Lost in Translation
Posted on 2016 Feb,10  | By Jad Haidar

Instituting social change is always considered a noble and worthy cause as the message communicated is selfless by nature. And, when it comes to such campaigns, renowned NGO Kunhadi is one of the most active in the field.

The recent work, created by M&C Saatchi for Kunhadi in association with alfa telecom, aims to raise awareness to the dangers of socialising using the phone while driving. ArabAd, a proponent of such causes, asked the people behind the work about the effects they expect this outdoor message to have on the community at large.

Commenting on the effectiveness of ‘soft’ versus shock communication to get the message out to the community at large, the creative team noted, Well, this message is geared more toward the youth instead of the community as a whole, but as far as our target goes, we believe it can be effective… and quite so. The point is to take something away (phone) they truly think they can't live without, and with this concept, we feel we've tapped into it.” 

The two visuals, executed in both Arabic and English, are comprised of a straightforward statement written in big bold white type on a black background to ensure maximum visibility. The colloquial Arabic tagline is comprised of two parts. The first, translates to “There is no reception”, followed by a clear saying, namely “Beneath the 7th earth”, which literally means, “When you die”. 

Surprisingly, especially for a globally renowned ad agency, the English copy is not in line with the Arabic copy neither when it comes to the first part nor the second. In the former, “There’s no network,” doesn’t mean there is no reception, rather implies it. In the latter, “Underground’, does not mean ‘dead’. Again, this is only implied. A more fitting interpretation would have been, ‘six feet under’

What’s worse, is that if one were not familiar with the Arabic version, the English version makes very little sense. It’s not in line with, and as strong as, the Arabic punchline. If we were to take it a step further, it could be interpreted as a service by a mobile phone company offering an uninterrupted connection considering that mobile operator alfa is part of this.   

Again, our aim is not to offend, rather understand how such a blunder could have happened.       



Advertisers: Alfa telecom and Kunhadi

Agency: M&C Saatchi Beirut


English copywriter: Maral Ghanma

Arabic copywriter: Nivine Baz

Senior Art Directors: Youmna Sargi and Roger Hajj


Account Director: MC Hajjar

Account Executive: Danya Taha: