Bilingualism and advertising: A perfect match?

Languages6 August 20143k

Does a bilingual person respond to adverts differently depending on what language they are viewed in?

The benefits of bilingualism are already well established, but it's obviously an important question as advertisers and marketers need to have a firm understanding of their target audience if they want to be successful. For example, polyglots may be more likely to be influenced by ads in their native tongue. 

A new study by Nielsen looks at this issue with regards to Hispanics in the US, a cohort that is becoming increasingly fluent in both English and Spanish.

Among Hispanics aged between 19 and 28 years old, more than a third (38 per cent) are bilingual, which represents a 73 per cent rise in the past decade. As the company pointed out, the increased size, spending power and influence of this group means brands are keen to connect with them.

The bilingual brain?

Consumer reactions to four adverts were assessed and when comparing the neurological effectiveness of the identical or nearly identical advertisements in both languages, the Spanish ads consistently performed better or the same as those in English. Indeed, no English ads were received more warmly than Spanish options. 

"Ads featuring social interaction were generally more emotionally engaging and memorable for bilingual millennials in Spanish than in English. Similarly, branding sequences were more effective in Spanish than in English," Nielsen stated. 

What does this mean for marketers?

What the research shows is that bilingual people will respond differently to adverts depending on what language they are in. Spanish, alongside French and Italian, are seen as languages of romance, in part due to their Roman roots, so the fact Spanish adverts elicited stronger emotional responses should not be a surprise. 

This means brands should be considering the type of connection they are looking to make – be it emotional, intellectual or social – before choosing which language they should run an advert in. 


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