Transcreating a Christmas billboard

An exercise in transcreation: It starts with a German holiday billboard

The German ALDI billboard at my neighborhood bus stop. Photo expertly taken by yours truly

I like studying billboards at bus stops and trying to come up with good versions in English. This time, the Christmas billboards for ALDI caught my eye.

The tagline is “Oh, du Günstige”. It’s a twist on the German Christmas Carol “Oh, du fröhliche, oh du selige.” (Here’s a link to the Wikipedia page, which features an English translation.) What the billboard has done is to replace the “fröhliche” (joyous) with “günstige” (affordable).

So, we have some yummy holiday food and a twist on a Christmas carol to convey holiday cheer. AND, the twist emphasizes how affordable shopping at Aldi is.

What would you do if someone asked you to transcreate this for an American audience? Let’s say we have a brief telling us that we want to promote ALDI’s holiday food and continue the theme of low prices.

Which songs come to mind? And how would you adapt them?

The carols/songs

We’d need really well-known songs. Ones for which the melody and lyrics immediately come to mind.

Maybe one of these?

  • Jingle Bells
  • Deck the Halls
  • Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer
  • Frosty the Snowman
  • We Wish You a Merry Christmas
  • Joy to the World
  • Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town
  • 12 Days of Christmas
  • Let It Snow!
  • Jingle Bell Rock
  • White Christmas
  • Winter Wonderland

The pitfalls

If I were ALDI US, I’d want to steer clear of any controversy surrounding the use of “holidays” instead of “Christmas”. I’d also  still try to include all non-Christians. Tricky!

Maybe I’d opt for Christmas pop songs instead of Christmas carols:

  • Wham, Last Christmas
  • Mariah Carey, All I Want for Christmas

Whatever song I choose, it has to have an iconic line that everyone recognizes—even if part of it is replaced for our billboard purposes.

The wording

I also need to think of ways to say “affordable” so that I can figure out how to work it into the lyrics:

  • Cheap, low-price, affordable, costs less, low-cost, pay less
  • Savings, bargains, fill your cart, deals, do not spend much, easy on your budget
  • No worries, unconcerned, worry-free, lift your spirits
  • Buy more, bang for your buck

The style

Finally, how will I put my carol and my wording together?

  • Insertion
  • Replacement of a word
  • Creating a rhyme
  • Pun

Ideas

  • On the first day of Christmas, ALDI gave to me
    • From: 12 Days of Christmas:
    • But: price point not included
  • 12 days of savings
    • From: 12 Days of Christmas
  • Fill your plates with deals from ALDI
    • From: Deck the Halls
    • But: tie to song not really clear
  • Shop around the Christmas tree
    • From: Jingle Bell Rock
    • But: price point not included
  • Good savings we bring
    • From: We Wish You a Merry Christmas

None of these suggestions are ideal. Nor are they very original.

All of them are also pretty long—much longer than the 3-word German tagline. That might cause a layout problem. So, maybe we should look for solutions that don’t refer back to a Christmas carol. (I’m allowing myself to stray from my fictitious brief.)

Ideas that are not derived from a Christmas song

Let’s brainstorm Christmassy words that could find their place in the tagline

  • Yuletide, holiday
  • Presents, gifts, wrapping, ribbons, stocking stuffers, decorations, tree,
  • From the heart, thoughtful
  • Gratitude, giving, love, cheer, goodwill, rejoicing
  • Food, festive, candy canes, eggnog, spices, treat, feast, lavish, indulge, gingerbread, cake, cookies
  • Snow, snowman, ice, sleigh, sled, cold
  • Mittens, scarf, wrap up,
  • Fireplace, crackling, warm, chimney, stockings, cookies, reindeer

How can we turn some of them into taglines?

  • Religious connotation: Fill your carts with joy and gladness
  • Rhyme: Very merry savings
  • Food: Feast your eyes on these deals
  • Festive mood: Prices to lift your spirits
  • Famous Christmas stories: Even Scrooge would approve
  • Santa’s favorite store

Meh. Still not great. Good thing this is only a practice run!

Let’s peek at an English holiday billboard

A little bit of research and I found this billboard version that was used last year in the UK. It also uses a Christmas carol. While the price aspect is not included, it’s still helpful to see what an American version might have looked like.

Picture of a 2018 Aldi UK Christmas billboard

Image source: @ShowcaseOutdoor on Twitter

Disclaimer

Obviously, it’s much more sensible to design billboards for local markets. This is just a exercise for transcreation practice and not a feasible example. None of my ideas are good enough to present to a client. That said, do you have any better ideas? I’d love to hear them!

Bonus billboard

Now that my attention has been focused on advertising that uses Christmas tunes, I see it everywhere. This is what the Germany company Duplo made of the Mariah Carey Christmas song “All I want for Christmas is you” (yep, that’s me reflected at the side :-)).

Image source: Duplo Christmas billboard, again expertly photographed by me

For people who don’t speak German, “du” means “you.” Follow the link for more two more Duplo examples, one of which uses the same song as ALDI  (pictures taken by someone much more talented than me).

 

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