The Other Side of the Mirror: an inside look at a “translator-driven” corporate communications campaign

Translators who work on corporate communications are often critical of the source-text content. But they only rarely get a chance to do much about it, beyond correcting the odd typo or factual error. Source-language communications content has usually been finalized, at least in terms of basic messaging, corporate tone of voice, visuals and other key dimensions of brand identity, by the time translators see it.

David Jemielity will tell us what it’s like “on the other side of the mirror,” where translators’ input is considered further upstream and brought to bear, sometimes quite formatively, on the source-language content. In 2015, Dave was put in charge of Banque Cantonale Vaudoise’s brand identity campaign as creative director and overall project lead. He’ll explain what it’s like to build a source-language ad campaign from the ground up, starting with new voice principles and new messaging and going all the way through to media buys, post-testing and evolving the campaign in step with the bank’s evolving strategy. He’ll discuss the advantages and disadvantages of being a translator and a non-native-French-speaker in such a situation, and how BCV’s in-house translations team managed to position itself at the center of the bank’s communications decision-making.

The talk will describe an ambitious and demanding approach that blurs the lines between translating content and creating it, underpinned by what some translators might consider as an extreme degree of field specialization and an impractical number of face-to-face meetings with clients. There are a number of payoffs, however, starting with a process/product model that seems largely impervious to machine translation.

The presentation will be in English, with some French.

Dave is Head of Translations at Banque Cantonale Vaudoise (BCV) in Lausanne, Switzerland. He is also a tenured lecturer in financial translation, transcreation and multilingual communications business processes at the University of Geneva FTI. He grew up in Indiana and studied English and philosophy at Amherst and Oxford as well as (more recently) brand identity at Northwestern Kellogg.