TARGETING BABEL — Picking Up the Lingo

Tired of worrying about media fragmentation? Try worrying about linguistic fragmentation. The Census Bureau recently reported that 14% of U.S. residents age 5 and older – nearly 32 million people – spoke a language other than English at home. While Spanish-speakers constitute more than half this linguagraphic segment, the most rapid growth was spread across an array of other languages – from Tagalog to Arabic to Urdu and Hindi. For marketers equipped to deal with the phenomenon, the trend could be a lucrative opportunity. Of course, whole new vocabularies of nuance must be learned in the process. Consider the example of a self-promotion ad for Los Angeles-based Arlen Advertising, placed on the back cover of the L.A. World Trade Center Directory and aimed at Asian companies. The agency took advantage of the fact that some major Asian languages read from right to left – hence, from a Western perspective, from back to front. As a note from the agency explains, this fact made the back cover – always a strong ad position anyway – exceptionally valuable in this case: ‘We knew that Asian-language readers would instinctively display the directory in their lobbies with our ad on top. And, when they first picked it up to look at it they would read the back cover first.’
Copyright Adweek L.P. (1993)