When McDonald’s and Coca-Cola blundered recently by using the Saudi Arabian flag on packaging, they were adding to a long history of companies committing international marketing faux pas.
Examples of translation gaffes include: The Kentucky Fried Chicken slogan “Finger Lickin’ Good” translated to “Eat Your Fingers Off” in Chinese. When Coors tried to translate a slogan with the phrase “Turn It Loose” into Spanish, it came out as “Drink Coors and Get Diarrhea.”
A Bud Lite ad translated into Spanish as “Filling, less delicious.”
Ford decided not to use the name Pinto in
It works both ways, though. Nike ran a commercial with people from various countries supposedly saying, “Just Do It,” in foreign languages, but a Samburu tribesman was actually saying, “I don’t want these, give me big shoes.”
-Harry Berkowitz, Newsday
Bill Clinton’s mom, Virginia Kelley, talks about her first introduction to her son’s future bride, Hillary Rodham, in an excerpt from her autobiography, “Leading With My Heart”:
“My first meeting with Hillary was just electrifying.
Now, just think back to how people looked then: beards, scraggly hair, dirty jeans, tie-dyed T-shirts, clunky sandals. Suffice it to say that Bill and Hillary were very much of their time. When Bill and Hillary walked through the door, Roger and I didn’t know what to think. No makeup. Coke-bottle glasses. Brown hair with no apparent style.
Even though Roger and I were polite, I guess our expressions gave us away, because the minute Hillary went to her bedroom to unpack her bag, Bill shot us a withering look. ‘Come here, you two,’ he said, and you could tell he meant right now.
He got us into the kitchen, and he told us in no uncertain terms, ‘Look, I want you to know that I’ve had it up to here with beauty queens. I have to have somebody I can talk with. Do you understand that?’”
-Virginia Kelley with James Morgan, The
ON THE OFFENSIVE
True tales from the files of the PC Squad: Stylish ads for Calvin Klein apparel, featuring waif model Kate Moss, come under attack from Boycott Anorexic Marketing, a special-interest group in
Coca-Cola is criticized for “reverse sexism,” because a Diet Coke commercial shows a group of women ogling a beefy construction worker as he strips off his T-shirt.
And a public service spot from Aetna Life & Casualty for a measles vaccine, an ad that depicts a wicked witch with green skin and a chin wart, sparked curses last year from a “witches’ rights group,” Aetna says.
In addition, “we feel Porky Pig is always shown as a victim,” says Ira Zimmerman, advocacy chairman of the National Stuttering Project in
Says Lawrence R. Ricciardi, president of RJR Nabisco, “Write a piece of ad copy. There’s at least one group of people you will offend.”
-Kevin Goldman, The Wall Street journal
FACTS OF LIFE
Three religious leaders were discussing the meaning of life.
The Catholic was emphatic that life began at the moment of conception. The Protestant felt certain that life began at the moment of birth.
But with utter conviction, the rabbi insisted that life began when the children had left home, and the dog had died.
“This is just the kind of break we needed for our ratings,” said Chicago Fox News anchorman Walter Jacobson, thrilled to discover that his station had been granted permission to witness the execution of serial killer John Wayne Gacy.
-The New Republic