Latinos and the Language of Media

Last week, I had the pleasure to participate in the launch event for RPM Miami, the new show that can become a turning point for Hispanic TV.

What’s the turning point you might ask? Is it simply because it’s about cars, speed, danger, and love? Or is it about personal interest? Not necessarily, though I have to disclose I’m happy that our client Valvoline has an active participation.

Basically it’s a turning point because what’s considered to be mun2’s most ambitious original production happens to also be the first truly bilingual scripted drama ever.

And as I discussed in my first column, Latino marketing paradigms are shifting. And the approach to language, both in messaging and media, needs a turning point.

The Language Crossover

The following graph provides a clear picture of Latino media language preference across different types of medium and across acculturation.


One thing seems pretty clear: as acculturation evolves, Spanish decreases and English increases. When you look at the Internet, this change is even more dramatic.

This opens questions that many marketers don’t what to get into. If bicultural/bilingual Latinos are consuming English language, and therefore being reached by their English media campaign, what’s the need of doing dedicated messaging? Or is there any benefit for additionally targeting them in Spanish?

And those questions might be as misleading as those that want to limit Hispanic marketing to Spanish media or Spanish campaigns. Reality is a bit more complex.

Latinos are consuming English media, but on the other hand, they are consuming more Spanish language media than they did in the past.

The Dynamics of Media and Language

When you see the evolution of media language consumption, things might look a little bit different. Let’s take a look at the graph below comparing preferences in 2005 versus 2010.


Check out these findings:

  • Hispanics who watch TV both in English and Spanish grew from 35 percent to 50 percent.
  • As a consequence, there was a decrease in Latinos who watch TV only in Spanish or only in English.
  • Watching TV in both languages is a phenomenon that is happening across all acculturation levels (56 percent among mid-acculturated and 50 percent across high-acculturated).
  • Consumption of Spanish language TV among high-acculturated Hispanics grew 50 percent.
  • There are very few Hispanics that only visit Spanish websites (only 13 percent among less-acculturated Latinos, do so).
  • In the case of mid-acculturated Latinos, there was an increase of 115 percent of browsing the web in both languages (from 13 percent to 28 percent).
  • Spanish language web consumption grew 121 percent among low-acculturated Hispanics and 157 percent among mid-acculturated Hispanics.

What’s driving this trend towards consumption of media in both languages? There are many reasons. Retroacculturation is driving more accultured Hispanics to (re)learn Spanish and watch content that creates a connection with their cultural heritage.

Also, Spanish TV progamming is becoming more diverse with more talk shows, reality shows, sports, contest shows, and significantly better production values. In addition, the development of network and cable channels such as MTV Tr3s, mun2, UrbanoTV, and Si TV (soon to become NuVo) is helping grow this space.

Reaching Bicultural Latinos: Thought-Starters

  1. Think holistically:
    • Approach media the same way the consumers behave: they don’t categorize media by language. For consumers, it’s a seamless transition; they change from one language to another at the push of a button (or one click).
    • When developing the strategic platform, make sure it’s relevant for all Latinos across different acculturation levels and language preferences.
    • On the other hand, your English message should also be tested against more acculturated Latinos to ensure relevance.
  2. Rethink Spanish media:
    • Not just for less-acculturated, it should play a role in reaching a broader Hispanic audience.
    • Allow it to reach high-acculturated Latinos in a different context (remember content comes first, so you can reach them in a context that can not be reproduced in English language media)
  3. Speak bicultural:
    • Maximize your English media buy: look for synergies between English and Spanish media; try to avoid duplications.
    • Test using your Hispanic message (English language) in English media programs with a high Hispanic audience composition.
    • Bilingual broadcast (mun2, MTV3, etc.) should play an important role in your media plan.
    • Social media is a great space to interact with consumers in both Spanish and English at the same time. Many brands are doing so in a seamless fashion.

According to information released by mun2, both the RPM Miami TV ratings and website experienced a dramatic growth during the show opening. The Hispanic audience is eager for content that can create a bridge where they can switch between cultures and languages as seamlessly as they do in their everyday lives.

Now is the turn for agencies and clients to further embrace that opportunity as well. By being part of RPM Miami, brands like Valvoline, Chevy, and Burger King are making history. Will the rest follow?

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