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Puncturing The Advertising Language Barrier


Breaking with the long tradition of producing separate versions of ads for the Hispanic and non-Hispanic U.S. markets, a number of top advertisers such as Coca-Cola Co. and Volkswagen are using a single version of a Spanish-lanuage ad for all markets.

Industry observers note that the practice, which makes no change in dialogue and does not use subtitles, is indicative of the ever-deepening inroads Hispanic culture is cutting across all levels of American life and daily communications.

Craving Mexican food

In Coca-Cola's first-ever such bilingual commercial, Salma Hayek sneaks into the kitchen of a chic restaurant and devours a big taco with a Coke while chatting in Spanish to the waiters. Mexican-food craving satisfied, she slips back into the dining room and resumes a dinner meeting with Anglos, waving away her nouvelle-cuisine meal with the demure excuse that she is watching her figure.

The spot by Publicis Groupe's Hispanic agency Lapiz, Chicago, broke in late September on both English- and Spanish-language networks.

At the same time, Volkswagen of America started devoting 10% of its general-market-media rotation to Spanish-language spots created by C.O.D., its Hispanic agency.

Bicultural Hispanics

Marketers are moving their Hispanic ads into the general market for several reasons. For non-Hispanics, Latin culture is cool. Bicultural Hispanics often watch little Spanish-language TV but do switch on English channels. And in cities with large, growing Latino populations, they are fast becoming the general market.

"Sometimes it's because [Hispanic] creative is based on a human truth, and it works across all markets," said Gary Bassell, president of 2-year-old La Comunidad, Miami. "Other [ads] are an overt attempt to connect with the bicultural market, with subtle cultural references and a little wink at them. There's recognition of Hispanic influence on the general market, on what's in and what's cool."

New client Subway Restaurants was so impressed by one of La Comunidad's ideas for the Hispanic market that an English-language version was shot at the same time by Publicis Groupe's Fallon Worldwide. Both spots break early this month.

La Comunidad's spot opens with a doctor who is surprised to see a nurse eating pizza. The nurse says he ate Subway yesterday. The doctor then emerges from surgery and approaches his patient's family with a serious face. They burst into tears. The doctor laughs. He's kidding! He just had Subway, so he's entitled to a little bad behavior.

In the English version, the doctor talks to the patient alone. The Spanish spot is made more Hispanic with the horrifed reactions of an entire family.

No tweaks, subtitles, voice-overs

Volkswagen decided to run C.O.D.'s Spanish-language spots without tweaks and without subtitles or English voice-overs on English-language network TV in key markets such as New York, Dallas and Los Angeles. Media buys were targeted to programs with high Hispanic viewership, such as the WB's Smallville and Fox's The Simpsons, said Daniel Marrero, C.O.D.'s founder and executive creative director.

"Hispanic agencies used to adapt or translate general-market spots and that was considered Hispanic advertising," said Laurence Klinger, Lapiz senior vice president and chief creative officer. "Now it's the reverse. Crossover is what's happening in this country."

Like Salma Hayek's life, captured in a Coke commercial.

"It shows Salma being who she is, craving the food she really wants to have, then going back to an English-speaking situation, which is the reality she lives," a Coke spokeswoman said.

Posted on aef.com: October 9, 2003

 

Laurel Wentz, AdAge.com. October 6, 2003

Copyright © 2003 Crain Communications, Inc.. All rights reserved.

 

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