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MBPT Spotlight: Study Finds Spanish-Language Commercials More Effective With Bilingual Millennials Than English-Language Ads

A handful of World Cup advertisers have been running some of their same Spanish-language commercials both on on Univision and on English-language broadcast networks that are televising other types of entertainment programming. The goal is to capture the attention of bilingual millennial Hispanics who might not be watching the tournament or other Spanish-language networks.

Perhaps the advertisers have read the results of a recently released study by Nielsen in collaboration with Univision and Starcom MediaVest Group’s Multicultural division, which found there could be some significant benefit in reaching bilingual millennials on English-language networks with commercials in their native language.

While the millennial demo overall is a hot target for marketers these days, bilingual Hispanic millennials are even hotter. As the study points out, 38% of Hispanics age 18-29 are bilingual, an increase of 73% over the past decade.

The goal of the study was to determine how much influence language plays when advertising to bilingual consumers. Nielsen selected 227 bilingual Hispanics age 21-34 and used its consumer neuroscience technology to measure the brainwaves of those consumers while they watched identical TV commercials that aired in both English and Spanish, as well as commercials with a combination of both.

The technology measured subconscious reactions such as attention, memory activation, emotional engagement and action intent, and each ad was ultimately given an overall score for effectiveness.

The study found language does matter to bilingual millennial Hispanics. Of the four ads tested, none of the English-only commercials was more neurologically effective overall than the Spanish versions. And the Spanish-language commercials did better at driving both emotional engagement and memory activation, which Roberto Ruiz, senior VP of strategy & insights at Univision says are crucial components of ad effectiveness.

Some of the findings:

• Overall, Spanish-language advertising does a better job connecting with bilingual millennials in a range of scenarios, particularly those in which the content is emotional in nature.

• In the context of TV programming in general, Spanish-language commercials proved more emotionally engaging to bilingual millennials when following a Spanish program than English commercials did when following an English program.

• Because cognitive resources are diverted during language switches, key messaging or branded moments could escape comprehension if delivered within the first 10 seconds of a language shift. This could decrease the effectiveness of a commercial. So, it’s important to give the viewer a bit more time to get into the commercial before offering up the key message.

• Selective use of Spanish can boost ad effectiveness for bilingual millennials. In testing, English commercials with a Spanish voiceover showed higher memory scores than those in only English.

• Simply translating English commercials into Spanish doesn’t always resonate with bilingual millennials. Executional elements other than language often affect how a commercial is received by the viewer and it subsequent chance for success.

• With Spanish voiceovers in an English-language commercial, the action on the screen has to be in sync with the audio or the commercial becomes harder to process and the viewer can become disengaged.

• Familiar stars should stay true to their language of origin. Those who consistently speak English will seem out of place speaking Spanish. Such instances create confusion in the minds of viewers and decrease memorability of the commercial.

The study concludes by saying that while branding messages are important in all commercials targeting millennial Hispanics, language can also influence ad effectiveness. And as the bilingual Hispanic community continues to grow, “it is of utmost importance for marketers, media companies and advertisers alike to understand the unspoken impact of language.”

Those advertisers who take the findings of this study to heart—that Spanish-language commercials drove emotional engagement and memory activation more successfully than their English counterparts—may be placing more Spanish commercials on English-language TV going forward to reach the ever-growing Hispanic millennial TV viewership.