Debate swirls over slang in Coors spot

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Spanish speakers can't agree whether a Hispanic spot from Coors Brewing Co. that hinges on a Mexican slang word is a cleverly insightful 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 received some complaints, chat rooms are buzzing, and Advertising Age received several e-mails last week pointing out the word's negative connotations (see Letters, P. 24).

To make the spot suitable for Anglo viewing, the agency added a camera card reading "Guey equals dude." But it 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 friendly, everyday speech as a dude-like salutation between guys. 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 (see the spot at QwikFIND aap60d)

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. It's a generational thing."

Young adult males tend to have their own code, he said, and "guey" (pronounced "gway") is part of it. "What may seem derogatory is now a buzzword that, depending on the inflection, can mean anything you want," he said.

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 `f*#*ing 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 execs confirm that. 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 a couple of creatives of very Mexican origin in his department. "They happen to talk that way all the time," he said. "It was almost guey abuse."

Paul Mendieta, Coors' director- multicultural marketing, said Coors tested the concept with 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." Other Hispanics and even non-Hispanics related to the spot, he said.

Mr. Mendieta, who was born and raised in Mexico, said, "My father never said a bad word in front of my siblings or me. He did say guey, so that ought to tell you the word is not offensive."

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