn drove a huge amount of a
wareness for the flu awareness campaign based on the vast following of bloggers such …

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Case Study: Arizona State University (Future Sun Devil Families Program for the Latino Community in Arizona)


Our client, the Access ASU program within Arizona State University (ASU), reached out to the Nativa team to trans-create (translate in a culturally relevant manner) a full curriculum of its Future Sun Devil Families English program to Spanish. The goal was to trans-create the materials in a manner that made sense to Spanish-dominant Latino families who were interested in having their 9th and 10th grade children attend college and were interested in learning more about the academic path to a college education that they need to start while in high school.


ASU STUDY CASEThe Nativa team first researched several Spanish-language US education websites as well as websites from renowned institutions in Latin America in an effort to best identify the most common words used to describe educational terminology within the Latino educational system. Based on these findings, Nativa trans-created the documents in a manner that was culturally relevant for the Latino community in Arizona and would allow them to have the same educational experience as the English-speaking general audience.  Details were of extreme importance and the Nativa team ensured a high level of quality in the final production completed by having several teams of skilled translators and culturally relevant copywriters …

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Case Study: Castrol Motor Oil (Hispanic Facebook Marketing Social Media Outreach)

Castrol knew the importance of soccer to their fans, and offered Ronaldo's biography on their Facebook page.

Castrol Motor Oil, knowing Hispanics affinity for soccer capitalized with a sponsorship of Christiano Ronaldo, one of the best  players in the game to bring awareness to their brand on all channels including Facebook and Twitter.


The Nativa team was assigned with the creation and management of a Castrol Motor Oil social media platform for Spanish speaking US Hispanics. Through surveys and point of sale data, we knew that Hispanics were interested in soccer as well as maintaining their existing vehicles for an extended period of time exceeding that of the general market. It was up to Nativa to strategize the best way to communicate with these potential fans and customers through social media.

Castrol Motor Oil, through Hispanic Facebook marketing was able to engage their fans with fun activities such as giving away soccer game tickets through their Facebook page.


Our team researched the optimal method to organically grow the Castrol social media platforms as a hub for US Hispanic soccer and car enthusiasts through Hispanic Facebook marketing. As Castrol is a sponsor of Major League Soccer (MLS), the US Men’s National Soccer Team and the Mexican Men’s National Soccer Team, we created and maintained a 60 …

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Case Study: CDC Social Media Outreach (Facebook en espanol)

The Nativa team was able to provide relevant Spanish language content to reach out to the Hispanic community and increase awareness of health issues as such as the flu as shown above.


The Nativa team was assigned with the task of creating a Spanish language Facebook (Facebook en español) and Twitter page for the Hispanic audience for the government entity Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The goal of the CDC in this project was to increase online reach among Hispanics, foster engagement with this group, and to be known as a provider of credible, science-based health to all Hispanics in the US.





Through interactive quizzes on social media such as the “Health Super Stars” campaign shown above, the Nativa team helped the CDC increase online reach among Hispanics by fostering engagement with the Hispanic market.


We researched internally and worked closely with the CDC social media team to develop direct and clear messages in Spanish based on three pillars; health promotion, prevention, and safety. Our long term strategy included the development of a 12 month calendar of content for all Hispanic social media pages. This content calendar was largely supported by an …

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CDC (Latino LGBT Research & Ambassador Outreach)

LGBT Advertising Agency

Above is a resource that can be found on the CDC LGBT Reasons website which can be used to create awareness of the importance of HIV testing for people of all sexual orientations.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in collaboration with FHI 360, reached out to the Nativa advertising agency to help them understand how LGBT Latino men seeking men (MSM) communicated on social platforms. In addition to this, the CDC needed to identify the tone of conversation and the reach of their current marketing efforts with the Reasons awareness campaign among Latino LGBT. Finally, the CDC wanted to identify the main opinion leaders in the Latino LGBT community in order to partner with them in promoting the importance of HIV testing and drive engagement to different community events.

Here we see a Latino Instagram user describing the importance of getting tested regardless of your orientation.


In order to fully capture the objectives of this project, the Nativa advertising agency used a wide range of automated and manual search tools to capture online conversations by Latino LGBT throughout different social platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and even Vine. The same tools were used …

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Case Study: Mundo Fox -Hispanic Market Research for New Fox Network


Fox commissioned Nativa to find what Hispanics thought about shows such as El Capo among other programming.

The Nativa team was assigned the task to identify and evaluate the current online awareness for a new Spanish language Fox Broadcasting television channel, MundoFox, which was launched in August 2012. The client had a particular interest in finding the sentiment of online conversation among the general and Hispanic market relating to the new TV channel and locating which regions were the most engaged watching its programming. Finally, they were in need of recommendations on how to improve the overall strategy for the TV channel based on these insights.


Using a combination of advanced online listening software, the Nativa team analyzed all online English and Spanish mentions of MundoFox in the US and Puerto Rico. Data was obtained from a thorough analysis of main stream websites, blogs, videos, photo sharing sites, podcast and social communities such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.


We see that California had the most conversation with nearly 1,000 mentions of MundoFox during the time range. New York and Florida were the next two states by volume with over 500 mentions each of MundoFox. States in grey

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Case Study: Dial (Translate English to Spanish of


The Dial Soap website needed to be translated from English to Spanish.

The Nativa team was assigned the task to transcreate Dial Soap’s English website to Spanish. The goal was to make the information accessible to Spanish speaking consumers in a manner that was culturally relevant while keeping Dial’s tone and brand personality.




Clean   Education   Dial

The Nativa team translated from English to Spanish the importance of hand washing that would make sense in a culturally relevant way to the Hispanic audience.

The Nativa team knew that in order to successfully translate English to Spanish on the website it needed to capture the visitor’s attention through the use of culturally relevant Spanish content while highlighting the essence of the Dial brand. Our team of bilingual professionals took on the task of identifying the most common words used by Spanish speaking consumers when describing personal care and hygiene products and analyzed each to find the best fit for the client website. Additionally, the team identified phrases and idioms used by Spanish speaking consumers and applied them as part of the trans-creation strategy.


Due to the holistic approach taken when trans-creating the content of Dial’s English website to Spanish, the …

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