Canadian marketers are playing it safe when it comes to multicultural advertising.
“Most marketers [are] complacent,” said Loiee Pangan, art director at AV Communications, at Marketing‘s sold-out Multicultural Conference in Toronto March 25. “They have to get bolder and get more creative.”
Pangan was part of a “creativity panel,” along with Albert Yue, owner, managing director of Dynasty Advertising, and Gavin Barrett, partner and creative director at Rao Barrett and Welsh.
Barrett, who gave marketers a failing grade on the creative front, said “there is a tendency towards lip service, which is a polite phrase for translation. It’s the ‘let’s be seen in that squiggly script’ problem.”
On the agency side, two recurring challenges get in the way of creativity in multicultural advertising.
There’s “pretend expertise,” where for example a Hispanic agency does advertising for Asian markets. “It’s pretend expertise based on their experience with multiculturalism,” said Barrett. “It’s a lot more sophisticated than that; it’s a lot more subtle than that.”
Secondly, he said, “There is not sufficient creative talent in the multicultural market and we need to inspire good creative.”
Looking at a Canadian Tire print ad targeting the Tamil community, Barrett noted several problems with it. For example, Tamils in Toronto are largely apartment dwellers but the ad was selling garden equipment. There was also a “vaguely beige family at the bottom of the ad, which I guess could have passed for Tamil except they look very Punjabi. That’s a problem.”
Pangan added that many marketers still fall into the trap of stereotypes, for example “trying to address an audience of Mexicans just by putting a sombrero on a particular ad.”
The panelists pointed out that newcomers come from very sophisticated advertising markets, and advertising in China and India is very advanced, using a Nike ad from India as an example (above).
When they come here, “they’re seeing uninspiring offerings and are wondering, ‘Where are all the cool [ads]?'” said Yue.
In his keynote earlier in the day, Naeem ‘Nick’ Noorani, founder and publisher of Canadian Immigrant magazine, part of Star Media Group, offered several key psychographic insights into newcomers.
For example, most purchase decisions are influenced by word of mouth from friends and family. They’re constantly talking about brands and products and exchanging information, such as which stores have the best prices on certain products.
“It’s important for [newcomers] to impart information… almost like ‘I know Canada better,'” he said, jokingly referring to their chatter as “immigrant Twitter.” They are also close knit and stay together in clusters.
Noorani pointed out that 51% of newcomers are university educated, and in 2006, almost 72% of immigrants lived in a dwelling owned by a household member, up from 68% in 2001.
In terms of media habits, there is high Internet usage among newcomers: 88% of immigrants use the Internet regularly compared to 75% of the overall Canadian population.