Watch Your Language

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Cable-operator and satellite-TV marketers shared stories about targeting Hispanics — whether to go Spanish-only or bilingual in messages, how to stretch niche-marketing dollars in a down economy — on a panel at last week’s Hispanic Television Summit, sponsored by Multichannel News and Broadcasting & Cable.

David Gray, Time Warner Cable’s regional vice president of marketing and sales in New York City, where the 138-channel, $35-per-month El Paquetazo Hispanic programming package launched in June, said the cable operator expected “it was going to be a little controversial” when TWC opted to run bilingual commercials to promote the big mix of English and Spanish-language programming. Broadcasters were expected to resist running such ads, he said, but TWC ended up getting “much more pushback” from Spanish-language programmers. So the company had to develop a Spanish-only campaign for those networks.

Philip Polk, director of segmentation marketing at Cox Communications, said Cox targets Hispanics in TV commercials in Spanish, but sends printed material to the home in both Spanish and English. Some customers don’t like being targeted in English and others don’t like being marketed in Spanish, he said. “You can’t win,” he said. But as demographics and language usage evolve within U.S. Hispanic homes, marketing pitches must change, too. So does the programming mix: Cox first launched a Hispanic tier about five years ago with an all-Spanish lineup, and later added English language channels, Polk said.

John de Armas, vice president of WorldDirect (international-language channels) at DirecTV, said for “clarity” DirecTV prefers to do its marketing to Hispanics all in Spanish. “I’m Hispanic and selling to a Hispanic audience. I like to use Hispanic media and speak Spanish to them,” he said.

Polk said that when marketing budgets tighten up, Hispanic-marketing budgets really tighten because the audience is smaller. To stretch dollars further, he adds bilingual messages and casts Hispanics in general-market advertising.

“What we have been able to prove is when you create these [bilingual] spots properly, you will not alienate the general audience but you will bring on many more Hispanics than you would have,” Polk said. It’s also vital that customer-service agents and field installers understand the package and the language, he said.

“The language for us is a very sensitive issue,” said Jorge Moya, chief creative officer at media agency MGSCOMM. When the agency does a general-market print ad that has a spelling mistake, readers tend to shrug it off. “When we make a spelling mistake in Spanish, we get letters from all kinds of groups that we should be careful with the language, we should protect the language, we should really take it to heart,” Moya said.

As with all marketing, the more relevant the message, the better. Christine Clavijo-Kish, senior vice president of multicultural markets for PR Newswire, gave ESPN Deportes high marks for packaging baseball content (including a Major League Baseball game and a documentary about Cuban-born pitcher Luis Tiant) in a bilingual way that appealed to Caribbean Hispanics.

“ESPN really knows how to hone in on what Hispanics they want to talk to,” Clavijo-Kish said.

She also credited History en Espanol for messages that touch on Hispanics’ desire for their children to achieve more than their parents (the theme of “aspiration”). “It ties the brand back to a consumer insight,” she said.