By Jose Gaspar
The viewer named Paul was irate. How can it be, he wanted to know, that McDonald's would place a billboard entirely in Spanish advertising its nutritious meals? In his neighborhood?
While "McDonald's and nutritious" may be an oxymoron, the sign actually read, "Tu sed ya no tiene medida," which means "Your thirst has no match," and it showed a cold beverage alongside the caption and iconic logo. And apparently McDonald's isn't the only offending party to Paul's eyes.
"Boost Mobile, I seen another one on Weedpatch Highway not sure what that one was about," said Paul, who declined to give his last name.
Hmmm. I ain't seen that sign either, but I guess it might have something to do with telling the public that Boost Mobile is a great product and you should go out and buy your very own.
And then came the clincher about the offending signs in Spanish.
"They should all be in English. All Spanish signs should be in Mexico," said Paul.
I hate to break this to guys like Paul, but companies such as McDonald's, Boost Mobile and a host of others spend hundreds of millions of bucks every year eagerly pursuing customers in all kinds of languages, even in English.
As businesses long ago found out, the Hispanic market is one of the most lucrative targets, which can bring in mucho dinero. Advertising in Spanish helps retailers generate new customers by going after those consumers who are more proficient in their native tongue. And in Kern County and the rest of California, that means there are tons of potential new customers.
According to Statista, the Statistics Portal, the leading Spanish-language advertisers in 2011 were Proctor & Gamble, Bancorp Inc., Dish Network, McDonald's, AT&T, Verizon, Toyota, General Mills, Kraft Foods and General Motors.
There is no sign that advertising in languages other than English is subsiding. Just the opposite: Last month Red Lobster launched its first Spanish-language campaign with a tagline that says "Disfruta un Mar de Sabores," or "Enjoy a Sea of Flavors." The company's director of marketing, Stewart Marquina, told Restaurant News that "We start from the fact that it's no secret that Hispanics are booming as a population segment."
When my colleague Anthony Bailey reported on this story, he got a lot of the usual "go back to Mexico" comments about the people being targeted in the ads. Years ago, I recall a Spanish-language ad about El Pollo Loco that ran during the evening news on KBAK. Almost immediately after, the calls came in and people were furious. How dare such an ad be run like this? And more of those gracious comments.
Perhaps we might see more of this, however, as the NBA, Ford Motor Co. and ABC have taken this to a new level. During the 2012 NBA playoffs between the Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder, a 30-second ad in Spanish with subtitles in English played twice on national television. The ad touted the 2013 Ford Escape, in which the ad was done like a telenovela.
Talk about a smart approach. If there's one thing Hispanics like, it's their telenovelas. No doubt the decision to run the ad had something to do with the fact that the NBA Finals happened to include Miami with its huge Latino population.
Other companies use a method very familiar to Hispanics and non-Hispanics by combining English and Spanish to create "Spanglish." Chilean rock en Espanol group La Ley is featured in a Mountain Dew ad with the refrain "Toma this," or "Drink this."
According to Forbes magazine, Hispanic purchasing power in the U.S. is in the hundreds of billions of dollars. That should come as no surprise to anyone anywhere to see or hear advertising in Spanish. A business today would be crazy to ignore a significant part of the population.
So where is all this heading? I think that's the crux of Paul's real concern here -- a fear of seeing something he is not familiar with or just doesn't like, for whatever reason. But it's not really that bad. In fact, if Paul does what millions of other non-Hispanics have done by embracing the change, he could make life easier for himself.
The city of Bakersfield for example, has whole neighborhoods with street names such as Petalo Drive, Las Entradas, Calle Elegante and San Jose Avenue (that's a good one). If you were to change these names into English, you would have Petal Drive, The Inroads, Elegant Street and St. Joseph Avenue. Just doesn't have the same ring to it.
Then there's my old friend named Domingo Nieves, which translates to Ice Cream Sunday. Guess I could always call him I-C for short.
Jose Gaspar is a reporter for "KBAK/KBFX Eyewitness News" and a contributing columnist for The Californian. These are Gaspar's opinions, not necessarily The Californian's. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.