GLOBAL BRIEF: Speaking in mother tongues - Richard Cook reports on a company that is adapting ads for ethnic minorities

Tango has been enjoying considerable success with a series of what are effectively business-to-business commercials speaking to a tiny part of the population. The ads communicate with a nation of shopkeepers who, the research shows, never miss a little mid-afternoon light entertainment. Oh, and it does so in the language the customer base can really understand which, in this particular instance, happens to be Gujarati.

Tango has been enjoying considerable success with a series of what

are effectively business-to-business commercials speaking to a tiny part

of the population. The ads communicate with a nation of shopkeepers who,

the research shows, never miss a little mid-afternoon light

entertainment. Oh, and it does so in the language the customer base can

really understand which, in this particular instance, happens to be

Gujarati.



That commercial was developed by Tango’s ad agency, HHCL & Partners,

together with a translating company. This week, the consultancy, World

Writers, an organisation specialising in making ads intended for one

culture suitable for consumption by another, announced it was going a

stage further. It’s creating the UK’s first microculture marketing

organisation to talk to ethnic minorities in their own languages.



World Writers acknowledges the debt it owes to similar operations

elsewhere.



Australia has had agencies and in-house departments talking to its Asian

and Greek populations for years. The situation is even more developed in

the US, where the success of Bozell’s Hispanic agency is no surprise to

any non-Spanish speakers in Miami or parts of Los Angeles.



But can it really work over here? Well the numbers seem to stack up.



Around 10 per cent of the UK population is made up of communities that

do not have English as their mother tongue. And this, which includes

around 200,000 Arab and Japanese high-income individuals, is the target

market.



For Simon Anholt, the World Writers managing director, the moment of

revelation came when his Italian-born wife received a mail shot from a

supermarket chain. ’It was running an Italian promotion and, of the five

Italian brands mentioned, they had mis-spelt three of them. And I

started thinking how much more effective this communication would be if

the spelling had been correct and written in Italian, to an audience

that was already predisposed to buy these products. We are now compiling

a database of the entire nation by language spoken so we can start to do

just that.’