Translating Not Enough to Reach Hispanic Audiences
By Cathy Castillo ibtimes.com 25 February 2009
Late last year a movie called Under the Same Moon, or in Spanish La Misma Luna, broke records, becoming the highest grossing Spanish-language theatrical release in U.S. movie history. The reason: The marketing wasn’t just a translation from English to Spanish. “We started [the Spanish-language marketing] from the ground up,” Rick Ramirez of Fox Entertainment Group told MBA students.
The English-language previews promoting the movie were aimed at art house patrons, featured orchestral music, and compared the story—about a young Mexican boy who sneaks into the United States where his mother is a domestic worker—to the Italian art-house hit film Cinema Paradiso. For the mainstream Latino audience, as well as rewriting the description the Grammy Award-winning Mexican band Los Tigres del Norte played upbeat norteño dance music while the preview highlighted a half dozen famous Spanish-language movie greats starring in the film.
“The Hispanic consumer audience is not determined by the language. It is determined by the culture,” said Ramirez, vice president for emerging markets at Fox and one of the speakers at a program called the Hispanic Media Summit sponsored Jan. 30 by the School’s Hispanic Business; Latin American; and Arts, Media, and Entertainment clubs.
Marketing executive Roberto Orci said he broke into advertising by introducing the Hummer to the U.S. military. Facing the need for Congressional appropriations to buy the vehicles “we went after those who didn’t like us,” (members of Congress) and won them over.
“No matter what you’re selling, it’s the same set of steps,” said Orci, president of Acento, one of the largest marketing agencies focused on the Hispanic market. “You identify who to target, ask what they care about, decide how to reach them, and ask if what you’re marketing is unique, and what makes it stand out from the competition.”
Today Hispanics are 17 percent of the U.S. population. By 2050 they will be one-third, Orci said. In some U.S. markets Hispanics will be the majority; in others the majority may be African American, Asian American, or Anglo American, aged 18-24.
“If you want to do business in this field you have to understand what this country is about. ... Proud as we are to be Latino, it would be a shame to have blinders on and not understand the whole market, because we all live in a total market and not in a segment,” he said.
Orci’s son, Roberto Jr., was co-writer for the films Transformer and Star Trek and is co-creator and executive producer of the Fox TV show Fringe. Like Ramirez, the younger Orci agreed it is a mistake to assume Hispanic audiences will show up simply because the theme is Latin or marketing materials have been translated into Spanish. The movie Zorro, about the romantic, swashbuckling masked hero, did not do well in the Hispanic market because its promoters did not do targeted marketing. “Whatever market you’re targeting, you must approach that market freshly and sell to it,” Orci Jr. said.
He said major media producers are beginning to realize that by not taking full advantage of marketing possibilities “they’re leaving money on the table, although it’s not totally gotten to them yet. Half of the opening weekend audience [for a film] may be Hispanic” even with no targeted marketing. By increasing marketing to that segment, they could increase the film’s market share.
Turning to the topic of personal success, Orci Jr. said the barrier to Latinos’ success in the movie industry is in not first learning the rules and then learning how to break them. “You can sell your cultural life story, but save it until you’re really good.”
Elizabeth Espinosa, Emmy Award-winning reporter for KTLA news in Los Angeles, described her work in both Spanish-language and English television news. She received an Emmy for reporting on abandoned and disabled children in El Salvador and witnessed profound poverty while reporting in Uganda. She leveraged both her education and her language skills to build a career in television news. Yet, she observed: “There is still a lot of racism out there.”