In Riga recently a journalist asked what I thought of Latvian advertising. I felt an irresistible white lie coming on. Quickly I replied that the standard seemed very high, and they had nothing to learn from me.
After the conference I tried really hard to pay attention to whatever marketing communications came my way, but to little avail. I still had no idea. Latvian, whether written or spoken, is all but unintelligible to the average British language-duffer. (For instance, the alphabet has 35 letters.)
Right now Edinburgh is teeming with small, dark, foreign-speaking visitors. Foreign-speaking, that is, if you classify as such the nearest thing we’ve got to an original British language. I’m talking about our Cambrian cousins, naturally – of whom I literally have hordes.
Now, some enterprising brands and boozers have erected posters in Welsh. And I can put my hand up to having in the past initiated similar 6-Nations campaigns for clients (albeit limited to the word ‘cheers’ in the appropriate language, plus a picture of beer). Seeing the concept revisited in a more copy-heavy execution, now I’m not so sure of its merits.
I’ve noticed that fast food outlets mainly work with large images for their instore ads – presumably on the basis that a significant proportion of their clientele can’t read (I mean because they’re under the age of five), but can point in a pestering manner. They’ve acknowledged the risk that language can alienate some customers.
Of course, there’s no perfect solution. Perhaps these Welsh posters are an attempt to encourage some friendly in-bar banter (“Taffy – ken whit tha’ says?”). Trouble is, if my relatives from the valleys are anything to go by, they won’t speak Welsh, either.