CrowdLocal or CrowdLoco: Localizing Ad campaigns
Ever wish you could press a button and have your Google Adwords campaign or your banner ad displays all instantly translated into, say, Polish? I do. In the not-so-new Global Economy, it seems like localization of media and advertising should be a simple dashboard feature, not an arduous linguistic odyssey. For Adwords users, Google offers a Translation toolkit which runs on their impressive super-collider translation engine. The problem is that machine translation, even with Googliest algorithms, ends up looking like a super-collision, spitting out a stilted version of the original--comprehensible perhaps, but awkward, like cousin Balki on "Perfect Strangers".
A real native speaker brings intuitive cultural awareness and contextual sophistication to the task. A simple example: Native Spanish speakers would know to translate 'Car' to 'coche' when targeting Spain but opt for 'auto' or 'carro' when targeting Latin America. Getting the right social nuance helps determine the effectiveness of localized campaign.
When an International Franchising client wanted to find Franchise buyers in Eastern Europe, we used JobSpooler to parcel out ads to geo-targeted Spoolsmiths. The experiment was quite successful given all the technical constraints (character limits, business jargon, etc.). Sometimes Ads had to be completely rewritten to fit Adwords parameters. It appeared to me that ad localization might be a problem that Crowdsourcing could solve for many others as well so I asked Claudia Batten of Victors and Spoils what she thought from an agency perspective. She put me in touch with Niel Robertson of Trada, a guy who's thought long and hard about what the Crowd can do for paid search optimization.
Trada is set up like a commodities exchange where the "trading" is done in Keywords and ad copy. If the ads perform well and the Trada-fied keywords are bid smartly, they collect on the arbitrage between what the client is willing to pay and market pricing. Even though Trada is currently dealing exclusively with English ads, Neil says foreign languages will eventually be offered. Even within the English language, he's already had to deal with the localization issue. He told me by way of example that the U.K. uses the term "turnover" the way "revenue" is used in the U.S. By contrast, 'Turnover' would connote something drastically different in U.S. business context.
As we spoke, he also described some future Crowdsourcing ideas for virtually "pairing up" ad optimizers with graphic artists to create localized display ads. To my ear it sounded like thousands of mini ad-hoc creative teams brought together to create individual banner ads. Diabolically clever (if not a bit daunting to execute technically).
The bottom line here is that a customer should be able to get custom text and banner Ads, in any language for a modest fee. In Trada's case, the fee is performance based while JobSpooler uses flat work-for-hire rates. In both cases, the approach represents an important evolution in how search and display advertising campaigns can be scaled AND carefully customized using abundant supplies human intelligence.
There are still a number issues to resolve and additional test cases to run in order to streamline the process but our first go-round looks promising. I would be interested in hearing how other agencies and SEM firms are dealing with their clients' localization needs. Comments? (all languages accepted--we'll translate almost anything except for Double Dutch and Pig-Latin...)