Heineken, Citibank are big winners

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Insights into the experience of Spanish-speaking immigrants in the U.S. inspired some of the most powerful work that competed for Advertising Age's 2004 Hispanic Creative Advertising Awards.

Citibank's first major campaign for the U.S. Hispanic market was the most-awarded work in the competition as La Comunidad, Miami Beach, Fla., delved into recent immigrants' reasons for being in the U.S. and what they find here.

In TV, radio and magazine campaigns that garnered four awards this year, Citibank sympathizes with the downside of U.S. life that newcomers find bewildering but unavoidable, then explains how Citibank can help with the real, economic goals that brought immigrants here.

One TV spot is familiar to anyone who's struggled to be understood in a foreign country: A Hispanic immigrant stands in a pharmacy and awkwardly tries out various pronunciations of the word "aspirin" to a non-comprehending pharmacist.

One of the humorous spots that ran on radio-a more important medium for the Latino market than for the general market-has a recent immigrant confronted by the arbitrary 10 a.m. cutoff of breakfast service when he tries to order scrambled eggs at 10:03. The Citibank ads end: "There are better reasons why you chose to live in the United States. Citibank Access Account. Access to what you came here for."

Citibank business up 169%

The Access Account ads generated an increase of 169% in new account openings among Hispanic consumers overall, and even higher growth of 437% in one region, the western U.S., says Gary Bassell, president of La Comunidad, Miami Beach, Fla. Now the agency is working on a blueprint for business products Citibank units can develop to maximize Hispanic opportunities, he says.

Another winner, American Airlines, was so strapped for ad dollars that Zubi Advertising, Coral Gables, Fla., asked the agency's staffers to help out by bringing in old family photographs to use in print ads. Playing on immigrants' nostalgia, headlines start "Return to the place where ..."

In one ad, two men-one the father of a Zubi art director-kick a soccer ball under the headline "Return to the place where football is played with the feet." In another, a small girl, now a grown-up Zubi account exec, sits on a beach chair under the headline "Return to the place where 30 degrees is hot," a reference to temperatures expressed in Celsius degrees rather than Fahrenheit as in the U.S.

Those ads won Zubi a Silver award, and American, now with a budget, has just expanded the concept into TV. The spot focuses more on the moments you miss, that you'd like to pack and take with you, says Hector Prado, Zubi's creative development director. In each vignette, the person who's leaving figuratively frames the moment.

In one, a small boy at a swimming hole holds up a glass jar so that it looks like his friends diving into the water are leaping into the container. The commercial ends with a departing grandfather waving a sad farewell at the airport to his son and granddaughter. He waves, widens his hand to frame their faces and presses it to his heart.

"My clients say this is so sad," Mr. Prado says. "No more happyland. It's not sad, it's nostalgic."

Building on the nostalgia theme, he's working on expanding each vignette into a separate commercial.

Citibank and other winners this year also managed skillfully to mesh their general-market platform with an authentic Hispanic voice that delivers a relevant, creative message rather than simply adapting English-language work. The Silver-winning contribution by Vidal Partnership, New York, to MasterCard International's "Priceless" campaign is a gem, and La Comunidad builds on the look and feel of Citibank's "Healthy Approach to Money" global platform and "Live richly" tagline.

"The same [Citibank] campaign that speaks to the general market finds a tone and an insight all its own for the Latin market," says Toni Segarra, chief creative officer at WPP Group-backed Barcelona agency S,C,P,F and president of this year's awards jury. "There's great intelligence and sensitivity behind it."

That's an achievement in a market where advertisers, out of ignorance or lack of budgets, have often simply dubbed general-market spots or reshot them with ethnic actors, to the despair of Spanish-language creatives.

That's changing, but adaptation often precedes original creative for the many advertisers that are taking their first steps in the Hispanic market. And perception lags reality.

"I always thought it was mostly translations from the general market," admits Saul Sola, one of this year's Hispanic awards judges. Now Mr. Sola, who's national brand manager at Chivas Regal USA, is a believer. At his own company, 60% of spending is dedicated to the Hispanic market, he says, recalling, "Three years ago it was just 15%."

Sometimes the Hispanic touch improves on the general-market campaign. At Yahoo en Espanol, a TV Gold winner, that happened accidentally.

Havas' Euro RSCG Latino, New York, looked at the general-market spot for Yahoo personals, and decided the quick cuts of different couples meeting for a blind date could be reshot for the Hispanic market.

dating game

"The problem is they made a huge [Spanish-language] media buy," says Rocky Pina, creative partner at Euro RSCG Latino. "One commercial didn't cut it."

So his agency shot both "Hola" and "Adios" spots showing the same couples saying goodbye at the date's end-a much more interesting concept, given that a first date can go really well or really, really badly. Even better, the agency bookended the new spots in the same commercial break or program.

In the new American Airlines campaign, the Hispanic and general market share the tagline "We know why you fly"-but Spanish- and English-speakers will interpret it somewhat differently, Zubi's Mr. Prado says. In English, the line refers to specific needs like on-time flights. But for Mr. Prado's consumers, it's more about an emotional understanding.

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