A word that cost £75,000

A word that cost me £75,000!

It was really exciting times leading up to the launch of one of the leading telecoms companies in the world in France. Having launched other such ventures, everything was under my firm grip, or so I thought. The marketing team in Paris were gearing up and waiting eagerly to start beating the drums and launch their campaigns. All the marketing collaterals were being designed in the HQ in London and the Printers in Paris were on standby. Everything seemed to be going very well, the designs came through and the marketing manager checked through them to ensure everything was perfect before going off to the Printers. The next day we had pallet loads of printed leaflets, posters, banners etc. delivered to the office and everyone was happy!

During the next couple of days, our new legal representatives in Paris came in to the office for a meeting. On their visit, they noticed our posters and one of them pointed out in all calmness that the posters were not legally compliant and could not be used! Specifically, she pointed out that a particular word in the text of the poster was translated incorrectly!! One word!? ...phew, I thought...what’s the big deal? One word wasn’t going to stop me from plastering Paris with these posters in the next few days. However, Stephanie insisted that we couldn’t use the word “meilleurs” - meaning 'best', in the phrase “les meilleurs tariffs” as it cannot be proven that it the best, nor is it a sustainable claim and hence doesn’t comply with the French advertising regulations authority’s (ARPP) requirements.

I wasn’t going to swallow this one easily; my legal representatives in the UK had already been through the ad text copy and approved it. However, they obviously looked at the English version of the ad copy in which this particular phrase read “The cheapest tariffs” and that was not a problem for the British lawyers. However when this approved text got translated by the Agency (I won’t name the agency here, but you’re bound to know them!!) the translator translated the text to “Les meilleurs tariffs” and all the French employees who read this in our Paris office before the posters went to print, were perfectly happy with it but no one had the French legal hat on to realise that it was going to be a problem.

As for the Translation Agency in concern, they had used a native French speaker from France to do the translation, BUT they obviously failed to use an experienced enough translator with knowledge of Advertising Standards Regulations in Paris, resulting in us having to scrap £75,000 worth of printed marketing collateral.

My manager, who is also a major share holder of the firm, called me in to his office after the launch and put it to me in plain words “This £75K loss, should it come out of your salary!?”. I had nothing to say really, although I felt I had all the explanations as to what had happened. And it didn’t get taken out of my salary of course!!

As a management consultant I have worked across the Telecoms, IT, Insurance and Manufacturing sectors and the number of times I have come across challenges associated with language service providers are far too many to count. This event was the final straw and I knew what I needed to do after that.

This is why I set out to create a world class translation company that can be counted upon for all language services. I was going to make sure that my team understood the business requirements, the context and the cultural, religious and legal nuances associated with every project that we handle and that’s what I did. I founded Vocabridge, with an excellent team of professionals who are every bit passionate about what we do!

Thanks to all of our clients and partners who have trusted us to date and we continue to expand our horizons every day because of people like you.