You Want Me To Fit WHAT Into 30 Seconds?

The jury may still be out on whether advertising to Hispanics is more effective in Spanish or by simply including some “brown” faces in general-market spots. As both an audio mixer/creative director and a voiceover talent, I’ve worked on a broad spectrum of commercials, the effectiveness of which isn’t a matter of them simply being in English or in Spanish. It seems that, due to globalization, things are more complex now. We not only have to deal with language issues, but also with the nuances of the expressions and accent from each country of origin.

For instance, today I did a dubbing session in which we replaced the Spanish dialogue of a TV spot, originally shot with an actor from Uruguay, with a Mexican actor’s voiceover. The logic behind this was to make the spot resonate better with the overwhelming majority of Mexican immigrants in this country and in Latin America—the places in which it was intended to air—since an accent can be the difference between alienating and engaging an audience.



Haphazard translation has also posed a problem in advertising to Hispanics. I could tell you many stories about seeing my fellow voiceover actors sweating in the booth, trying to squeeze 90 seconds of copy into 30 seconds, because the English-to-Spanish translation was done in a literal, word-for-word way (perhaps by Google), which often doesn’t even make sense in the end. Not only is that unfair to the talent, but it’s ineffective in resonating with the audience. 

As humans, we are limited not only by how fast we can speak, but also by how fast we can understand a message. And, if the copy doesn’t make sense, the audience will see the attempt to adapt a message to reach them as disingenuous, and the ad will be ineffective.

That being said, not all attempts to reach the Hispanic market in Spanish include poor translations or adaptations. As the official Spanish-language voice of several major brands in the automotive, restaurant and airlines industries, I’ve seen the agencies handling these accounts go to the painstaking effort of ensuring that the messages conveyed are translated both properly and in a way that is “readable” within the time constraints of a media buy.

Ultimately, advertising is about connecting with people to make them take action; it is an attempt to build a bond, and that can only be achieved with genuine intentions. Behind what advertisers put out there, there should be an intrinsic understanding and respect for those subtle and fundamental differences that make us unique.

So, the next time you think about the trillion-dollar potential of Hispanic buying power, make sure your brand doesn’t cut corners, improperly translating or simply hiring your cousin who speaks “Espaneesh” to write the copy or deliver the voiceover. If you are trying to reach the Hispanic community, go to the people who have Hispanic blood running through their veins. This will not only ensure you don’t waste money and lose your message, but you’ll also be seen as cool.

1 comment about "You Want Me To Fit WHAT Into 30 Seconds?".
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  1. Carlos Rivero from, June 27, 2013 at 2:28 p.m.

    Amen! Adapting an English-language marketing message to Spanish (TV, radio, web video) is truly an art AND a science. A Spanish-language translation is simply a very basic reflection of the original English-language message, one that lacks true expressive features, appropriate colloquialisms, and all the richness of the Spanish language. It takes much more than a translation certificate to provide copy for any advertising message. After 23+ years as a creative director/copywriter/producer and voice over talent, it surprises me to see how many major marketing initiatives still miss the boat on the importance of a well crafted, well timed, and well written message. Congratulations on a well written article.

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