English only Hispanic Advertising

English-only Hispanic Advertising

By Jose Villa Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013

Almost all Hispanic advertising shares one thing – the Spanish language. Hispanic marketing is big business, involving organizations from all segments of society and our economy. Yet, almost all Hispanic advertising involves Spanish in some way.

Think about it. Can you recall a Hispanic advertising campaign that doesn’t incorporate Spanish in any way, shape, or form? No Spanish creative. No ads run on any Spanish-language media. Not a single word in Spanish is incorporated into the campaign.

While the Hispanic marketing industry has gone to great pains to move beyond Spanish and the “language wars” of a few years back, I’ve never come across a Hispanic ad campaign that didn’t incorporate the Spanish language in some way.

I’ve worked in Hispanic advertising for just 15 years, but I’ve only come across an English-only Hispanic marketing campaign once, and it was for one of our clients. At my agency we’ve worked on numerous “mostly English” campaigns targeting young Hispanics using English creative run on English media, but we’ve been invariably asked to include campaign elements in Spanish targeting their parents.

I am sure there have been campaigns that were English only that I am unaware of, but no one can argue that they are rarer than a black swan. Which begs the question, why is English-only Hispanic advertising so rarely done?

English-only Hispanics are a large and growing population. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, 25% of U.S. Hispanics only speak English at home. That’s a population of more than 12 million Hispanics. That number is expected to rise to 34% by 2020.

As Hispanic marketing has gotten more sophisticated, so have marketers’ segmentation of the market. Savvy Hispanic marketers target specific slices of the more than 51 million Hispanics living in the U.S. – typically segments making up fractions well below 25% of the total population. Yet, that pie is rarely sliced in a way targeting the large swath of English-only Hispanics. It makes no sense that a large and growing population segment would get little to no attention from marketers. There is clearly a problem.

The problem is structural and not easily solved by the three key industry players who are in a position to change this:

Hispanic Ad Agencies – Going English-only makes them vulnerable to general market agencies. It opens up cracks in the defensible position. Although some have tried, clients are reluctant to go English-only, rebuffing those attempts.

Marketers / Brands – Multicultural marketing leaders at organizations constantly need to justify their jobs and market. Even if English-only Hispanics are a prime target for them, they will have to justify that they are not “spilling over” in the general market.

Hispanic Media Companies – Almost all Hispanic-targeted media is in Spanish. The few that are bilingual or in English have struggled to gain the same kind of market share as their Spanish-language counterparts.
This structural problem creates an opportunity for those willing to challenge convention and venture out into the blue ocean. Who is game?

Jos Villa is the founder and president of Sensis, a cross-cultural advertising agency with digital at its core.

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