Transcreation and Generative AI with Jellyfish’s Rocio Martinez

SlatorPod #176 - Jellyfish’s Rocio Martinez on Transcreation and AI

Rocio Martinez, VP of Language Services at Jellyfish, joins SlatorPod to talk about the role of creative content localization at the digital marketing agency. 

Rocio explains that while the language services team at Jellyfish function as an LSP, their positioning in the market is broader, and they act as an internal solution provider that supports the various divisions within Jellyfish. She emphasizes the importance of connecting every part of the creative process, from creation to adaptation, and monitoring performance and optimization.

Rocio provides an overview of J+ Creative, a proprietary set of tools that assist their teams in the production and localization process, including workflow management, deliveries, approvals, and version control.

Rocio talks about the use of back translations in transcreation, primarily for creative content that requires significant adaptation from the source material. Rocio shares how finding the right copywriting talent and linguists can be a challenge, especially for rare languages or specific sectors.

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Rocio discusses the potential of large language models and generative AI tools for content generation and localization. She mentions that Jellyfish is actively testing and integrating AI tools, focusing on improving workflows, and considering prompt engineering to enhance content generation.

Regarding the future, Jellyfish’s initiatives revolve around AI, with specialist teams being trained to identify opportunities and implement them across marketing capabilities. Rocio also mentions the potential of Pencil, a generative AI tool for content and asset creation.

Transcript

Florian: Rocio is the VP of Language Services at Jellyfish, a global marketing agency, marketing company. Hi, Rocio, and thanks so much for joining.So tell us a bit more about your professional background after graduating from Westminster. So kind of what drew you to that, to the language industry and how did you come to work at Jellyfish?

Rocio: My entire background has always been in language, just even pre-finishing my degree. I grew up bilingual. My first language, even though it doesn’t sound like it was actually Spanish, and I learned English later through nursery and my education, so I’ve always been super drawn to what that brings. Basically the wonders as well as the challenges of being bilingual and the gaps in… sometimes come, so it’s always just been a passion. When I had graduated from Westminster, I started in the more corporate, financial and legal sector of translation, which was really a great place to start because of the solid foundation that that gives you. So working with scale and volume, you really learn some key QA principles when managing translation at scale, as well as localization, KPIs, service delivery principles, some quite strict that don’t necessarily apply in creative, but just nevertheless, a really strong, strong base that I really still benefit from now. And then when I moved across a few offices within that first agency and then decided to move into a smaller creative translation agency, and that’s where I basically found my true passion in language. In a nutshell, just helping brands reach their global audiences and making sure that their messaging and the creative concepts that they work so hard on actually reach their global audiences the way that they were intended. And I think for me, that’s where language and localization became more meaningful than ever. And then from there, sorry, I was just going to sort of clarify how I’ve ended up where I am now at Jellyfish. I then transitioned to the actual agency side of things with a far broader set of creative services and the ability to create, adapt roles across channels and platforms. So that obviously gave me a very different kind of exposure and could put my passion really into sort of sharing the value of just connecting the dots across those two vast sectors of localization and marketing.

Florian: Now when you said you started on the agency side, kind of regulated, legal, maybe financial, kind of similar for my LSP background, now that’s kind of pure vendor. Now when you’re working for an agency, would you consider this… Agency like a creative agency, would you consider this kind of somewhere in the middle between an LSP, like a straight up LSP and kind of the buy-side or would you still kind of see yourself much more on the vendor-side?

Rocio: When I think of the team that I’m in and my department, I still think of ourselves as an LSP but definitely our positioning in the marketplace is not one of an LSP because we’re so connected with basically the other creative products around us. We’re much more of an internal solution that really helps drive global growth across products, so we’re not, I don’t want to say not just an LSP because obviously LSP is how we work but it’s just much more broad I would say.

Florian: Obviously, what you mean, I mean you connected to a much, much broader organization that does a very wide range of services, so maybe let’s talk about that. I was going to ask you to describe Jellyfish in a nutshell. Is that even possible to describe it in a nutshell, maybe open a nutshell, make it a little bigger?

Rocio: Jellyfish is just a digital marketing agency partner for brands and it comprises media, creative, technology partner solutions, consulting and training as their core areas and everything is done with a digital-first and platform focus.

Florian:  It’s very, very big, right? You got like a couple of thousand employees all across the world.

Rocio: Yeah, just over 2000.

Florian: When I go to the website, there’s like five main areas. It says Creative, Media, Partner Tech, Data, and Strategy. And then under Creative I’m going to have to read this, but it says Asset Production, Asset Optimization, you’re getting Social, Ecommerce Content, App Store Optimization and localization. So basically your under Creative is Localization. So maybe just quickly, you said that you’re kind of the LSP within that org, so just tell us how you support these other areas and kind of where it’s maybe more of a standalone service? Where you’d have the client directly come to you or maybe where you support some of these other business areas.

Rocio: Localization sits within that creative area as you said, so that’s where those products that you called out so Ecommerce, Localization, Organic Social, we’re all working very closely together but that doesn’t mean that we’re not occasionally working directly with our Media team, for example. The way we see ourselves and the way it works in most scenarios is that we’re a service solution to these other areas, so we’re supporting with whatever localization requirements they may have. So from an internal standpoint, it’s almost like we wouldn’t be here without the other products. From an external standpoint we work with brands directly just on localization on some occasions but we’re always really… It’s not that we’re necessarily seeking a more integrated process but that’s where our true value really is. It’s the fact that we connect every part of the creative process, so looking at asset lifecycle holistically from the creation, the cultural consultancy at those early stages, the ability to then localize and adapt and then monitor performance and optimization so really connecting everything, but our aim is just to help solve problems at any stage of that cycle as well. So we can deliver just language-only solutions and services but we also sort of strive to connect it all together with… management of entire localization and campaign lifecycle.

Florian: It’s probably what some of the LSPs that are really focused on the transcreation and marketing translation side struggle because they can’t provide that holistic approach sometimes and the client will be like well, I need the localization piece but I kind of need all these other pieces as well, so can you maybe partner with someone or?

Rocio: Yeah, and we still work with a lot of brands that may have multiple production partners, for example, and still multiple localization partners, too. And there may be a reason for that diversity or that multitude of partnerships, but it does sometimes impact efficiency, basically, in the sort of achieving the best campaign performance results compared with having everything consolidated and integrated.

Florian: In terms of collaboration, I mean, do you work mostly with individual freelancers or also maybe partner with smaller LSPs or?

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Rocio: We work with both so we work with freelancers directly globally and in market talent. But we also were really fortunate to also have long-standing strategic partnerships which is really where we have access to that scale, that scalability in our model. So I think that combination of creative and cultural awareness and just infinite scalability through partnerships as well as direct in-market talent models is what we believe gives us a really unique value and ability to deliver successful results because scalability is just so important when it comes to multinational and multimarket campaign management. Timeline shifts so much, there’s so many variables so having hybrid working models is absolutely essential.

Florian: Is it kind of bulky work? Because I guess from the regulated side, I remember, it wasn’t super bulky. I mean, there was the annual report and things like that but generally there was kind of a constant flow of volumes. I guess in creative it’s probably a lot more project and bulky.

Rocio: It’s more unpredictable for sure. Yeah, we did have some regular work. I mean the ideal brands that we work with have sort of what we call the BAU content that’s sort of happening on a consistent regular basis but then campaigns always come with sort of timelines. You usually have the visibility in advance as the dates approach, timing shift, content changes so, yeah. I mean those projects tend to be far bigger and involving multiple teams globally working together.

Florian: One difference would probably also be channels and formats, right, versus maybe just a PDF or a Word file or whatever, XML maybe in the regulated space. Now you got all kinds of video, social, et cetera. Can you just tell us a bit more about what formats and platforms you’re servicing and where you see some of the growth?

Rocio: The formats and channels are pretty much all of the most common social channels. We do everything from video banners to static banners, web, localization, so all the common stuff as well. I think in terms of growth, social has been a really big expanding area. Now with AI, it’s changing again. I think it depends from where the growth is. It really depends what angle you’re looking at it from because some areas of growth are based on basically revenue, the largest revenue areas, others are more based on scale. So it’s changing, CRM definitely has been, from a localization viewpoint, has been a growing area because of platforms and the way we use apps and things. It’s really taken off. But there’s been a lot more activity in the CRM space of content. I think now, specifically, from a localization point of view, one of the biggest growth areas we’re going to see is in brand guardianship and copy review services, especially with AI, because there’s a need to generate more content than ever before and there’s going to be an expectation as well around how efficiently and fast we’re able to do it. So being able to stay close to that brand consistency piece is going to become more important basically and just the human loop side of how we’re doing things.

Florian: Are you seeing from the client side… How is the current impact from these large language models, all this GPT experimenting in the ad and creative space? Is it still mostly experimenting or have there already been kind of initial established workflows or things kind of have crystallized where people are using it very in a semi0-mature way, I guess?

Rocio: We’re seeing the biggest impact across just generating content generally, so not just on copy and not just in localization, but it’s having not necessarily impact because that makes it sound negative, but it’s got the greatest breadth of capabilities across video, static, images, audio and also content and copy. It’s recently Brandtech which we’re now a part of, they acquired Pencil, so it’s a tool which has been designed specifically for global brands needs. An asset creation tool basically, which is already in use. We’re expecting to see a lot of more change to come basically, especially when we integrate tools like Pencil with AI, like GPT that has a more direct sort of connection with copy and content, so yes, in some areas we are already actively using it. We’re still experimenting in terms of how we refine the end-to-end process across the ad and marketing space. So in some areas, yes, just mainly discovery others already using it and it’s evolving day by day.

Florian: Absolutely. Same here. Maybe one aspect I want to talk about is like grammatically accurate text is kind of has become a commodity at this point, which wasn’t the case like two years ago, which would then mean there is an overproduction of generic content, so are clients worried about performance? Maybe how do you help them address this and break through what might be a lot of AI-generated text? And from the language side, is it mostly an issue now if it is on kind of the high-resource languages, French, Italian, German, Chinese? Or is it also becoming an issue for smaller languages?

Rocio: I think of this topic as more of a sort of performance management sort of question and we’re really lucky to work with specialist teams in SEO and also in performance localization as well. So generally, even though there is that risk of over generic content, we’re always tailoring our approach to local best practices. So even when it comes to SEO localization, use of search engines, practices and things like that, we’re just adapting on a local market level and then when it comes to the actual content itself, it’s the same. We’re always adapting the production of the content to what’s relevant, so it’s something we’re quite well-versed at managing anyway, and that we would have front of mind when it comes to bringing in AI tools and practices into those existing workflows and areas of specialism.

Florian: Yeah, I really wonder where this is going. So far I haven’t read that there’s like a massive impact on SEO yet, which is like, people generating giga and terabytes of mediocre artificially-generated content, but probably somebody will figure it out. And Google’s probably very interested in not letting that type of content rank highly, I guess, so maybe they’ll do some of the heavy lifting for the market for us. I want to talk about a tool I saw on the website. It’s called J+ Creative suite. You also mentioned another tool just now, but tell us more about the J+ Creative suite and how it’s related to localization.

Rocio: J+ Creative, it sits within our J+ workflow tool, so our workflow tool is called J+ Workflow. J+ Creative is the area that really helps us. It’s a suite of proprietary tools and it helps our teams across the production process from creative to localization with everything, with the workflow, the deliveries, the approvals, version control, and our more localization specific tools sit within that. So our TMS systems and CAT tools are part of that J+ Creative suite of tools, so it really just encompasses the end-to-end workflow.

Florian: I was going to ask you about back translations because it’s one of the very few areas in the language industry where back translation might be done at all. It’s kind of transcreation and like linguistic validation in pharma. Is that something you guys do at all? And if so, why?

Rocio: It goes hand in hand with transcreation, doesn’t it? In terms of most people’s understanding of how you define transcreation. We do. We use transcreation, but only really where it adds value. So for example, for us really, transcreation is defined by our ability to adapt workflows to the content and what the content needs to be effectively adapted, basically. So we may have a regular stream of work with a specific brand and it’s all video localization. One week we’ll receive a super-creative script and that will require back translation just to be able to facilitate, from an internal point of view, just to facilitate the QA process, knowing that we’re on track with the brief. A huge part of the role of the language manager at Jellyfish is to own the whole process and connect all dots from the brief to the delivery. So the back translation is crucial, but sometimes you will see within the same area a more generic script, for example, come through and it won’t need the back translation, it doesn’t add value and clients don’t want to see that. They don’t want extra content to review, so we use it where it makes sense. I mean, some areas are obvious, like taglines we could end up doing over ten versions and it’ll go through many rounds. When you think about how much effort and how many stakeholders are involved in just creating an English tagline, that process is part of the adaptation process as well and back translation. We wouldn’t be able to do it without back translations basically, so it varies. We wouldn’t do back translations for long-form web content, for example.

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Florian: It’s mostly like for things like taglines or just super-high value pieces of content.

Rocio: It’s for really creative content where usually the adaptation process requires quite a significant departure from the source structure and content and therefore you just need it as a guide for how the adapted version looks. In some cases it might be more technical, so for example, just character restrictions or things like that, forcing the linguist to part for a different reason, it’s not just because it’s creative. So you might need a back translation just to inform the approach and just illustrate the approach that was taken.

Florian: Who does the translation or conversion or transcreation in that case? I mean, is it translators that have kind of the special branched out into transcreation or is it writers and copywriters that are familiar with the source language? Or how do you manage that from a resource perspective?

Rocio: It’s the copywriters themselves nine times out of ten because as I said, it’s really just an informative version, just to illustrate literally the word for word translation, I suppose. So it’s not something that requires like an objective approach in the way that we use back translations.

Florian: The actual writing of the tagline, let’s say you have some kind of creative brief coming out of New York or London and then you do 30 languages, who’s writing those taglines in those 30 languages? Are you sourcing kind of in country copywriters or would it be some very creative translators from your network or who does that?

Rocio: It will vary. It’s copywriters definitely, and then it will sometimes require a sector’s expertise. So for example, if it’s luxury or fashion brands, you need copywriters that are living and breathing that luxury world of content because trends and language vary so much. So it really depends on the sector, but definitely always copywriters, sometimes more general brand communications can just not rely so much on sector expertise, but just that really experienced high caliber content writing skills. It’s such a huge part of… The creative transcreation process is making sure you’ve got the right writers involved at the beginning, so the setup of a transcreation project is a huge part compared to less creative content adaptation.

Florian: Is it hard to find these people like, A, finding as defined by getting their CV onto J+ Creative, the tool? And then is it hard to secure their capacity at the time you need it? Like is both hard or is just one harder than the other or is it still relatively okay to do?

Rocio: It depends on the language combination. When we start working with a new brand, that onboarding of the linguists can go on for months, so we can begin fairly soon. But finding a team of linguists that can be fairly committed to working on a consistent basis, I think that’s a challenge, really, across all areas of localization, but it can be a challenge with the best writers out there, especially when we’re working with brands that a lot of the best copywriters are working directly with these brands already. So it’s not that the appeal of the brand is what really helps you secure the talent. But we’re fairly established in terms of sort of we’ve got long relationships with copywriters across our most regular markets. It’s a very collaborative industry. We have good connections amongst linguists, so sometimes we have recommendations. So it can be hard, but it’s not something that we’re particularly challenged with in the majority of cases. Rare markets are always hard. Just those rare markets that might only come up when you’ve got a 60 language job and there are just new markets in there where you might not have a bigger pool as you do with your more regular market.

Florian: Then your LSP training will kick in and you’re like, sure, we can scramble and find the most obscure languages very quickly.

Rocio: Yeah, most of the time there’s a soul, but yeah, I guess that’s always the challenge.

Florian: Are you hearing anything from kind of the network of writers, translators, editors on AI. By AI, right now, I would mean like anything since ChatGPT launched, like that kind of boom, buzz, whatever, hype. Are you hearing anything about that right now from them? Or is it still kind of, well, let’s keep an eye on it, but we don’t really see it in day to day yet?

Rocio: We’re not necessarily hearing it so much from them. I think because we’re doing a lot of discovery across tools at the moment, if anything, it’s us sort of reaching out to them and involving them in projects. So our aim is to approach the topic as optimistically as possible because the change is there and there’s so much work just in the discovery process and putting it into practice and evolving our workflows that we’ve never relied on linguists and the skills of language managers as much as now. So yeah, I suppose there’s a mix. We’ve had to make sure that in a lot of the testing that we’re doing, that we do blind tests as much as possible just to remove any bias in the evaluation process when we’re looking at sort of AI-generated content. But yeah, I’d say there is a bit of a mix, but on the whole, in our experience because of the general approach that we’re taking and how optimistic we are about the positive impact across all areas of ad marketing, they’ve been super collaborative in the process and very involved. So it’s hard to know exactly, sort of on a wider scale, how linguists are feeling about it.

Florian: Now there’s this buzz term called prompt engineering. Like you trigger the generative AI to do something, right, whether it’s translation or all kinds of other text-based tasks. Is this something that you’re, again, already started experimenting with in day to day? Is it a term you’re using internally or is it just more of a buzzword at the moment?

Rocio: It’s definitely an area that we’re very focused on at the moment. We believe that gen AI is going to transform the way we do marketing and we’re actively looking at how we use it in the way we work. We’ve already got some models to help verify and generate content that adheres with client brand guidelines across other areas and we have to be very mindful about privacy, clients’ data and we’re just reviewing a lot of tools and also just, yes, that prompt framework is a big part of it. We do a lot of content generation at Jellyfish, so this is an area that’s got a lot of… This is an area of focus at the moment. We are also starting to look at that multi-language aspect within content generation as well. Even though a lot of these large language models are really having the most direct impact on that content generation area, I do wonder… Well, we’re basically looking at where there’s scope to include it in those localization workflows that don’t rely so heavily on a source copy as a starting point, but are more focused on a brief. So just skipping source altogether and going directly to the market, not target language, but the local market language and generating directly and we’re doing that.

Florian: That’s such a fascinating area to discuss and I think I’m sometimes struggling to even find the words to frame this right because now you can say… Well, you put it elegantly now. You said, okay, we have a brief, right, and then basically we’re working off of the brief, but our target is to produce 20 or 30 or whatever 40 multilingual versions from scratch based on a brief, not necessarily based on a source that we’re now then localizing or transcreating. But you have a brief and then you independently use these generative models to create copy that works in that particular target market. And I think your area will probably be one of the very early adopters of this approach and we might see it in other areas of the language industry where you kind of skip the translation process altogether and you just kind of go and create the target copy or whatever you call it, so how do you think about that? Is that something that over the past six months, it’s like, okay, these models can deliver that and let’s have meetings and think about how we can make sure that our clients benefit from this, how we kind of internally maybe leverage it? Yeah, generally, what are discussions like within Jellyfish about that?

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Rocio: We’re obviously approaching all of this really mindfully. One solution that you might find in one area of content absolutely doesn’t work in another, but we’re just aware basically. We’re doing a lot of CRM production, for example, we’re doing a lot of eCommerce production across markets. We’re just aware that there’s an opportunity based on the fact that there are certain workflows that aren’t so source copy dependent. There’s an opportunity to enhance free AI. The same way that we introduce neural machine translation to long-form translation workflows. So we’re still testing and discovering how this is going to efficiently work and in a stable way as well. That’s predictable. We’ve seen some really impressive results in some markets, for example, that we wouldn’t have expected to see perform so well just from traditional experience of how complex languages amongst APAC markets usually perform, for example. So, yeah, we’re still discovering, but we feel very optimistic and I think in terms of how we implement it, it’s always going to have a client-first focus. Clients will have a different objective in terms of where those efficiencies are needed, whether it’s speed, volume of content produced, cost. It’s always going to be very much guided by the client’s objectives.

Florian: Clients probably don’t care that much about how, I guess the sausage is made as long as the results are there.

Rocio: Clients and brands need guidance from experts in localization and across any other areas of creative about how we should be using these tools. There’s so much information out there at the moment and there’s also a lot of ambiguous information around AI. And also the roots are sort of infinite when you think we’ve got 150 markets we’re localizing into at Jellyfish. We’re covering a huge list of content types, some as part of other products and capabilities within one campaign and others more direct. There’s just so many variables and there’s so many different ways you could apply and integrate across other tools. So that consultation, consulting guidance around how we should even be thinking about AI depending on what area of marketing or content is so key as well.

Florian: Big complicated topic and we’re in the middle of 2023 and I think what I advise LSPs when they come to me and ask like, well, how do we integrate this and how do we think about this at this point in time? I’m like, well, experiment, experiment, experiment. But maybe don’t really decide yet on a very kind of fixed maybe toolset or anything like that because there’s going to be so much more change in the next six to nine months that you may want to integrate and there’s another cool tool coming out or cool technology that you should be integrating. So it’s a very kind of consequential year, 2023, but also very… Yeah, you need to read a lot, experiment a lot. Anything you can share about maybe what you have planned in this environment of kind of uncertainty in 2023 and 2024? Any initiatives going into next year?

Rocio: AI is really at the core of our focus at the moment. It’s really important to the overall business at the moment because it doesn’t just affect content, it’s across capabilities. So, yeah, specialist teams are being trained extensively to identify the opportunities and start putting them into practice across all areas of marketing, so that’s our focus at the moment. I mentioned Pencil earlier, so generative AI and the opportunity with Pencil and potential really just also key.

Florian: Is Pencil a tool that you’re using internally only or is it something that the clients can use as well?

Rocio: It’s definitely internal. I don’t know whether it can be used directly by brands. I’m sure it can when integrated, but it’s a content and asset creation tool, so when the whole focus of it is its ability to integrate with AI across different areas. So, yeah, it’s very exciting in terms of how we use it with our existing creative products to enhance the efficiencies on what we’re already doing.