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U.S. English Members Targeting Companies Advertising in Spanish

December 23, 1985

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Coca Cola might think that ″Coke lo es″ is smart business, but a boom in Spanish-language advertising strikes some people as downright unpatriotic.

″What they are doing tends to separate our citizens and our people by language. This leads to dangerous divisiveness,″ said Stanley Diamond, head of the California chapter of the advocacy group U.S. English.

He says his state chapter, which mounted a coupon campaign against the Spanish Yellow Pages, will raise the advertising issue during its 1986 campaign for an initiative making English California’s official language.

U.S. companies spent an estimated $333.5 million on Spanish-language advertising in 1985, up 17 percent from 1984, and advocates of English as the country’s official language are squawking.

The corporate rush to reach the growing Hispanic market includes such consumer giants as Procter & Gamble, Anheuser-Busch, McDonald’s, Ford Motor Co. and Philip Morris, which Hispanic Business magazine says led the pack with $7 million spent in 1985.

″We object to Philip Morris or any other companies who are advertising in languages other than English,″ said Diamond.

Of the $333.5 million spent on advertising this year, $140.5 million went for television commercials, $118 million for radio spots, $33 million for print ads; $30 million for promotional activity and $12 million was spent on billboards, according to Hispanic Business. Most advertising is in Spanish, though English is sometimes mixed in.

This fall Diamond’s San Francisco-based chapter circulated coupons for a mail-in protest against a Spanish-language Yellow Pages. Pacific Bell spokesman Larry Mobbs said 5,000 protest forms had been received.

″We certainly would feel that the corporations, the telephone company with the Spanish Yellow Pages, should change,″ said Diamond. ″We will do everything we can to put this advertising in English only.″

Pacific Bell and companies with Spanish-language advertising campaigns cite Hispanic household income, estimated at $83.8 billion in the United States this year, and language preference as reasons for pitching to Hispanics in Spanish.

″Our studies indicate most Hispanics do speak English, but they feel more comfortable doing business in Spanish,″ said Mobbs. ″We feel that it (the Spanish Yellow Pages) is just another tool for a Spanish-speaking person to become acclimated to the business climate in California.″

Some U.S. English members sense a deeper meaning when Anheuser-Busch says Budweiser ″Es Para Usted″ (Is For You) or Coca Cola claims ″Coke lo es″ (Coke is it).

In Florida, U.S. English leader Terry Robbins plans to target corporations after completing a campaign to declare English that state’s official language. ″I’ve targeted government first. Then I will go on to the private sector in the next few months,″ she said. She already has written as a private citizen to McDonalds and Burger King protesting Spanish in fast-food menus.

″Why does poor Juan or Maria have a problem ordering a Whopper?″ she asked. ″It isn’t that they aren’t able to, they don’t want to.″

She also protested a housing development advertising only in Spanish to the Dade County Housing and Employment Appeals Board.

This fall the national U.S. English organization asked the Federal Communications Commission to ensure availability of English-language stations when licensing foreign-language radio stations.

In some areas of Texas along along the Mexican Border ″it’s difficult to get an English-langauge station. Most of them are in Spanish,″ said U.S. English head Gerda Bikales in Washington D.C. ″I don’t think there should be any area of the United States where you have trouble getting an English- language station.″

She said the group’s national leadership is focusing on legislation to have Congress recognize English as the nation’s official language and is not targeting advertisers. But she knows individual U.S. English members are going after corporate advertisers.

″We do not discourage them from doing that,″ she said. The question is whether U.S. English can shout louder than the bottom line.

″Our business has doubled in the last two years to $30 million in billing,″ said Dick Dillon of Mendoza and Dillon, a Newport Beach advertising agency specializing in Spanish-language commercials. ″We weren’t even in business a decade ago.″

″We are seeing some long time clients, General Foods, Miller Brewing, Johnson and Johnson, Warner-Lambert now making a long-term commitment to the market,″ said Dillon. Lately, he said, Wendys and Mattel signed up too.

Dillon reports little evidence of a backlash from English speakers.

″The only evidence I’ve seen of that is when a client sends out a bilingual coupon to homes. That’s the only negative reaction I’ve experienced,″ Dillon said. ″It’s a redneck reaction, ’I don’t like you Mr. Manufacturer because I learned English.‴