COORS HISPANIC ‘GUEY’ AD SPARKS CONTROVERSY

Slang Meaning Hotly Debated: Creatively Clever or Derogatory?

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Spanish speakers are debating whether a Hispanic spot from Coors Brewing Co. that hinges on a Mexican slang word is a cleverly insightful
Is the 'Guey' commercial an insult or the clever use of a word whose meaning has changed?
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beer commercial that perfectly hits its demographic target or an offensive use of a derogatory term.

In the spot, running on both Spanish and English-language TV, young male beer drinkers in a bar toss around the word "guey" in the spirit of Budweiser's "Whassup" commercials. Coors has gotten some complaints, chat rooms are buzzing, and AdAge.com received several e-mails last week after running the spot, pointing out the word’s negative connotations.

Equals 'dude'
To make the spot suitable for Anglo viewing, the agency added a camera card reading "Guey = Dude." But the word also has another meaning.

"Guey does mean castrated bull," conceded Catarino Lopez, creative director at Coors' Hispanic agency, Publicis Groupe-backed Bromley Communications, San Antonio.

For the linguistic purist, "guey" is derived from "buey," the Spanish word for ox, and can be an insult, implying stupidity. But for many young Hispanic males, "guey" has crossed over into everyday speech between men. In the Coors Light spot, the word is delivered with different inflections and intonations that convey greetings, offers of beer and appreciation of attractive women.

"We have received some calls concerned about the negative meaning of 'guey,' " said a Coors spokeswoman.

'A mixed bag'
"It's a mixed bag," said Bromley's Mr. Lopez. "Most people applaud [the spot] but the more conservative don't get the humor or think it's using the wrong kind of humor for advertising. I think it's a generational thing."

Young adult males tend to have their own code, he said, and "guey" is part of it.

"What may seem derogatory is now a buzzword that, depending on the inflection, can mean anything you want" it to mean, Mr. Lopez said.

'Pinche guey'
In an online discussion, one chat room visitor commented, "For as long as I've been on the border the word 'guey' is slang for 'idiot.' It is usually used in conjunction with the word pinche which roughly translates to '[Fornicating] Idiot.' I wonder which pinche guey at Coors came up with the idea for this ad?" Another visitor responded, "[My younger co-workers] said guey is used pretty much as a friendly salutation now instead of an insult."

Hispanic agency executives confirm that meaning. Erika Prosper, director of strategic planning at Hispanic agency Garcia360 in San Antonio said, "Every Hispanic guy I know, that's how they talk, even in my office."

Mr. Lopez said the idea was sparked by two creatives of very Mexican origin in his department.

"They happen to talk that way all the time," he said. "It was almost guey abuse."

Transcending language
The spot was created just for Spanish-language TV. But Coors executives thought it was a bigger idea that transcended language.

Paul Mendieta, Coors' director of multicultural marketing, said Coors tested the concept and a rough cut of the spot among 21- to 24-year-old Mexican-American males, as well as non-Mexican Hispanic males and non-Hispanics. The reaction of Mexican-Americans was, "You got me, this is me and my friends," he said. Other Hispanics and even non-Hispanics still got it, he said.



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