A Mac and Cheese Flashback
by Gustavo Santa Ana
Working in Hispanic advertising, one thing we preach is cultural relevancy. It’s not enough to just translate work to Spanish and expect it to resonate with Hispanic consumers. And let’s not forget those Hispanics born in the U.S. who may not even understand what your brand is saying, let alone selling. Why, may you ask, is cultural relevancy so important? Why are all Hispanic agencies committed to producing great creative founded on this very principle? Because. It. Works.
And when it works, and you can experience it working firsthand, it feels great. If your response is “they get me!” then we did our job. Last week, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself on the “Receiver” end of the Communication Spectrum (plugging my fancy FIU Advertising education here).
I forgot what program was on – and if this anecdote teaches you nothing else, just be amazed at the fact that I was so moved by this spot that I remember it more than what I was actually watching – and I happened to catch a commercial for a mac and cheese product that happens to be very popular in the general market, but one that took the time and effort to advertise in the Hispanic market the right way. The insight was so straightforward, and so brilliantly executed: Hispanic parents try to be more “American” for their kids, while kids try to be more “Latino” for their parents. The mom in this spot dressed in USA gear, tried to greet her son’s friend in English, and made mac and cheese for dinner. In response, the son played with maracas, watched a Spanish music video, and ate “Latino food” with his mac and cheese for dinner.
Watching this, I was immediately transported back to my childhood when I would force my mom to make me PB&J sandwiches for lunch… in turn I would indulge her by eating rice and black beans with my BBQ ribs for dinner (something that has remained a staple in our house). I remembered all those Sundays when my dad would watch a Dolphins game with me, cheering by my side and showing interest, even though he had no idea what was going on. Or when they both took my brother and I trick-or-treating for the first time, even though they thought the idea of knocking on a complete stranger’s door and asking for candy was so mind-boggling that they had a confused look of amazement mixed with disappointment the entire time.
My parents and I made sacrifices for each other, small as they may seem, but we are all better for it. They helped me keep my roots, and I like to think that I helped ease their transition into life in a new country. Such is life for Latinos in the U.S… And if a brand can connect to them on that kind of emotional level, really speaking to that cultural experience, what will matter to them isn’t that it was an advertisement trying to sell them something, but it might feel more like what I felt watching that commercial: