Jon Evans
Oct 17, 2022

Crafting culturally authentic ads that appeal to everyone

When brands speak authentically to a specific population, their ads end up more appealing to the general population than the average ad produced by those same brands.

In McDonald's Tio Roberto ad, a native English-speaking boy spends the day with his native Spanish-speaking uncle. (Credit: McDonald's)
In McDonald's Tio Roberto ad, a native English-speaking boy spends the day with his native Spanish-speaking uncle. (Credit: McDonald's)

With Hispanic Heritage Month coming to an end in the US, brands shouldn’t need a reminder as to why these customers are important. But here’s a quick summary: With 41 million native Spanish speakers and 13 million bilinguals, more Americans speak Spanish than Spaniards.

Those numbers speak for themselves — as do the consumers they describe. Choosing how to speak to them — in Spanish, English or a mix — can make targeting this diverse community a challenge.

Brands and ads that embrace diversity tend to experience business benefits. Testing the emotional response to ads can reveal how the general public as well as Hispanics/Latines feel about those ads.

The reality remains that when at its best, thoughtfully diverse advertising can and should unite us. When brands speak authentically to a specific population, their ads end up more appealing to the general population than the average ad produced by those same brands. Diverse advertising creates a win-win, otherwise known as a “diversity dividend.” 

While these ads are well enough received among the general population to grow the brand and drive market share, they also outperform among the group they are specifically speaking to. They are genuinely inclusive — designed to accurately represent communities, lives and cultures. But they don’t alienate audiences outside those cultures either. 

In 2018, McDonald’s released an ad created with multicultural agency Alma, Tio Roberto, which addresses the variety of experiences within Hispanic lives through a heart-warming story. A native English-speaking boy spends the day with his native Spanish-speaking uncle. Language is a barrier at first, but the two bond over a shared meal at McDonalds.

All viewers were positive about the ad, but Hispanic viewers were a lot more so. A second-by-second analysis showed that they felt the same emotions than the general public, just more intensely. The awkward “rarely-seen relative” experience is universal, but the language issues spoke strongly to viewers who were used to navigating the choppy waters of bicultural families.

The success of Tio Roberto is partly due to McDonalds’ long-term relationship with Alma. Alma also created the award-winning “First Customer” ad in 2014, where a new employee serves his proud parents at the drive-through. It also got a strong positive response from general audiences and drove an exceptional level of happiness among Spanish speakers. 

Ads like this demonstrate the authenticity a specialist agency can bring. The spot could easily feel like a stereotype if clumsily executed, but it gets the balance just right between being deeply relatable and very funny.

This past summer, Kellogg’s teamed up with Leo Burnett for the first cereal ad in Spanglish, presenting a family breakfast vignette blending Spanish and English dialogue without subtitles. It was a welcome and bold slice of authenticity, as it risked confusing people outside the target group — but for them, at least, it performed.

The Kellogg’s ad raises an important question. Does avoiding subtitles make for a more immersive and authentic ad? If so, is it worth cutting off non-Spanish speakers outside your target audience? 

Google’s El Amor Habla, by Anomaly, also known as Bodega Love, aired during the Latin Grammys. It tells a story of cross-cultural romance between a French and Spanish speaker, and how the two use Google Translate to cross that divide. The choice of French rather than English is smart, given that it lets bilingual viewers empathize with misunderstanding and being misunderstood. Both the general audience and Hispanic viewers liked the ad a lot, with the Spanish-speakers even more positive.

Cacique’s Your Autentico Awaits goes in the opposite direction. The ad shows a family enjoying the brands’ products, but uses an entirely English voiceover. The emphasis is firmly on the visuals of the food, with the authenticity coming from Cacique’s ingredients and the recipes they enable. Hispanic audiences enjoyed it and felt positive emotion due to the authenticity of the product.

What do these ads all do well? They authentically and consistently embrace elements of Hispanic culture, while tapping into universal elements of family, relationships and the need to communicate. Language isn’t an absolut, nor is the need for subtitles. Storytelling rooted in what’s real will resonate with your target audience and others, too.

While every demographic has different needs and paths to effectiveness, attention to detail and cultural nuance drives connection with core groups without disconnecting from the general market. 

Think ads can't be culturally authentic and widely appealing? Think again. 


Jon Evans is chief customer officer at System1.

Source:
Campaign US

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