Next in our LEAP interview series, we present Transcreation Account Manager Virginia Álvarez. As part of LEAP’s Language and Culture team, Virginia helps our clients to reach their audiences all over the world through transcreation (a.k.a creative translation) and cultural consulting. Born and raised in Madrid, Spain, she is fluent in Spanish and English. She also speaks French and Italian. A Londoner for nearly a decade, we’re pleased to say, she’s here to stay.
How did you get into the advertising industry?
I had always had an interest in languages, was an avid reader and also enjoyed writing, which led me to do a BA in English – it was the perfect combination of my interests. A year studying abroad in Belgium and improving my French cemented my love for languages. I then decided to move to the UK and completed a master’s degree in English<>Spanish Translation. The world of advertising offered me the possibility of putting my creative and language skills to use. Before I had finished my master’s I was already working as an in-house copywriter and transcreator for an online luxury lifestyle boutique, and I haven’t looked back since.
What can you tell us about your work at LEAP?
In the Language and Culture team we do not just work with copy, we also provide native insights that can help our clients build truly localised campaigns with narratives and visuals that will resonate with their intended audience.
We tend to think that some concepts are the same around the world, but it is surprising how differently a country’s history can shape people’s perception of what we thought were universal ideas.
A project comes to mind in which we helped our client to understand what the idea of happiness is for people in different countries. Our in-market consultants helped us to put together detailed reports, and most importantly, mood boards that illustrated visually what happiness looked like in their markets. We found that happiness was associated with status and financial success in some countries, while in others happiness revolved around family life. These findings helped our client devise a campaign with a narrative that worked across all their target markets, and only the visuals differed.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
I am a language geek, I love learning, analysing and comparing languages.
I really enjoy seeing how different languages represent the same ideas or feelings in completely different ways, and I love it when I come across instances where you can clearly see how aspects of a country’s culture come through, not just in their linguistic choices, but also in their aesthetic preferences.
What’s your favourite ad and why?
This is a really difficult question. Sometimes, I enjoy TV ads more than the programme itself, and I know I am not the only one! I remember being mesmerised by TV ads from a very young age – I could sing all the jingles, and I memorised all the voiceovers (I still do!).
In general, any ad with a good soundtrack will catch my attention. I can’t pick a single one, but other than the typical award winners that everybody loves, there are a couple of relatively recent ads that I like for different reasons:
I like everything about this ad: the story, the music, the humour… It is a relatively simple idea but executed in a way that is heart-warming without being soppy, as well as funny and positive, and with uplifting music to top it all off. I think this is a good example that sometimes less is more.
I think the acting in this ad is brilliant, the uplifting approach was the right choice, and the soundtrack is just perfect.
The music in this ad immediately attracted my attention the first time I saw it, and the people, colours and movement kept me watching until the end. In fact, I think Levi’s ads consistently stand out, to the point that ads from 25 years ago are still remembered – the Mr Bombastic ad came out in 1995, and I still catch myself humming the song every now and then.
Do you have any hidden talents or interesting hobbies?
I like working with my hands, and I am building a nice collection of power tools that I use for my DIY projects. The latest addition is a fantastic power drill that I got for Christmas last year. Best present ever! I recently moved flats and 99% of our furniture is either stuff that I picked up from the street and then upcycled or bought second-hand.
How do you stay motivated?
First of all, I love what I do, so I don’t think I need much extra motivation!
That said, the team are fantastic, and their support is a great source of motivation too. Coming across clients that truly understand and appreciate what we do also helps me keep my motivation levels up.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out in this field?
Transcreation is still a bit misunderstood, so I would tell them to only get into it if they are genuinely passionate about it because they will need patience! It is also a highly skilled job for which it is not enough to just speak another language. A thorough understanding of how language works is essential if not the most important skill they’ll need, as well as a creative mindset.
Find out more about the people of LEAP in other interviews with members of our team.