French copywriting from brief
Clients demand that French copywriters in London bring the same quality to their work as if they were based in France. “How long have been here?” is the question I’m sometimes asked by clients. They may think that after a few years in London a French copywriter loses contact with the French market and becomes obsolete.
I understand these fears. As a professional, updating my skills and keeping up with what is happening in France is an essential part of my job. I have learned to stay in the loop working in London or in Paris.
Copywriting in advertising has changed dramatically in the past decade. Besides creating headlines, taglines and product names, I create content, CRM, apps, blogs, articles and social media posts for digital marketing and social media.
French transcreation from English
How do you say gig economy, greenwashing or crowd funding in French?*
These are a typical examples of new idioms a French copywriter “just arrived from Paris” may not know because she/he hasn’t lived long enough in London. Transcreation is a specialized skill, you need many years as a copywriter in both countries in order to excel.
So if you need a professional, ask how long they’ve been practicing transcreation (+10 years) and what radio they’re listening to in the morning.
London is a great hub for creativity, and whilst falling in love with its culture, some forget they are working for the French market. I never do. To see what can go wrong, read what happened to the famous Hello Boy campaign in France and why when in London I tune to the French radio.
"Thanks again for your help with these projects – looking forward to working with you again in the future."
Harriett Lewis, Account Director - Engine Creative London
"Catherine was a great help to myself and the broader team at BMB, when we tackled the job of localising the latest LinkedIn Jobs campaign for the French market. Her excellent grasp of both the source and target language, and thorough knowledge and insights into French culture as well as current events, made her an obvious choice for the role of copywriter."
François Boshoff, Creative Director - BMB London
Raised in the banlieue, West of Paris, I bathed in a cultural melting pot very early on. We studied English, Spanish, German and Russian. My friends were from Brittany (like my own family), Algeria, Spain, Portugal and Vietnam. I've been exposed to multiculturalism all my life but there is one thing that unites us all, that's the French language. Only 14% of French youth speak good English. Our rappers rap in French only. Something global brands ought to remember.
I still live and work there when I’m in Paris.
I studied advertising at the ESP (École Supérieure de Publicité) in Paris, trained at Havas and worked at JWT Paris as a copywriter and transcreator.
I left for London to work on the Guinness pan-African account, a client I kept for many years. Yes, Guinness is good for you.
I am not a translator, I create headlines and copy, my background is firmly rooted in advertising and creativity.
When World Writers was launched (I created the brand name), it serviced the first global accounts won by independent shops like W+K and BBH.
I wrote the first transnational Nike campaigns and worked on all BBH global accounts, with Sir John Hegarty on IBM in particular.
"I like your work and you are indeed a very experienced writer"
Helen Haeusermann, International Creative Director - BBH London
"...quite impressive... I find your capabilities, skills and experience to be of high standard."
Remko Montauban - Wieden+Kennedy, Amsterdam
I launched my own consultancy and went on winning major global accounts like Adidas, EA, MTV, Dyson, Habitat. Multilingual campaigns which required organisation and attention to details on a grand scale. I did it all. Whilst writing, editing and publishing a best-selling punk fanzine in English (British Library catalogue).
“I take this opportunity of thanking you for the excellent work on our business and we look forward to working with you once again next year.”
Brian Sparks, Marketing Controller, Guinness Brewing Worldwide – Africa Region
My ads for Nike featured in
Campaign Magazine featuring my
French ads for Nike.
Who the hell is Jacques Séguéla?
"We were very impressed with your copywriting experience. Your creative writing was delightfully
concise and focused".
Benjamin Dorval, Creative Lead - Google New York
"In terms of the transcreation specifically, the client loves the tone. And as I think I've mentioned - this is not always the case! So thank you again for great work."
Giulia Watson, Account Director -Danone - Droga5 London
After a break, I relaunched under the name of Transcreators United a few years ago. The ad industry has changed beyond recognition with the advent of digital.
There are a plethora of transcreation agencies out there, but none with our history. I may be old school, but creativity, developing a Big Idea, and knowing who the hell was Bill Benbarch or indeed Jacques Séguéla is still important to me.
So, it is a shame watching French TV spots with slogans in English or meeting creatives in charge of global accounts with cliché ideas about Europe. And no translators will ever tell they’re wrong because it is simply not their job.
"Once again, thank you for all your assistance on various French projects. I can assure you it hasn’t been easy to find a service that has worked so smoothly as yours when it comes to French, and I don’t believe in changing a winning hand".
Colin Barette, Marketing Programmes Manager,
(Northwest) Delta Airlines
- Atlantic Region
*L'uberisation de l’économie, l'écoblanchiment,
le financement participatif.
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