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A lot of well-meaning, smart and politically savvy professionals cringe at the idea of putting together Spanish language advertisements. In seminars and forums they twist in circles trying to convince the audience and themselves that Hispanics can be easily reached in English.
While the reasons may vary, in reality these are just excuses to mask an underlying concern: the fear of screwing up.
The power of language, culture and the nuances that comes with advertising to Hispanics requires more than just some lines put together based on polls or focus groups. It requires an understanding of how Hispanics live and the life for which they strive. It’s hard to blame consultants for being risk averse. But ignoring Spanish language amounts to a profound disservice to clients and our profession.
Hispanics are football and futbol, burgers and tacos. Similarly, we Hispanics also demand a choice of options when it comes to how we consume media and receive messages.
As a first-generation Hispanic, and like most of my comadres and compadres, I mostly speak English at work. But if mom calls, it’s all Spanish. To my Hispanic colleagues, if they don’t speak Spanish, it’s English only, but for the others, they can expect a mixture of both Spanish and English.
At home, we speak Spanish and English. We primarily watch English-language TV. But we also tune into Spanish programming without a need for subtitles. While my wife and I work, my mother-in-law babysits our six-year-old daughter in our home and the channel toggles between the two Spanish networks: Univision and Telemundo.
What’s our primary language? It depends.
We’re open to receiving messages in both languages, but there’s an advantage to advertising in Spanish. That’s because we can’t DVR what we watch in Spanish. Now, I can easily tape my favorite English-language series. And my remote control allows me to fast forward so my shows become commercial free. In Spanish, the telenovelas are daily, not weekly. If I DVR a show and decide to watch it three days later, I am four hours behind. Plus, news and sports you just have to watch live.
Spanish-language media also gives me fewer options. There are hundreds of English-language networks and cable channels airing thousands of series and news programs. In Spanish, the two major networks have a combined market share of some 90 percent among 18- to 49-year-olds.
Understanding the importance of reaching Hispanic voters is easy: an historic number are expected to go to the polls in 2016 just one presidential cycle after a record 11.2 million Hispanics voted in 2012. It’s time for consultants to start trusting their Hispanic colleagues. To wit, for the millions that voted in 2012, 12.1 million didn’t vote.
Making the decision for in-language advertisements has the potential to emotionally and culturally connect your candidate and cause with millions of Hispanics across the United States. In a language they feel most comfortable and it doesn’t require them to translate idioms, sayings or jokes from one part of their language brain to another. In fact, some things just aren’t translatable word-for-word.
If you want to find out why we don’t change the channel and continue to tune into Spanish language media, even a few generations removed, tune in Spanish anytime from 7-11 p.m. to catch one of our famous novelas or later this year watch a Team USA World Cup soccer match in Spanish. You’ll experience for yourself the power of American Spanish.
Hector Barajas is a partner with Revolvis Consulting and an on-air analyst for Univision and Telemundo. In 2014, Campaigns & Elections named him one of the Top 50 Influencers in the United States.