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Spanish best for bilingual Hispanics

News, 12 May 2015

NEW YORK: An increasing proportion of Hispanic millennials are bilingual and marketers seeking to reach them ought to consider using Spanish rather than English at crucial moments, according to research.

In The Bilingual Brain, an ESOMAR Latin America paper, researchers outlined a three-stage study with 227 bilingual participants that tested TV advertisements across categories.

Ads were compared in English and in Spanish; ads in "Spanglish" were also tested; and finally ads in English, Spanish and Spanglish were tested within the context of English or Spanish programming.

The authors, Manuel Garcia-Garcia, neuroscience director at Nielsen, Roberto Ruiz, svp/strategy and insights at Univision Communications, and Esther Franklin, evp/head of SMG Americas Strategy at Starcom, found that, overall, Spanish-language advertising did a better job connecting with bilingual millennials in a range of scenarios.

That being the case, they advised the use of Spanish during emotional moments, social interactions and branding sequences.

For example, when they compared the neurological effectiveness of identical advertisements in both Spanish and English, the Spanish version performed the same or better than its English counterpart.

In particular, Spanish ads proved more emotionally engaging when following Spanish-language programming than English ads did when following an English programme, or when English ads followed Spanish programming.

Even though the participants were bilingual, the authors noted that switching between languages meant that their focus shifted to processing that language change and away from content.

As a result, it becomes important to consider where best to place key branding and messaging in an ad.

The authors recommended these aspects "should not be shown within ten seconds of a language shift" in order to avoid them being missed as cognitive resources are diverted.

They also discovered several other nuances in how bilingual millennials perceived ads. Thus, for Spanglish ads, sequences with Spanish voiceover showed higher memory scores than those in English.

And during English programming, Spanglish advertising strengthened relevance for bilingual consumers. But when they had been primed with Spanish programming, Spanglish ads were less engaging and therefore seemed less relevant.

Data sourced from ESOMAR; additional content by Warc staff