Target’s Bilingual Ads are on Target

July 22, 2015 Author: Roy Eduardo Kokoyachuk

Target’s #SinTraducción advertising campaign caught my attention recently. The ads incorporate Spanish language songs and lullabies to try to resonate with their Hispanic customers. An interesting aspect of these ads is that they’re running English and Spanish versions of them but in both versions the songs are in Spanish. I’ve written about bilingual advertising before and, in short, it’s difficult to pull off without confusing your audience. There is, however, a key element the Target campaign has going for it that most bilingual campaigns don’t which is that it focuses on universal themes such as motherhood and convivial social settings that have particular resonance with Hispanics.

The ads appealed to me, a bilingual U.S. Hispanic, on a gut level. Since we also have access to our online market research panel and ThinkNow Link™ online copy testing vehicle here at TNR, we decided to independently test the :30 second Target ads to see which language version of the ads did better among Hispanic viewers. We also wanted to see how non-Hispanics responded to the English version of the ads. I saw some research last year that stated that U.S. Hispanics respond to ads that reach them emotionally and that the Spanish language can be a short-cut to the emotional part of a bilingual person’s brain since the language is often associated with childhood. I wanted to test that research finding so we picked Target’s ad “Arrullo” (which shows a mother putting her baby to bed)...

and “Sobre Mesa” (which shows a family/social gathering around a table)...

These ads are in both English and Spanish, so we compared them to each other and to our normative database. The results were revelatory. Normally, about 50% of viewers can recall the tested ad after seeing it mixed into a clutter reel of five ads. Arrullo was recalled by:

  • 77% of Hispanics who viewed the ad in Spanish
  • 62% of Hispanics who viewed the ad in English
  • 52% of non-Hispanics who viewed the ad in English

Those were really impressive scores. From a recall perspective the ad nailed it among Hispanics and performed well with non-Hispanics. Sobre Mesa, however, had only average recall scores across the board. The deciding factor that made Arrullo stand out was simple – a baby. Humans are hard-wired to like and remember babies and in this respect Arrullo did not disappoint. What’s interesting is that the Spanish version of the ad was recalled by more Hispanics than the English language ad. This may support the contention that advertising works more effectively among Hispanics when it’s in Spanish. To further test that assumption we also looked at persuasion scores -- specifically comparing the response to the question “If you were planning on buying at a retail store, at which retail store would you most likely buy?” given by respondents who saw the ad in a clutter reel and those in a control group that were not exposed to the ad. Those who see an ad in a clutter reel usually report a greater likelihood of buying the advertised product than those unexposed to the advertising so, as expected, everyone who saw the ads reported a greater likelihood to shop at Target. The results however were not equal. Arrullo saw the following persuasion lifts:

  • +19% lift among Hispanics who viewed the ad in Spanish
  • +2% lift among Hispanics who viewed the ad in English
  • +8% lift among non-Hispanics who viewed the ad in English

Again, showing the ad in Spanish to Hispanics considerably boosted its effectiveness. Sobre Mesa, however, had persuasion scores that can only be described as ‘meh’:

  • +6% lift among Hispanics who viewed the ad in Spanish
  • +7% lift among Hispanics who viewed the ad in English
  • +3% lift among non-Hispanics who viewed the ad in English

Norms vary considerably depending on the language of the ad and profile of viewers but the Spanish version of Arrullo performed the best of any version with Hispanics. This finding appears to support the notion that hearing Spanish and seeing an infant takes a large proportion of Hispanic viewers back to their childhoods where they likely heard Spanish. Hispanics who viewed ads in Spanish also had higher agreement with the phrase “The ad stirred your emotions” which has been proven to correlate with ad effectiveness among Hispanic audiences.

What this goes to show is that the warm and fuzzy feeling I got when watching an ad featuring a Hispanic mother putting her baby to bed while listening to a Spanish language lullaby is not limited to me and isn’t just a nice way to spend 30 seconds of my time but that it’s also a proven method to tap into our emotional brain in order to transfer good feelings to the product being advertised. Bilingual Hispanics may have a strong command of English and will understand your message if it is shown to them in English but understanding something and being emotionally attached to it are two very different things. Kudos to Target for understanding the difference.