Corporate America Takes On Multilingual Public Relations To better target non-English speaking communities nationwide, corporate giants like McDonald's and Wal-Mart are creating ads in different languages, including Mandarin, Korean and Vietnamese. As companies build these ad campaigns, they're learning what memes and mediums best appeal to different cultures.
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Corporate America Takes On Multilingual PR

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Corporate America Takes On Multilingual PR

Corporate America Takes On Multilingual PR

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, Host:

Now, an increasingly common challenge for public relations campaigns. People are speaking dozens of languages in this country and PR campaigns want to reach them, but how. For our series on public relations, NPR's Neda Ulaby has the story.

NEDA ULABY: Julia Huang runs a marketing company in southern California that focuses on Asian-Americans.

JULIA HUANG: You know, while we say Asian-American market, it's really not one market, it's so many.

ULABY: Unidentified Man #1: (Japanese spoken)

ULABY: Unidentified Man #2: (Cantonese spoken)

ULABY: Unidentified Man #3: (Khmer spoken)

ULABY: Unidentified Man #4: (Taglish spoken) health care.

ULABY: Census ads also targeted speakers of Korean, Vietnamese, Thai, Cambodian, Hmong and more.

HUANG: You're not really talking about one specific language. Like, for example, for the Hispanic market, accents might change, but it's still Spanish.

ULABY: That's why ad campaigns hone in on groups with the largest U.S. populations, says Huang's colleague, Jane Nakagawa.

JANE NAKAGAWA: Should we do CK, or should we do CKV?

ULABY: What's CKV?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

NAKAGAWA: So, CKV is kind of our shortened version of Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese.

ULABY: Unidentified Child: (Foreign language spoken)

(SOUNDBITE OF TOYOTA CAMRY AD)

ULABY: Unidentified Child: (Foreign language spoken)

(SOUNDBITE OF TOYOTA CAMRY AD)

ULABY: Nita Song runs the Asian American Advertising Federation.

NITA SONG: When a client is targeting multiple Asian segments, they won't necessarily have the budget to do a custom-specific campaign from ground up for Chinese, for Vietnamese, for Korean.

ULABY: Unidentified Woman: (Foreign language spoken)

(SOUNDBITE OF WAL-MART AD)

ULABY: Unidentified Woman: (Foreign language spoken)

(SOUNDBITE OF A WAL-MART AD)

ULABY: Marketer Nita Song says at first, Wal-Mart assumed its campaign would be CKV. But her firm's research showed that Korean was not necessary.

SONG: And it did confirm that fact that Chinese shoppers, Vietnamese shoppers, you know, looking actively for low prices doesn't mind doing a drive to go find a good deal on something.

ULABY: But Korean-Americans liked fancier brand names than the stuff Wal-Mart carries.

(SOUNDBITE OF MCDONALD'S AD)

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ULABY: McDonald's also overlooked CKV for a big campaign starring the photogenic Korean-American golfer Michelle Wie.

(SOUNDBITE OF MCDONALD'S AD)

MICHELLE WIE: (Foreign language spoken)

ULABY: It was marketed in five languages, including different Chinese dialects, but not Vietnamese. They get radio ads and direct mail, says Vivian Chen. She's McDonald's marketing manager just for Asian-Americans. Used to be, those direct mail coupons were in Vietnamese only, but that caused confusion at the cash register.

VIVIAN CHEN: In the past, we just used one language. So what happens is they collect coupon, bring that McDonald's, my crewmembers not able to read it.

ULABY: Neda Ulaby, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

WERTHEIMER: You're listening to MORNING EDITION, from NPR News.

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