Las Vegas Gambles on Spanish-Language Spot

NEW YORK Viewers of English-language programming on cable TV networks A&E, Bravo, Fox Sports Net and Logo are seeing an ad this month for Las Vegas that’s completely in Spanish.

It turns out the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority is betting that its iconic “What happens here, stays here” tagline will transcend language and culture while enticing U.S. Hispanics and travelers from Mexico to visit the area. The hope is to generate a 10 percent boost in the city’s total number of annual visitors to 43 million by the end of the decade from a record 38.9 million in 2006.

Translated, the tagline is rendered, “Lo que pasa aqui, se queda aqui.” The bold move to run a Spanish ad in an all-English environment is part of the city’s $80 million general market advertising campaign.

“The strength of the brand is really so incredible that you don’t have to understand what they are saying to get it,” said Rob Dondero, evp, R&R Partners, the Las Vegas-based agency responsible for the creative on behalf of the LVCVA.

The 30-second spot, the first of two Spanish ads slated to run on English-language TV, broke this month and features a guy and his girlfriend in the middle of a long-distance phone call neither wants to end. When she finally hangs up, the camera reveals the girl and her giggling gal pals in a Las Vegas hotel room ready to get the girls-only party started.

The ad push straddles both the Hispanic and the general markets, adding Las Vegas to the growing list of marketers, including Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble’s Crest, Ford, Toyota, Nissan and others, that in recent years have put their money on Spanish speaking the language of the mainstream.

“There’s no universal rule for when this is right and when this is wrong,” said Joe Zubizarreta, COO of Zubi Advertising, Miami. “You’re likely to get a positive response from Hispanics who will be pleased that the city would make the effort to address them specifically.”

As part of a TV spot for Ford’s F-Series truck in 2005, Zubizarreta said his team seamlessly incorporated Spanish into the bilingual ad about a guy in a truck who uses his vehicle to help an old flame in a Mustang get around a fallen tree in the road. (She shows her gratitude by thanking him in Spanish, saying, “Gracias, Manuel.”)

Nevertheless, not all programmers of English-language fare are up for all-Spanish ads. Dondero said that of the four top broadcasting networks, only NBC Universal said it would accept and air the Spanish TV spot. ABC, CBS and Fox told R&R Partners that they would accept the ads if English subtitles were added, he said.