Phil Lynagh is regional managing director at Tag: Worldwide JLT
“I’ve come to the conclusion that there are some really impossible jobs out there. For example, being Nick Clegg’s blue tie manufacturer or, even worse, an entrenched Arabic copywriter at any creative agency. Personally, and with all due respect to yoga teachers everywhere, I believe the latter to be the most frustrating and troublesome. The Arabic language is an an incredibly rich one; it’s diverse, full of subtleties and wholly subject to sweeping changes within the geography of the region.
But surely the same could be said for English? And yet we don’t have the constant claims from most clients that the English isn’t up to scratch? I believe it’s because we’ve grasped that English has diversity and we channel briefs to the correct resources. However, I believe we still treat Arabic writers differently. We expect them to communicate to all readers/listeners using one treatment a bit like speaking in tongues. Would you necessarily believe that the marble-rolled Old Etonian vocabulary would be grasped in full by Buck on the Detroit production line? I very much doubt it. So we realise proper localisation and cultural insightfulness often only offered by a native speaker is required. Not so for Arabic, it’s more a case of one-size-should-fits-all.
So perhaps the choice of a non-Saudi copywriter to sell to Riyadh-based Saudis would be ill advised. The demand for great Arabic copy in all markets is probably only equalled by the scale of its non-delivery. We must attempt to use culturally and geographically aware writers to sell the brands we represent whenever possible as anything else is dilution. Remember, copy isn’t art direction. Although a picture can be worth
a thousand words, if you are using those thousand words, they’d better be in a style and a language that the target audience will understand and relate to. There’s an old saying that if you put four Arabic writers in a room you’ll end up with five opinions, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a good thing. Listen to them.”
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