Tips for Advertising in Español

  Posted on Oct 26, 2017 by Yanik


Did you know that the United States has the third largest amount of Spanish-speakers in the world?

More people speak Spanish in the U.S. than in Spain. Spanish is the second most-spoken language in the United States, with at least 37.5 million speakers.

To put that in context, if all Spanish-speakers were residents of the same state it would be the nation's second largest state in terms of population, just less than the population of California.

That means when it comes to advertising you shouldn't be forgetting about this audience. However, there are some considerations you need to make when creating a Spanish-language campaign.

First off, just because you speak Spanish doesn't mean that you don’t understand English.

According to the U.S. Census approximately 56% of Spanish-speakers report that they speak English very well. That includes people who are primarily English speakers and people who are completely bilingual.

If you are planning on running ads only in Spanish you may need to revise your plan and add in English-language creative.

But what if we just focus on people who primarily speak Spanish and who report that they can't communicate very well in English? They make up a group of about 16 million people, a population that is about the equivalent of the fifth largest state in the nation, falling right in between New York and Illinois.

Here are some things we need to consider and be aware of when creating our campaign:

Language and Accent

Spanish in the U.S. isn't monolithic. You have Puerto Rican Spanish, Mexican Spanish, Guatemalan Spanish, Honduran Spanish, El Salvadoran Spanish, etc. Depending on your geography certain dialects will be more predominant. To make things more complicated (and fun!) the interplay between American English and Spanish leaves us with a uniquely American mixture of English words and expressions. It gets beautifully messy.

All this will affect the vocabulary, expressions, and phrasing you use.  Use the wrong word and at best it sounds 'off' for your target audience or doesn't make any sense. Worst case you are running ads insulting your audience.

If your creative includes audio or video you want to make sure the person speaking is representative of your audience. As an analogy you wouldn't necessarily use someone with an Irish accent for a U.S. audience. Or a Boston accent for an ad running in Mississippi. You want to make sure your talent matches your audience.

Considerations when translating

Oftentimes a campaign is being run in English and Spanish. The English copy comes first and then it gets translated into Spanish. When this happens expect your text to become longer in Spanish. This is particularly relevant for search campaigns which have character limits. Or if you are trying to optimize your ads for a Facebook newsfeed so that nothing gets cut off. Or if you are trying to get your text on an image for Facebook to remain under 20% of the graphic.

Bottom line: text may need to get cut for your Spanish ads and you may have to tweak your copy to accommodate these length restrictions.

It's also important to give the translator leeway to express the idea of the copy and not necessarily try to do an exact word-for-word translation.

And another aspect to consider is whether to be formal or informal, using the formal you (usted) or the informal you (tu). It depends on your brand, your audience, and your product. There is no clear cut answer. But once you choose, stay consistent.

Some ad platforms get finnicky with special characters such as accents. Google prevents the use of two exclamation points, which it considers spammy in English, even though it's grammatically correct in Spanish to use one at the beginning of a sentence and one at the end.

Imagery and Culture

Use images that are representative of your audience. That doesn't mean find a picture of any Latino person and use that. A person with Guatemalan ancestry doesn't look anything like a person with Cuban ancestry. If you are advertising to Spanish-speakers in Florida then that is different than advertising to Spanish-speakers in California.

Similarly, just because people share the same language doesn't mean they share the same culture. Latino/Hispanic communities in the U.S. are not monolithic. The Spanish-speaking community in Southern Texas which is predominantly Mexican-American is not the same as the El Salvadoran-American community in Virginia or the Puerto Rican community.

This could affect your messaging, your imagery, and your copy.

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