Click on the title of this post to read a great article by Nicholas Keung that appeared in The Toronto Star.
The piece reviews the findings of an important new study into the media consumption habits of Canada's largest minority groups and whether the country's major advertisers are actually reaching this gigantic market. It's worth noting that fifty-two per cent of the people surveyed said, "I rarely see advertising messages intended for me."

copyright 2006 Gavin Barrett All rights reserved
Click on the title above and watch the spots on YouTube.
The spots (some of them award winners) cover a total of 6 languages:
Cantonese, Mandarin, Punjabi, Tamil, Hindi and English.
This Nike Cricket spot is directed by Abhinay Deo with whom we have a tie-up for production in India. Abhinay is a Cannes award-winning director (it's easy to see why) and he made this spot for JWT India.

The national creative director at JWT is Agnelo Dias, a talented, quiet-spoken gentleman for whom I have a lot of time.

Talk about being on the right wavelength.
This spot hits all the right buttons.

Want to know why? Send me a note and I'll tell you.

The New York Times calls this London-based Sri-Lankan rappergirl's latest hit and accompanying video "electrifying" and "pure, surreal rhythm." M.I.A., I tip my turban to ya. Word.

Click on the article title to see the video on YouTube.


As always, in the complex world of multicultural communications, there's more than one side to multiple language communications.

In some cases, English is still your best bet - though not the Queen's variety, perhaps.
International variants whether patois, pidgin or dialect possess colour, immediacy and spirit that make them instantly accessible to your audience

The English themselves employ this with great effect.
Consider I could doon a broon.
A tremendously successful slogan for Newcastle Brown, in dialect known to Geordies everywhere.
(Psst: know of others? Send in your entries.)

For our South Asian audiences, we usually recommend the use of English-only ads because our audience’s familiarity with the language cannot be underestimated.

It is worth noting that India by itself, has more English speakers than any other country in the world.
English is India’s language of business, government and law and is the language that straddles the linguistic divide between North and South Indian languages. Over 2.4 million people read the Times of India daily.

And when one considers that there are 23 official languages, 12 of which are represented on the country's currency. It seems more like a mind-boggling tower of babel than a market.

Yet, major advertisers in India have typically solved this problem with simple efficiency: they run their ads in English.
Oh yes, when they know their markets, and can afford multiple language buys in regional newspapers and so on, they do run advertising in the regional language(s) too. But typically, English leads.

It might be worth taking a leaf out of that book. A market study we conducted with Professor Dilip Soman at the University of Toronto's Marketing Faculty, taught us that many immigrants from these groups were offended when marketers chose to speak to them in their native tongues. For these English-medium highly educated, often multilingual new Canadians, it felt vaguely patronising. Not a good place to begin a relationship methinks.

text copyright 2008 Gavin Barrett All rights reserved
Image: Bangles in Laad Bazaar, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India. The fixed price signs indicate that there is no bargaining allowed, in, from left, Urdu, Hindi, Arabic and English. Photo taken by David Boyk in 2003. Image licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 1.0 License.

A corollary to Secret#2 aka WHAT'S THE FREQUENCY KENNETH WONG?

We've now established (in #2) that speaking to an audience requires more than speaking the same language.
Rather, it has to do with communicating on the same wavelength.

Here's the corollary: this does not exclude communications in those languages.

Sometimes, simple practicality determines that an ad for a Punjabi-only audience be in Punjabi.
Or that a poster that will appear at a Lebanese festival be in Arabic.
And yes, most advertising targeted at Chinese audiences will run in a Chinese language, whether Cantonese or Mandarin.

This is often the case when you are trying to reach larger groups of first generation blue collar immigrants, for instance.

It is (culture) relevance that allows a brand to communicate effectively, to engage.

Language only makes it possible.

copyright 2007 Gavin Barrett All rights reserved
picture: Mai Dang Lao (McDonald's in Chinese), bronze fangding ritual sculpture by Zhang Hongtu

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