How Not To Crack A Lucrative Foreign Market

Have you ever seen ads that look like this?

Bad Facebook Translations

Probably not. But that’s because you speak English… like most affiliates. This is what happens when an affiliate tries to scale his campaigns in to a different country without bothering to translate them properly.

They end up reading like they’ve been crafted by Robert Patrick on a bad day.

You may snigger, but these type of creatives are not unusual at all. Many affiliates who dare to venture in to foreign markets are hopelessly aided by Google Translations and a tendency to fuck up even the simplest of sentences.

Google Translations is about as trustworthy as my old shortcuts in French class. I hold the proud distinction of passing a French oral exam despite my speech being littered with random outburts of German. How could I screw something up so badly, you ask? Very bloody easily, with the unreliable assistance of poorly programmed word-for-word translation software.

If you want your ad creatives to look genuine, and not thrown together with the style of a madlib machine, it’s important to take your translations seriously. I would suggest you check in to One Hour Translation for small jobs, or hire yourself a cheap translator on CraigsList if you like your outsourcing to be more personal.

Pro Tip: Hire the best translator for the job. This isn’t a power trip. Try not to allow your judgment to be clouded by 17 year old Macedonian school girls who claim “Of course, I can speak fluent Japanese…you look so cute!“. You think I’m joking? Spend 10 minutes recruiting for jobs on CraigsList and you’ll feel distinctly more ordinary for the effort.

It’s important to translate your creatives correctly, not only to drive a greater CTR, but to keep your aura of professionalism in tact.

I’ve heard several horror stories of companies refusing to pay for leads and sales that were delivered legitmately, simply because the ad creatives were poorly constructed in a foreign language. It harms the brand, they claim. I’d be inclined to agree. Though refusing to pay the previous leads strikes me as a little draconian. A slap on the wrist and a “you naughty boy, you” should have been enough. But alas, these situations can be avoided by putting care in to your ad copy.

Let’s say you have the best creatives, translated in to pitch perfect lingo that the natives can understand. What is the next step for getting a campaign profitable in a foreign market?

I can’t stress highly enough the importance of cultural relevance.

Once upon a time, I submitted a Jewish dating ad with the headline “Girlfriend For Christmas?”. It wasn’t until about 4 days later that I felt, for the first time in my life, sufficiently more stupid than a Facebook intern that I would quit my bitching over disapprovals. For a few hours, at least.

Having run dating ads in almost every continent, I can safely say that the tone, language and imagery of a profitable campaign will vary drastically across the board. But, yes, if you were wondering, boobs are still king.

If you’re advertising to Hong Kong or Taiwan, it makes absolutely no sense to flood your ad imagery with scantily clad hobags of the American Pie realm. Different countries have different perceptions of beauty. And although dating throws up some of the biggest differences in culture, there are examples to be found in practically every vertical under the sun.

Let’s say you’re advertising an e-cigarette offer. The difference in tone between advertising to midwest America and the center of Amsterdam is going to be quite severe. As somebody who has sampled both of those parts of the world, I often wish for the two cultures to share a dinner party together where I could watch as a fly on the wall.

The media in each region portrays a vastly different image of smoking. If you approach your Netherlands campaign with the wording of a Midwest state dweller who knows only what he sees on Oprah, your ads are probably going to be met with a lot of confused Dutch stares. Perception, in advertising, is everything!

It’s important to approach your international ads with just as much patience as you would with a domestic campaign. If an offer doesn’t convert after 6000 impressions, that doesn’t mean an entire country has spoken. I only cracked the Singaporean gaming market after learning how to exclude Andrew “The Impression Whore” Wee from my targeting. Patience and perseverance are pretty much par for the course in any kind of Facebook marketing these days.

I also have to point out that dating offers designed specifically for the native country regularly outperform those that have simply been opened up to the new market and translated across with haste. I can’t pinpoint why, but it probably has something to do with a better understanding of the culture. Be sure to test all your options before confining another campaign to the scrapheap.

What can’t be argued is that there are still TONS of opportunities to launch profitable campaigns outside the popular trifecta of USA/UK/Can. There are times where I cry myself to sleep that I never took French class seriously. If you have the knowledge of a second language up your sleeve, what are you waiting for? Use it!

And if not? I have about 47 bilingual Macedonian schoolgirls that you’re welcome to borrow*

Recommended This Week

  • If you’re looking for a network to serve your international campaigns, EWA has an insane selection to choose from. Last time I checked, they had 580+ dating offers from practically every corner of the world. And that’s just dating. I run traffic through EWA daily. For all the outrageous Eagleisms popping up on Twitter – and in banner spaces on sites like this – you can’t knock what they do. The hype is justified by a mighty solid network that cares about it’s affiliates. Get registered here.

  • If you’re not already a member on PPV Playbook, you are missing a beat sunshine. Easily the BEST place to learn from marketers who are actually making money. It has some awesome case studies. The catch is that you will need to pay some of your hard earned pesos to access it. I swear from the bottom of my black heart, joining is worth every penny – BTW, I have a limited number of coupon codes giving new members $10 off their monthly subscription. Email me for a code.

  • If you’re a new reader, please add me to your RSS. Feel free to add Finch to your Facebook. Yes, this is the right link. My real name is not actually Finch. Also follow me on Twitter Love you long time. Thanks for reading.

* JOKE. Seriously, this is a respectable blog.

About the author


A 29 year old high school dropout (slash academic failure) who sold his soul to make money from the Internet. This blog follows the successes, fuck-ups and ball gags of my career in affiliate marketing.


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  • Although it is a tragedy when a great campaign gets ruined by overseas translation, it is also pretty hilarious.

    Advertising to a culture completely different than you are aware of shouldn’t be rushed. Doing your homework enough will make a successful campaign. You may even find some information, during your research, for a great vertical you wouldn’t have known about too.

  • Any thoughts where to find Russian language campaigns? I haven’t been able to find shit. (checked EWA, Offers 202, etc.). Any AMs reading this, feel free to drop me a line at alexpyatetsky (at) gmail (dot) com.

  • Got to admit, I haven’t seen too many Russian campaigns. I’d love to see some campaigns for China too…

    If you can’t find an offer to meet the demand, maybe there’s room to build one of your own? I know quite a few guys who have taken that path with Asian campaigns.

  • You have a very clever way to monetize your blog. I almost didn’t catch it because it was so common sensibly placed. If I’m not mistaken, Martin, the EWA block above is a paid sponsor?

  • I was in Italy recently and just looking at adverts / billboards etc. aimed at the English speakers among us you can tell they have not been done professionally. E.g. Lidl “Thank you for your shopping” – OK so you know what they mean, but they are obviously not written by a native English speaker, and when it comes to any sort of marketing it is essential that your message is clear.

    I work for a translation company, so I know a bit about this. There are 2 key things you need to do when having anything translated. 1/ Use a professional translator – just because someone speaks more than one language does NOT qualify them to be a translator, and 2/ make sure that the translator is translating INTO their native language, and not from it. Follow those rules and you should be OK.

    *SHAMELESS PLUG* And of course use a reputable company like R L Translations and you will have no worries 🙂

  • Like you said, social distance and culture are huge – It changes the stories people tell themselves to justify their actions – There’s quite a bit of real research done around this. Wish I could point at it off the cuff. For one, Robert Cialdini quotes some of it in his books. I remember a huge Excel spreadsheet with social metrics across countries – Buried in my MBA junk subdirectory – I’ll dig up and share.
    Laughed my ass off with “planning to copulate” and your Jewish date for Christmas.

  • I did a little non-English dating on facebook awhile back. I made a little money.

    I used the following trick to “write” the ad text:

    Go to the foreign-language LP of the offer you’re promoting, and try to find the English match of it if there is one. If you can find an English match, look for *where* it has certain dating keywords. (works if you don’t have an English equivalent, but slower)

    Now on the foreign version copy the text from those same parts of the page and plug it into Google translator. If it roughly translates into dating related words in English, keep it. If not, keep trying.

    Take these dating related words that you can’t read and plug them into a Google search for the target country (search “google countryname” for the right place). You will probably see a few AdWords ads for dating. Copy their ad text and titles.

    Repeat this a few times with different words or phrases. You can use the ad texts you’ve found as search terms also. You can probably deduce certain more-targeted words after a bit and search them too.

    Remember in other languages words may not mean the same when removed from context. Word1 in a phrase “word1 word2” might have a totally different meaning when alone.

    Since the ad titles and ad body text are separate, you can treat those as separate sentences to use, so you can mix and match.

    It takes longer and is less flexible than hiring a good translator, but it works most of the time. Drawback is you might end up copying some other affiliates GOOGLE TRANSLATED ad text and have no idea! Haha!

    I should blog about this! 🙂

  • Dug and found the data on cultural differences and posted it to my blog. Not quite as funny as Finch – and something to keep in mind: No amount of data can replace the common sense of a native of the place you are trying to advertise to. Go make some friends!

  • I have a few translators for each language I target on skype. Usually one of them is on. So if I need some ad copy of an LP translated i can usually get it done that day.

    I pay a bit more for the fast service but it’s worth it. For instance today i paid out only $12 for all my new Facebook Ad copy…

    Better off paying them well and keeping them around rather then trying to hustle for a few bucks and killing your time or having a shitty job done.

  • what do you mean ‘eliminate andrew the impression whore wee’ from my targeting? you mean he has all the gaming forums/fanpages? or..?

  • Hey Man,
    Ok so let’s say I’m new and understand the sea of misinformation that is out there.. Man… so much time wasted… I’m asken a sincere question Bro.. Who can I learn from right now that I don’t have to pay a monthly membership with?
    I’ve just lost my career to outsourcing, and now I’ve only got my laptop and 25 yrs of experience.
    What can I do to start making 20 bux a day?
    Please advise.

  • @Dean – It depends what you were doing before. If what you were doing before was outsourceable, can you not still do freelancing? $20/day is relatively easy to achieve.

    I would say if your budget is limited, there’s only so much information that is worth buying. Your money is best spent testing affiliates campaigns. Information isn’t going to make you money, after all.

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