Creative Targeting Gathers Steam

Apr 18, 2005  •  Post A Comment

By Jennie L. Phipps

Special to TelevisionWeek

Television is putting a new face on diversity advertising and in the process making it more diverse.

On the eve of the upfront, Paul Hunt, media director for Global Hue in Southfield, Mich., said, “In the past, multicultural advertising was born of guilt-companies wanted to show they cared. But increasingly, multicultural advertising is seen as a way to connect with markets that are growing and maturing, and advertisers feel they need to develop and nurture these relationships. I don’t think it is a quantum change, but I do sense that we have crossed some sort of line, and multicultural strategy is now a major part of overall marketing strategy.”

“Five years ago, we would have said, ‘Let’s do Hispanic media.’ Today we look at Hispanic media as a strategic targeting choice, and we design spots that are culturally neutral-that appeal to the Hispanic market without being overt,” said Alejandro Clabiorne, media director of WingLatino as well as director of media planning for MediaCom Latino.

One of the most frequently cited examples of the “crossover creative” trend are the Verizon Communications spots created by McGarry Bowen, New York, Burrell Communications, Atlanta, and La Agencia de Orci & Asociados, Los Angeles. The spots feature multicultural families from Anywhere, USA, chatting online and on the phone. The ads are designed to be warm, fuzzy and appealing to all viewers regardless of their ethnic perspective.

Another good example is mainstream actress Salma Hayek’s spot for Coca-Cola. In the spot, Ms. Hayek leaves the dinner meeting at a fancy restaurant to go to the kitchen, where she eats a taco and drinks a Coca-Cola while laughing with the chef and wait staff. The spot was produced in both English and Spanish and ran in the general market as well as on Spanish-language television.

“This spot is reflective of Salma’s cross-cultural life as an actress who has made it in Hollywood but who is at heart a Hispanic who embraces the traditions of her Mexican homeland,” said Esther Lee, chief creative officer for Coca-Cola North America. The spot was created by Chicago-based Hispanic advertising agency L%E1;piz, a division of Leo Burnett USA.

This kind of approach is a lot more difficult than creating single-point advertising. “It’s absolutely more challenging to do it this way, but it’s the right way,” said Jorge Percovich, executive VP and managing director for MPG Diversity in New York. “Dividing a budget into silos-saying I have X dollars for Hispanics and X dollars for African Americans-just isn’t the best use of money. Looking at how your message is reaching the total market and how you can supplement it where you need to is always more cost-effective.”

Even proving just how cost-effective a multicultural ad is can be a problem, Mr. Percovich admitted. “Particularly in Asian markets, you just don’t have the measurement tools to say, ‘This is how you are reaching the market.'”

The issue of multilingual viewers is also a growing challenge. One approach is simply to play Spanish-language advertising on mainstream TV, the way Procter & Gamble did when it aired a Spanish-language commercial for Crest in the U.S. broadcast of the Grammy Awards this year.

Other major advertisers are taking a different approach. Retail giant Wal-Mart announced last month plans to launch an advertising campaign to run in Cantonese, Mandarin, Vietnamese and English. The campaign was developed by IW Group in Los Angeles and spots began running April 1 in Los Angeles, Houston, San Diego, San Francisco and San Jose, Calif.

The ads feature firsthand testimonials of Asian American families, including three generations of a Chinese family who make shopping at Wal-Mart a group outing and an opportunity to spend time together. The Kwong family describes Wal-Mart products and services that appeal to the needs of their whole family, from clothing for the grandparents to household goods for the parents to toys and video games for the children. The target is primarily Asian Americans, who prefer to receive information in their native language, according to Helen Phong, a spokesperson for IW.

One way around the language issues is to shoot essentially one spot in more than one language, tweaking the emphasis to appeal to varying cultures, Mr. Percovich said. He pointed to P&G’s ads for Gain as a good example. In the English-language version, a Norah Jones song plays while a young man drapes his girlfriend’s bright tank top, washed with Gain, on a life-size cutout of Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Balboa character. P&G dropped Ms. Jones’ song and Rocky from the Spanish ad. In the Spanish version, the man won’t get in bed with his girlfriend because he can’t stop sniffing his Gain-scrubbed undershirt.

Smart targeting can go a long way toward ensuring that this approach to multicultural advertising pays off, said Sharman Davis, media director at Prime Access. She offered these suggestions for getting the most for clients’ ad dollars.

  • Mirror the audience. Smart casting is very important, especially with black audiences. “A lot of planners assume that because African Americans watch a lot more TV-about 30 percent more hours across all demos compared with the general market-that you can reach African Americans with almost anything. But just because you have exposure doesn’t mean that the ad will resonate like it does with “Girlfriends.”

  • ZIPs count. A show may have a low overall rating but if it does well in key ethnic ZIP codes, a buyer may be able to buy it at a low price and get a lot of bang for the buck.

  • Pay attention. A misplaced run of schedule spots can backfire. “For instance, you don’t want hip-hop running in the middle of golf because you’ll turn off the audience,” Ms. Davis said.

  • Think total market. Just because The WB or UPN doesn’t reach the targeted age range across the general market doesn’t mean that these networks won’t be effective at reaching minority targets.

  • Creative counts. Emotionally appealing ads do double duty. They can be a home run for general market use and effectively hit the intended target.