'I Am Yasuni': An Example of Multicultural Understanding in Targeting a Market When the Coin Lands On Its Tail
Brands, advertising agencies, the government, political candidates and anyone else seeking widespread support in this nation must unravel the seeming mysteries of communicating with and understanding the Hispanic community. Forums like this one, as well as many other columns, conferences and symposiums, all attest to his need, which is recognized by most (if not all) major marketers.
But … what happens when the situation is reversed and an initiative generated in a Latin American country has the general market of the U.S. as its target audience?
What are the most effective strategies to reach, communicate with and motivate this “homogenous” group of English speakers? This is particularly tricky when the product or idea that needs to be promoted has no immediate, tangible benefits to the consumer who is being asked to “buy into” an idea and take action -– as in a social good campaign. How can a campaign be made relevant to an American consumer when the message is written in the language of far-away lands, only known to some as the domain of Taco Bell or simply as a land whose problems should be contained across a well-guarded border?
That is the problem the government of Ecuador tackled in a recent campaign entitled “I Am Yasuní,” which is aimed at preserving one of the nation’s most beautiful national parks from oil drilling. Through this campaign, the Ecuadorian government is attempting to encourage the U.S. and the rest of the world to share in its interest, namely preserving one of the planet’s most bio-diverse ecosystems, which is also home to two indigenous tribes who have opted to remain in isolation from civilization (I don’t blame them). I am very thankful to have been a part of this campaign, alongside my colleague Marshall Grupp, EO Integration’s Roberto Alcazar and Juan Fernando, and the very talented director Nicolas Entel (who also directed “Sins of My Father”).
The focus of the “I Am Yasuní” campaign was to raise awareness and create movement not in one segment but across the very multicultural U.S. population and, hopefully, the world. And the project deserves that global recognition, given that it is an incredibly ingenious initiative with a simple proposal: Pay my country not to drill for oil… You’ll benefit from it.
The campaign strives to make the most efficient use of the limited resources available while delivering a thought-provoking, engaging and accessible piece with the ultimate goal of being as effective as possible. So basically, it hits all the marketing buzzwords we’ve heard over and over again.
However, the video, which was created specifically for YouTube, ended up moving far beyond the buzzwords and speaking its own language. The video shows an oil rig first crossing the George Washington bridge on top of a menacing truck, then being set up in a New York City park by real oil workers. Viewers see the astonished looks of passersby and their reactions to an outrageous scene. There is even a news crew interviewing average New York moms with children in their strollers wondering where they are going to play now.
What is interesting about this campaign is how unrelentingly it shows the disparity of people’s priorities that are a reality in our world. We allow mass destruction of pristine expanses of land without blinking an eye because they are not in our backyard. However, when a small drilling machine is planted in our neighborhood park, we become very vocal, even enraged.
As an example of cultural understanding (and commentary), I think this is a great campaign that deserves to achieve the holy grail of marketing: going viral.
But on a deeper level, it is just an attempt to connect with fellow human beings in the hopes that the message delivered is effective and efficient.
Isn’t that the goal of all advertising?