AOL Debuts Spanish-Language Effort

NEW YORK America Online broke its first Spanish-language advertising campaign today in an effort to increase the Internet service’s Hispanic user base in the U.S.

Two 30-second spots will run this month and in July on Univision, Telefutura and Galavision. The commercials focus on the themes of family, friends and education, and emphasize AOL features that are appealing to Hispanics, such as entertainment and the ability to communicate with people domestically and abroad via the Web, said Mary Ann Donaghy, executive director, marketing development at AOL. One spot shows a boy exploring a botanical garden as he clicks on a mouse and a girl listening to Abraham Lincoln, also while clicking on a mouse. The tagline is “Get closer to your world.”

The campaign, which also includes print and radio, was created by Casanova Pendrill, the Irvine, Calif., Interpublic Group shop that won AOL’s Hispanic ad account in January.

The effort targets people who speak Spanish predominantly, as well as bilingual Hispanics who intend to begin using an Internet service provider in the next 6-12 months or plan to switch ISPs, according to Donaghy. It stresses both the English and Spanish aspects of the service in recognition of the various language preferences that exist in U.S. Hispanic households.

Spending was not disclosed.

“We hope to enjoy sizable increases in share in Hispanics who come online and improve the level of awareness of the AOL brand,” said Donaghy.

Primary and secondary research indicated that Hispanics who speak Spanish predominantly and who are bilingual had low unaided awareness of AOL, whereas Hispanics who speak English predominantly were at parity with the general market, Donaghy noted.

Dulles, Va.-based AOL has been taking steps to strengthen its ties to the U.S. Hispanic market. In April, the AOL Time Warner Internet unit renewed and expanded a strategic content and marketing alliance with Spanish-language media company Univision Communications. As part of the agreement, the division secured a significant on-air and online presence on Univision-owned media [IQ Daily Briefing, April 3].

“The growth [opportunity] is in the Spanish-dominant and bilingual group,” said Donaghy. “The general market is flattening out in terms of Internet growth.” As a result, AOL has been developing special features to better serve the U.S. Hispanic market, such as Spanish-language registration and customer service, and a Welcome Screen aimed at the Hispanic audience.