Lawrence Creaghan: Making sure you get your words’ worth


This print ad for a private school for girls is a good example of a concept that does not translate well into English.
Instead of translation, the ad was adapted with a simple change of headline to make it work very successfully in English.

Adaptation takes translation up to the next level so you can speak to your target audience naturally in their own language


I had the very good fortune of getting my first agency job at BCP Advertising under the legendary Jacques Bouchard. I was hired as an English copywriter and to adapt French material into English, eventually becoming creative group head, responsible for BCP’s English and French-to-English output. Bouchard impressed upon me – and he could be very persuasive – the importance of never translating but of adapting instead.

Much to my surprise, I found this could be done with great success by thinking outside the box, as they say, and using the extraordinary depth and versatility of the English language…without requiring new visuals, layouts, and other costly components. It was something I did for clients day in and day out at BCP and something I continue doing today for clients from every sector.

Let’s face it, no one really likes translated communications. So it’s a real shame to spend hard-earned money doing just that. The best way to get and keep customers is to speak to them naturally in their own language.

If you’re unhappy with English translations of your French communications, then stop translating and start adapting. Send me your French material, and I’ll send you back English versions adapted with your English consumers in mind. You’ll see the difference right away...and so will they.

– Lawrence Creaghan



“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”Peter F. Drucker

“…no matter how assiduous you are, you can’t turn a bad translation into a good one: You can only make it less bad.” – Robert Gottlieb

“If you use a poor headline, it does not matter how hard you labor over your copy because your copy will not be read.”John Caples

“Language is a process of free creation; its laws and principles are fixed, but the manner in which the principles of generation are used is free and infinitely varied. Even the interpretation and use of words involves a process of free creation.” – Noam Chomsky


Lawrence Creaghan: Making sure you get your words’ worth