"I don't battle anymore! I uplift motherfuckers!" - GZA
Monday, October 27, 2008,10:48 PM
Not Lost In Translation
October 20, 2008
By Michael Applebaum

As part of its Hispanic marketing efforts during the 2008 tax season, H&R Block ran a series of TV ads that featured fictitious company reps Horacio and Roberto engaging in bold tactics to illustrate the brand's relevance to Latinos. In one spot, the two young guys enter a hair salon and ask a beautician to do their taxes. Instead, she cuts the tax form into a string of paper dolls. The narrator urges viewers to go to H&R Block, uttering "Estamos contigo" or "We're with you."

Earlier in the year, general market ads for H&R Block depicted wry scenarios with an alternative message. One TV spot involved two guys dressed in Germanic Alpine garb discussing how to reap tax deductions for lederhosen accessories. They are thusly informed, as the tagline says, because they "got people" at H&R Block.

While these two campaigns spoke in different ways to different consumers, they both positioned H&R Block as being "a brand on your side," said vp-marketing Kathy Collins. "Our communications objective is to share our tax knowledge, our expertise, our people. Be it 'Estamos contigo' or 'You got people,' the message is clear."
Marketers like H&R Block have long understood the need to create advertising that is developed specifically for the Hispanic market. The question is: How far can that advertising veer from what's being sent into the general market without damaging a brand? Most marketers and their agencies agree, the answer is not too far.

"You don't want a brand to have a completely different look or feel in Spanish," advised Jessica Pantanini, vice chair of Hispanic marketing agency Bromley Communications, San Antonio, Texas. "You have to figure out which of your brand drivers will work with Hispanic consumers. Then you'll know which aspects to leverage from the general campaign."

At H&R Block, for example, a primary goal of the general market campaign was to wean consumers off tax software. But research revealed different barriers among Hispanics. One was the incorrect assumption that retail branch employees did not speak Spanish-an idea countered by a pair of Spanish-speaking flamingo dancers in another TV spot. The other was the belief that consumers did not need an expert to do their taxes.

"In general, there was a perception among Hispanics that H&R Block is 'not for us,'" said Laurence Klinger, svp/cso at Lápiz, Chicago. "We had to show that, yes, the brand is for you and we know you are in a different financial place in your lives. That's how we came up with 'We're with you.' In other words, 'We're on your side.'"

In addition, he noted, the Seinfeld-ian humor of the original spots might have been lost on some Hispanic viewers. And vice versa: Few Americans likely would have understood the cultural expression "before a rooster can sing," which was used to demonstrate the speed of H&R Block's refund in a third Spanish-language TV spot.

Tag, You're It
When should a general market tagline be used in an Hispanic campaign? Sometimes, a brand has no choice but to come up with a new tag because there is no literal Spanish translation for the English version. That was the case earlier this year when Chase followed up its black-and-white themed branding campaign, dubbed "What Matters"—a double entendre for which there is no Spanish equivalent—with an Hispanic effort called "Juntos Se Puede" or "Together we can."

To be sure, adapting ads to the Hispanic market means more than getting out your Spanish dictionaries. A new tagline often arises as the result of specific insights into Hispanic consumers. In Wal-Mart's latest back-to-school campaign, for example, the general market tagline "Save Money. Live Better" became "Save More. Live Better" ("Ahorra Más. Vive Mejor"). That may seem like a small change, but it was an important distinction.

"To Hispanics, it's not just that Wal-Mart saves you money. It relieves angst because you know you'll find what you need, it has a good return policy, and so forth," explained Alex Lopez Negrete, whose Houston agency created the campaign. "If Wal-Mart is only talking about money to Hispanics, it's leaving something off the table."

For General Mills, which late last year launched its first Hispanic market campaign for Nature Valley granola bars, it wasn't so much that Hispanic consumers experienced the product differently, but rather had a different view of nature itself.

"Hispanics don't feel they have to 'get away' to find nature the way Americans traditionally do," explained Ingrid Otero-Smart, president and CEO of Casanova Pendrill, Costa Mesa, Calif.

Thus, her agency shifted the brand's focus from the images of mountains and waterfalls that dominated the general market campaign to the product's packaging. Outdoor ads, which continue to run this year in Los Angeles and other markets, feature a blown-up image of a granola bar wrapper printed with those same images and the headline: "La Naturaleza en tu Bolsillo" or "Nature in Your Pocket."

Rodolfo Rodriguez, director of multicultural marketing at General Mills, said that it was important for the brand to have a "single unified voice" in the marketplace, especially since some Hispanic consumers may be exposed to both campaigns. "Many of the iconic images of nature remained consistent in both campaigns as they appeal to both consumer segments and help reinforce the positioning," he added.

Some brands tend to draw on universal themes in their general market advertising, in which case the development of an Hispanic campaign may be a natural transition.

Take State Farm. Its ongoing TV spots features slice-of-life vignettes to illustrate the importance of insurance under the rubric of "State Farm Is There"—an idea that could have broad appeal beyond the general market. Variations of the line ("I'm there," etc.) in Spanish were used this year in a series of TV spots via Alma DDB, Coral Gables, Fla.

The scenarios, however, are intended to resonate specifically with the Hispanic audience: A couple opens a dance studio for little girls; a young man buys first apartment; a regional Mexican band looks to make it big in the U.S. A fourth spot about an expectant father awaiting his first boy has a little fun with Hispanic parents who name their girls feminine versions of boys' names (e.g., Fernanda, Daniella).

"We all find ourselves at these kinds of 'intersections' in life," said Madeline Perez-Velez, account director at Alma DDB. "With State Farm, it was a matter of leveraging insights with our consumers find the right situations."

Team Effort for Marketers and Agencies
Communication between marketers and their Hispanic/general market agencies can produce some desirable synergies. For instance, when DDB first shared its storyboards for a baseball-themed State Farm spot with Alma DDB, the Hispanic agency immediately recognized two things: 1) The idea certainly work for its target audience; 2) Here was an opportunity to realize an efficiency that otherwise might not be gained.

"Given our priorities this year, we probably weren't going to be able to do a sports-related TV spot," said Perez-Velez. "But we loved the idea. Baseball gives you that smile and [a platform to create] a lighthearted moment."

To leverage its Major League Baseball sponsorship, State Farm has been running the spot (filmed with a bilingual cast for two versions) during the MLB playoffs on TBS and on Spanish-language stations including Fox Sports en Español. The 30-second spot, shot outside Wrigley Field in Chicago, involves a teenager who recovers a home run ball and, seeing the poignant reaction from a young boy nearby, hands him the baseball. "You know that place where the love of the game is the real souvenir? I'm there," he says in Spanish, followed the State Farm/MLB sponsor tag.

"This is not just about taking their [DDB's] creative and recasting it," said Tom Maney, svp-ad sales for Fox Sports en Español. "It's about borrowing their brand equity and delivering it to the Hispanic market in the most appropriate way."

Bromley, meanwhile, did just that last fall in developing an Hispanic market campaign for AstraZeneca's pediatric asthma medication, Pulmicort.

The effort, including print ads and a direct mail kit offering an informational DVD and coupon for free samples, was based on an insight into the target audience—moms with children under age eight—that was summed up as: "It makes me very nervous not to be in control of my child's asthma." Whereas an earlier general market campaign (by Saatchi Healthcare, New York) had positioned the brand more generally as an asthma medication for kids, the Hispanic ads spoke directly mothers to ease her anxiety over the disease.

A side-by-side comparison of a portion of the two campaigns reveals the different approach (see photo caption). In the general market ads, the image is of a child alone and the core message is that asthma does not have to take control. In the Hispanic campaign, mom and child are shown together and the ad says that, by preventing asthma symptoms, Pulmicort helps both the child and her mother breathe easier.

"We needed to empower mothers to talk to their children's doctors and educate them on treatment options," said Vernonica Vela, account director at Bromley. "Asthma is confusing for everyone, but raising awareness was particularly important [for our audience]."

A common thread among all these campaigns is a description of the process by the interested parties, many of whom say the initial sharing of creative briefs and strategic goals was key, but from there it was up to the individual agencies to come up with the goods.

Greg Sutter, marketing communications manager at State Farm, said "there were absolutely no constraints" placed on Alma DDB in creating spots for the Hispanic market.

Collins of H&R Block agreed. "We told Lápiz, 'The handcuffs are off!' Bring us what's right for the consumer and the brand," she said. "And they delivered."

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