That question is stirring a tense debate over whether advertising adapted -- i.e., translated -- from a general-market campaign can be as effective against the Hispanic market as original creative developed in Spanish.
When Procter & Gamble Co. asked Chicago-based Leo Burnett Co.'s Hispanic unit to adapt a general-market Luvs diapers ad for use in the Hispanic market, agency executives reluctantly obliged.
The agency translated the copy, and did a "quasi-shadow shoot" with Hispanic talent, recalled Priscila Aviles, VP-creative director for Burnett's Hispanic unit.
GETTING IT RIGHT
Post-run testing revealed Hispanic consumers got the message that Luvs was better and cost less, yet they weren't motivated to buy. P&G wanted to know why.
The package-goods giant was "reaching them with something that was adapted, but you're not talking to their heart," recalls Ms. Aviles, whose division regularly declines to translate ads for Burnett's general-market clients. "The strategy was not right for the Hispanic market."
P&G got the point and ordered a storyboard of original creative on a three-day turnaround so the commercial could be shot at the same time as the general-market effort. The new spot tested well in Chicago, rolled out nationally, and eventually won a non-English Gold Effie from the American Marketing Association.
The effort was a learning experience for the client as well as the agency. "Everything is adaptable, but is it effective? No. It is not a language barrier. It is a cultural and lifestyle barrier," notes Ms. Aviles.
SEEING THE POTENTIAL
A lot is at stake as marketers learn how to reach the growing U.S. Hispanic market. This year, Hispanics in the U.S. topped 32.4 million, or 11.9% of total U.S. population, up from 30.5 million, or 11.5%, in 1998, according to Strategy Research Corp.
With immigration and new births, the market will top 36 million people by 2005, making it the largest ethnic minority in the U.S., just eking past non-Hispanic blacks, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Consumer spending rose to $301.1 billion this year from $273.2 billion last year, Strategy Research notes.
Smart marketers realize the potential here, says Strategy's Senior VP Dick Thomas. While 70% of U.S. Hispanics were foreign-born, the fastest-growing subset within the group are those born in the U.S., he says.
"Clearly, you cannot look at the market just in terms of language," Mr. Thomas says. "You may reach them in terms of impressions, but not motivation. . . You need to design a marketing program that is strategically on target."
FINDING A MARKET
Hispanic advertising is finding its place with general-market executives. According to Competitive Media Reporting, 30 marketers topped $10 million in 1998 combined spending on Telemundo and Univision. Of the top four Hispanic market spenders, AT&T Corp. ranked fourth and made the largest leap, spending 128% more on Hispanic TV in 1998 than it did in 1997, CMR reports.
AT&T learned from experience that original copy directed by strong research will outperform adapted or translated ads for its products, says Lynette Pinto, AT&T division manager-multicultural marketing communications.
"It has to start at step one. You need to apply the same discipline [as in general market]," she says. Bravo Group has handled AT&T's Hispanic advertising for 10 years.
"Effective communication, getting the strategy down and executing well is the key to any campaign," Ms. Pinto says.
General Motors Corp.'s Chevrolet Motor Division learned some Hispanic ads adapted from its general-market efforts can work, says James D. Jandasek, director of advertising and sales promotion for passenger cars at Chevrolet.
But of seven Chevrolet models advertised to the Hispanic market, only Cavalier and Blazer use adapted work. Five models -- Malibu, Prizm, Silverado, Venture and Impala -- use original creative work because the messages don't adapt. Hispanic TV commercials for the 2000 Impala will debut in the fall.
To adapt from general-market to Hispanic market, messages must become uniquely Hispanic, says Steve Blanco, president-creative director at Chevy's Hispanic agency, Accent Marketing, Coral Gables, Fla.
For example, unlike general-market families, Hispanic families often view the company's extended cab trucks as family vehicles. So the general-market "Like a Rock" truck theme doesn't apply to the Hispanic market, Mr. Blanco says.
"TODA LA VIDA"
However, the company uses "Toda la Vida," which means "For all of life," to represent "essentially the same proposition as 'Like a rock,' but expressed in a culturally relevant way," he says.
Similarly, research showed Cavalier's theme, "The more you know, the better it looks," appealed to Hispanic consumers once adapted into Spanish. "Cavalier. Mientras m s lo conoces m s lo quieres," which means "The more you know it, the more you love it."
"We have good indications the efforts are starting to gel with the Hispanic consumer," Mr. Jandasek says.
Ads for Shell Oil Co., have benefited from complementary themes but separate planning and executions, says Roberto Orci, president of La Agencia de Orci, Los Angeles. Shell's general-market advertising, "Shell listens," and its Hispanic effort, "Cuenta con Shell y sigue adelante" -- which essentially means "Count on Shell and keep on going" -- both ask consumers what they need in a service station.
"It looks like one very well integrated campaign," Mr. Orci says. "We're the first ones to fight for using Hispanic strategic, but we're also the first to ask if there's a way to make it compatible."
And then there's Luis Miguel Messianu, principal and chief creative officer at Del Rivero Messianu Advertising, Coral Gables, Fla.
In a twist on the debate, Mr. Messianu has created six Spanish-language commercials for client McDonald's Corp. that were ultimately translated into English and used in the general market -- a rare feat for a specialty shop.
"First Words," which features a father trying to convince his infant to speak, and "Daddy's Girl," which shows the relationship between a father and daughter growing up, use the cultural spin to their advantage, says Messianu.
In "First Words," the dialogue is a play on the word "papas." Papas means french fries in Spanish, but papa means father in English and Spanish. "Daddy's Girl" reveals a tender moment between a father and his daughter when he buys her a child's Happy Meal she has clearly outgrown. With English words and a rich Hispanic accent, the father tells his daughter she'll always be his little girl.
"As Hispanic advertising evolves, we're looking for more universal values, more emotion, and less overly ethnic approaches," Mr. Messianu says. "We're coming to the realization that we can do universally relevant work that is more appealing