Melting spots

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General-market ad agencies beware: The U.S. Postal Service will break a network TV commercial next week that was created by an ethnic agency and first aired in Chinese, Korean and other Asian languages.

A Partnership, New York, added English-language tracks while shooting the spot, to give the Postal Service the option of running the ad in the general market. WPP Group's Bravo Group, New York, did the same for Spanish-language ads it created for the Postal Service.

Lead creative agency Leo Burnett Co., a unit of Bcom3 Group, usually handles general-marketing Postal Service advertising. But as multicultural marketing assumes a more visible role, more advertisers may look to give a broader role to their Hispanic, African-American and Asian agencies.

"In my view, multicultural marketing has been limited by the view of being in-language," said Brett Savage, multicultural marketing manager for the Postal Service. "It's easier to take multicultural executions and go to the general market than to go the other way around. Leo Burnett can't go from English to [another language]. But an Asian or Hispanic agency can. I think in the future we'll probably see more of that."

In the winsome A Partnership spot, an Asian office worker tries to scrimp on shipping costs by cramming too many Statue of Liberty figurines into a box. The little statues pop through the box with a "boing," even spearing one woman. The message to small business owners: the Postal Service has cost-effective solutions for shipping needs.

Executives in the Postal Service's package-services group liked the spot and wanted to give it a bigger platform; it breaks on prime-time network TV on Aug. 27. A Bravo spot created for the Hispanic market will run during English-language sports telecasts on regional cable networks this fall, Mr. Savage said.

Asked if Burnett felt threatened by use of the ads in the general market, Mr. Savage replied, "Probably."

"We don't consider it a threat," said a Burnett spokeswoman.

There are precedents for these moves. Ford Motor Co.'s Ford division turned to two of its multicultural agencies in 1998 when it was unhappy with the work of its general-market agency, WPP's J. Walter Thompson Co. A commercial from Uniworld Group, New York, which ran in general-market media, showed a black urban cowboy braving potholes in his Ford Explorer. A commercial from Zubi Advertising, Coral Gables, Fla., showed Zorro making his getaway in a Mustang.

Contributing: Jean Halliday

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