GLOBAL FLOW #3: ADVERTISING-SELLING GOODS AND SERVICES IN MORE THAN ONE LANGUAGE

Bilingualism sells. Throughout the world, marketers promote products and services through bilingual advertisements to target customers who are bilingual. “Glocalization” is a term used to refer to the modification of a global product to meet local needs and norms, and make it more marketable in various parts of the globe (Robertson, 1995). Representing both a hybrid entity and tension between the global and the local, glocalization is a major theme in bilingual advertising. Advertisers that speak to the lived experiences of an increasing number of bilingual people in the world have a better chance of selling their products than those who ignore this reality. The Latino population in the U.S. presents a great case study for bilingual advertising (Garda, 2008b). In the U.S., Latinos account for about 15% of the total population (44 million) and are the fastest-growing segment of the population. The Latino group as a whole has a spending power of $1.2 trillion and marketers are increasingly targeting the nearly four million Latinos who have annual incomes over $75,000 (Lafuente, 2008; see also Figure 2.3).

Advertisers are keen to take advantage of the bilingual and bicultural backgrounds of the U.S. Hispanic market. For example, in 2006, Toyota Motor Corporation launched a bilingual Spanish-English TV commercial during Super Bowl. In the 30-second ad, a Latino father drives his young son in their hybrid Toyota Camry. The boy asks his father, “Papa, why do we have a hybrid?” to which the father responds, “For your future .... It uses both [gas and electric power],” explaining the car’s hybrid technology. The child then observes aloud, “Like you, with English and Spanish!” and the father chuckles and agrees, “SL” By drawing a parallel between the hybrid use of Spanish and English by U.S. Latinos and the car’s hybrid technology, this commercial is a nod in recognition of the purchasing power of this increasingly affluent segment of the U.S. population. Toyota decided to launch this bilingual ad because it is the most popular automaker among U.S. Hispanics and the Super Bowl is highly popular with Hispanic viewers—a quarter of all Latinos over the age of 18 watch the game (Puente, 2006).

In addition to TV advertising, marketers are increasingly tapping the Internet to appeal to the bilingual/bicultural lifestyle of a growing number of young Latinos with programs such as Dr. Pepper’s Vida23 (“Life23”—23 refers to the number of flavors in Dr. Pepper) and 7UP’s Sevenisima. Vida23 campaign centers around songs performed by musician CuCu Diamantes in

Univision’s Call for Businesses to Advertise Bilingually in Spanish and English. Reproduced by permission of Univision

FIGURE 2.3 Univision’s Call for Businesses to Advertise Bilingually in Spanish and English. Reproduced by permission of Univision.

Spanish and English, and users can download the songs and create their own mixes on the company’s website (http://www.drpepper.com/promotions/ vida23/).

Marketers also use traditional print advertising to reach Latino audiences in Spanish and English. Koslow, Shamdasani, & Touchstone (1994) examined 367 Hispanic consumers’ responses to varying degrees of Spanish language usage in print advertising. They found that Spanish language advertising increased Hispanic consumers’ perception of advertiser sensitivity to their culture, which enhanced their affect toward the advertisements. However, they found that advertising exclusively in Spanish had the adverse effect of intensifying the participants’ insecurities about language usage. Many U.S. Latinos see themselves as both Latino and American, and the use of Spanish-only advertisements are seen as an inability of the marketers to recognize their multiple identities. The authors conclude that advertisers targeting U.S. Latinos should use some mixture of Spanish and English.

Although an important function of bilingual advertising is reaching people who speak two or more languages, bilingual advertising in many countries is directed at those who do not have a working knowledge of one of the targeted languages. For example, people who have little or no proficiency in English may purchase a product that is advertised in English because they equate English with Western values and high quality. Sprinkling an ad with a few words from a foreign language often gives the product a feel of sophistication and prestige. The mere presence of a different language (an unfamiliar script definitely adds to the coolness factor) acts as a hook to lure the viewer to examine the ad more carefully.

Baumgardner (2006) provides numerous examples of the use of English as an attention-getting device in Mexican newspaper and magazine advertising. For example, he shows English juxtaposed with Spanish in a newspaper advertisement by Hidromax, seller of swimming pools and spas, which uses the English phrase, “The pools of the future!” followed by the Spanish phrase, “... algo nuevo bajo el sol” (... something new under the sun). He states that code-mixed advertisements like this that incorporate an English word, phrase, or sentence in otherwise Spanish text abound in Mexican print media.

Baumgardner points out that English words used in such advertisements are often already established borrowings in Mexican Spanish. For example, Japanese carmaker Nissan uses the common compound ‘‘full-size’’ in its ad for Nissan Titan. Full-size, like many other English borrowings associated with the car (cab forward, camper, custom, hot rod, overdrive), is an established English borrowing recognized by many Mexicans without English proficiency. However, many other ads use English words that are not established borrowings. For example, he shows that an ad for Pure shampoo is in Spanish except for the following: ‘‘... el dnico shampoo 2 en 1 que no causa build-up’’ (the only two-in-one shampoo that does not cause build-up). Build-up is not an established English borrowing in Mexican Spanish. Baumgardner observes that Mexicans perceive products using English slogans, labels, and names as more reliable or of superior quality regardless of their literal comprehension.

Similar conclusions are drawn from studies of bilingual advertising in other countries. In her analysis of print ads, product labels, and TV commercials in

Russia, Ustinova (2006) shows that language mixing is a dominant feature in Russian advertisements. She states that the strategy of Russian TV commercials is predominantly a “think and act both global and local at the same time” approach, and that more than 75% of the commercials she analyzed integrate two or more languages with Russian-English mixing being the most common. She reports that there is a preference for using English names and the Roman script for a variety of products, such as electronic appliances, cars, personal care, laundry, and household products. She explains that there is a broad perception among Russians that English signals novelty, prestige, and high quality products. Similarly, in a study of Korean advertising, Jamie Shinhee Lee (2006) shows that mixing English with Korean expresses modernity and globalization in contemporary South Korea. She contends that English mixing in South Korean TV commercials indicates younger generations’ modern identities, whereas the absence of English signifies older generations’ traditional identities.

Much of the English that is used in advertising in Expanding Circle countries is not based on Standard English used in Inner Circle countries. In fact, the Internet site, www.engrish.com, shows many examples of bad, mangled English found in product labels, restaurant menus, and store signs in countries like Japan, China, and Korea (see also Figures 2.4 and 2.5). As Dougill (2008: 21) points out, many of these are non-native user errors in functional English: “‘No smrking’ says one public notice in China. ‘Please slip carefully’, says another while yet another stipulates, ‘No entrance to stranglers’.”

“Want Some Dilicious Thai Food?”

FIGURE 2.4 “Want Some Dilicious Thai Food?”

A Warning Sign on a Norwegian Car Ferry

FIGURE 2.5 A Warning Sign on a Norwegian Car Ferry

The point is not whether the uses represent accurate or standard language. In fact, linguistic accuracy is irrelevant to the consumers of these products. The mere use of a foreign language in speech and writing signals stylishness, glamour, and novelty. As Baumgardner (2006: 257) puts it, the use of English in a shop name “adds a certain je ne sais quoi to the shop’s aura even when clients do not necessarily understand the meaning of the name.” Bhatia & Ritchie (2006a) observe that print advertising in Japan exhibits a strong tendency to mix Japanese with foreign languages, particularly with English. Since the incidence of bilingualism with English is very low even among the youth, the message of the English text is often incomprehensible. In fact, Dougill (2008: 19) observes that English is never even read. He argues that it is purely decorative:

The peculiarities of Japanese English (called Janglish or Engrish by some) continue to adorn the country’s buildings, goods, and items of clothing. ‘Funny bunny cute life,’ says a piece of writing paper. “No human, go ape,” shouts a carrier bag. “Please look at my weather cock,” requests a pencil case. “Quench your thirst with perspiration,” suggests a drink can.

“I hope to play along with the heartiest gadgetry manifesting my destiny,” claims a pompous piece of stereo equipment . . . English is the gateway to dreams and faraway places. In a word, it’s chic. As a result, newly built shops boast “Since 2007," noticeboards say “Recycle yourself," and bullet trains have “Ambitious Japan” written on them. The look is the thing.

 
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