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The Bilingual Brain: Maximizing Ads for Hispanic Millennials

2 minute read | June 2014

Today, 38 percent of Hispanics ages 18-29 are bilingual, an increase of 73 percent over the past decade. With this group’s increased size, spending power and influence, it’s no wonder that understanding how to connect with them—and in what language—is top of many marketers’ to-do lists. A recent Nielsen neuroscience case study, conducted in collaboration with Univision Communications Inc. and Starcom MediaVest Group’s Multicultural division, found that advertising in Spanish might offer the biggest benefit.

To determine the influence language plays when advertising to bilingual consumers, Nielsen, Univision and SMG Multicultural studied consumer reactions to four ads, including Heineken Tiger, covering different categories that aired in both English and Spanish. Bilingual Hispanic Millennials—or Bi-Llennials—were invited to watch the ads while being measured by Nielsen’s proprietary consumer neuroscience technology. When comparing the neurological effectiveness of the identical or nearly identical advertisements in both languages, the Spanish version consistently performed the same or better than its English counterpart. Of the ads tested, no English ad performed significantly better than the same ad in Spanish.

Overall, the Spanish-language advertising did a better job connecting with Bi-Llennials in a range of scenarios, particularly when the ads’ content was emotional in nature. Ads featuring social interaction were generally more emotionally engaging and memorable for Bi-Llennials in Spanish than in English. Similarly, branding sequences were more effective in Spanish than in English.

Spanish language advertising also resonated better in the context of television programming. Spanish ads were more emotionally engaging when aired within a Spanish program than English ads within English programming. Similarly, Bi-Llennials’ emotional engagement decreased during English-language ads regardless of the programming language.

Switching between languages requires increased attention and focus at the expense of emotional engagement and memory. When switching from a single-language program in one language to a single language ad in another, the viewers’ focus shifts away from the content itself and towards processing the language change. Because of consumers’ tough transition between languages, the study found that key messaging and branding should not be shown within 10 seconds of a language shift because those moments may escape comprehension, decreasing the effectiveness of the advertisement.

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