AT&T, the nation's second-largest wireless operator and second-largest advertiser, is injecting Spanglish flair to its campaign for the coveted millennial audience. The "Mobile Movement" marketing effort launched in March will add bilingual and Spanish ads aimed at young, Hispanic consumers.
For the campaign, AT&T is partnering with Virtue, the in-house creative agency of Vice Media, a name that has become nearly synonymous with the millennial generation for marketers.
AT&T refers to the "Mobile Movement" campaign as a "platform" and is positioning it as a bid to connect smartphones -- often brands young consumers adore, with the network carrier -- one they typically don't. To do so, AT&T takes a backseat. The spots feel similar to branded content creations, for which Vice is known.
"You still have to get your audience fo fall in love with you," said Catherine Borda, AT&T's director-youth marketing. "With this generation, where they can smell advertising from a mile away, you have to get creative."
The general campaign, which premiered at South by Southwest, featured several commercials and a 13-minute video, "The Network Diaries." For the Hispanic push, the campaign is adding a short, staged video, which runs less than four minutes, as well as two 30-second commercials where young Latinos discuss living across two cultures and languages. Commercials in Spanish will run on Univision and Telemundo, while the bilingual spots will appear in ESPN Deportes and MTV Tr3s.
The videos will also be featured prominently on AT&T's "Mobile Movement" Tumblr and YouTube pages, as well as other digital properties, including those from Vice. Print ads will run in People En Español and Latina. The new ads are slated to run through the end of the calendar year, but the company said they may continue into 2015.
Markets across Latin America have been described as the "crown jewel" of AT&T's potential acquisition of DirecTV, which is still pending.
Plenty of marketers targeting Hispanic consumers have utilized Spanglish. What sets AT&T apart is its focus on authentic storytelling, said Spencer Baim, director-strategy for Vice. For the campaign, his agency relied solely on non-professional actors, who were also AT&T subscribers. "Rather than have AT&T talk," Mr. Baim explained, "we have the generation talk to themselves."
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The bilingual spots in particular showcase AT&T's attempt to focus on the "emotional benefit" of the wireless service, Ms. Borda said, "as opposed to the functional benefit."
The only network feature identified in the general "Mobile Movement" spots is AT&T's discounted offering for customers without contracts. That plan follows a brash move to buy out contracts from smaller competitor T-Mobile. Last year, T-Mobile signed a contract with Latin American superstar Shakira.
Ms. Borda insisted that AT&T's marketing was not a response to its rival. She also noted her team intentionally opted not to rely on a well-known figure, as many Hispanic marketing efforts have. "Using a celebrity is not going to fit as well," she said. "The customers are our celebrities."
In 2013, AT&T leapt from fourth to second place in the Ad Age DataCenter list of top U.S. advertisers, spending $3.27 billion. It is also the No. 2 advertiser in Hispanic media after Procter & Gamble, spending $124.7 million in 2013.