Friday, August 03, 2007

Advertising in Spanish on English TV

For those who missed my earlier column on this subject, I have been advertising my Toyota dealership on English speaking TV. Why would I advertise in Spanish on English speaking TV when everybody who watches speaks English? There are two reasons. First it “cuts the clutter”. The challenge to any advertiser is for her commercial to get noticed (and mine sure did!). The second reason I spoke in Spanish was to signal my respect to those whose [or that of their parents or grandparents] native tongue is Spanish. It is considered an international sign of respect to attempt to speak to someone in their native tongue. If you have ever traveled abroad, you may have experience this. If you have not seen my ad and would like to view it, click on this Internet link

Little did I realize when I first began to run my Hispanic TV advertisement what a stir it would have! The complaints started right away, some in the form of emails and some phone calls. I averaged about 5 calls a day and 2 or 3 emails. There were some positive comments but mostly negative. I began to wonder whether I was doing something that would hurt my business, but I could see no tangible evidence that anyone had not bought a car from me because of this ad. About half of the calls and emails were anonymous.

Recently the press picked up on this and there were news articles in the Sun Sentinel and the Palm Beach Post. This caused the tide to turn to favorable comments. Also, I’m getting very positive feedback from a lot of Hispanics. I have not received on single negative call or email from anyone of Hispanic descent. Currently the favorable comments are running about 10:1. I have gone to worrying about whether this ad would harm my business to actually wondering if this may not be the most effective advertisement I ever ran!

This whole personal experience was like taking a course in sociology. The negative callers fell into three categories. The first, and most numerous (about 50%), were the anonymous callers. They would call, state their outrage at my ad and then hang up. The second were those that were did give their names, but refused to listen to my reasoning behind my ad. These callers were less than the anonymous (about 25%) and about the same number as the third category. These callers were actually polite. They stated their concerns and were quite willing to listen to “my side of the story”.

The anonymous callers were virtually all rude, vulgar, and profane. From what I could garner from their one-way rant, they were very, very angry. I also detected “fear” in many of their voices. Some sounded like they had written their words out in advance so they could be sure they got it right. These callers clearly had no knowledge of what my ad is designed to accomplish. They seemed to think that most of the Hispanics in South Florida don’t speak English and are here illegally. I hope some of these callers will call back and listen to my explanation.

The second group was the most disturbing to me. They were not anonymous and they were not nearly as rough in their language, but I was disturbed because I could not change their minds even after they allowed me to explain. I do believe that most of them hung up with less anger in their hearts toward me and most of them dropped their threat never to buy a car from me, but they would not change their mind about my ad.

The third group was very nice and civil. Although they called to express dissatisfaction to my ad, they welcomed my explanation. I really enjoyed my exchanges with these intelligent and open minded callers. After hearing my explanation, they did a “180” and understood my advertising tactics. That’s not to say that they liked them and agreed with them, but they understood. They knew that I meant no disrespect to anyone and that I was simply a car dealer trying to sell some more cars. Several said that they would buy their next car from me.

The sociological lesson I learned (and am learning) from this experience is as follows. Education must always be a priority in a society. Ignorance is very dangerous. You cannot have bigotry and prejudice without ignorance being part of the equation. I learned this from the first set of anonymous callers. My next lesson is that education isn’t always enough. If a person is born and raised in bigoted, prejudiced environment, this can be imbedded in his emotions so deeply that education will not remove his negative feelings. Sometimes it takes more than one generation of knowledge and enlightenment to free one of prejudice and bigotry. We know that many of the Muslim terrorists were highly educated. My most pleasant lesson was from the third group who were educated, open minded, and willing to listen to another opinion. This final lesson was that educated, informed people who were raised in a loving environment can “agree to disagree”. It was F. Scott Fitzgerald who said that the most accurate test of a great mind is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in ones head at the same time”.


  1. why didt stewart want to respect my views as an ENGLISH SPEAKING TAXPAYING CONSUMER? respect american values.its ass kissing money making jerks that will tear apart this great country. I will write to toyota and tell them how i plan to boycot there cars.....I am not a spanish hater or a igot...I just want to keep america ONE country for all that speak english, and are here to be americans.....take you cars and go south of the boarder were you will be happy amoung the spanish speaking world. Get out of my country , you sell out CREEP!

  2. HEY! "Anonymous" guess what: you ARE A BIGOT! You also sound like you have a room temperature IQ. Why don't you identify yourself with your real name? It is because you are ashamed of your hateful beliefs. Earl Stewart deserves praise and respect for exposing you racists to the light of day. What an eye-opener!

  3. Listen, you are all idiots. One guy wants to send everyone south of the border and the other guy thinks Earl Stewart should be praised. Racist, follower and con-man. You guys are the new three stooges. Earl Stewart is the ring leader.

  4. Earl Stewart may benefit from all this hooplah, but you are a fool to think he is orchestrating the whole thing. My take is he is a business man (more ethicaal than most from my personal experiences) who is trying to grow his business and make money - what could be more American than that?? What is astonishing is the tender nerve (completely unrelated to any car dealership) that has been exposed. Earl Stewart may have inadvertantly entered the political arena, but it it the koo-koos on both sides that are making an issue of it.

  5. I totally disagree with your advertising in Spanish - your captions should be in Spanish, and you should be talking in English. We are in the United State of America where English is our language!!!!!

    I would never buy a car from you!

    I definitely agree with anonymous who said "take your cars and go South of the Border". There you can speak Spanish and put the caption in English!!!!!

  6. I think Earl Stewart should pull those spanish ads immediately. This is America - the language is English! That said, I will STILL always buy ALL my cars from Earl Stewart because of his customer service and ethical business practices! I don't like the ad but I want to be treated with the respect I am used to getting at Earl Stewart. There isn't a dealer out there that comes close!! For all you maniacs out there talking about boycotting him - YOUR LOSS! go ahead get taken advantage of by some slimy dealer

  7. you must be Dan K. Stewart. keep getting good service and screwed at the same time.

  8. It's funny. I am a customer of Earl Stewart Toyota. I was referred to this blog and to the column in the Hometown News by my salesperson. That's why I'm here reading it and posting messages. This "Anonymous" guy is obviously not a customer. Why is he reading this? Why is he posting negative commentary? Hmmm. maybe he has some kind of axe to grind? Maybe a competing Toyota dealer. We'll never know, but if it looks like a duck...

  9. Mr K.,
    The only axe I have to grind is to make sure everyone knows about what kind of con man this Earl Stewart really is. To answer you question, no I am in no competition with this man. I was at one time a customer of his dealership and had purchased many cars from him for myself and my business. He is a scam artist, a con man, a crook and a thief. I want everyone to know what kind of person he really is. You may have had a good experience, but I can assure you he has screwed you over in some way shape or form and you don't even know it. I am trying to bring awareness of what he has done in this area for years. I will never buy a Toyota ever again thanks to this man and I don't care how good the cars are supposed to be. He is a criminal and should be exposed.

  10. This comment is addressed to all "anonymous" critics of my Hispanic ad, me, and my company. If your real purpose is to convince me and others that my ad is bad or that I'm a bad person, why hide your identity? Your refusal to "come out of the closet" harms your credibility. You know that I am totally accessible by phone or in person...the only car dealer who is. Are you afraid of an honest face-to-face debate? You can even call me on the radio, WSVU Seaview 960 AM, every Saturday at 9 AM. It also streams on the Web at Let us see if you have the courage of your convictions and are willing to have an honest debate and not hide behind your "anonymity".

  11. "Anonymous" has bought "many cars" from Earl Stewart. If Stewart is such a "criminal" and a "con man" why the hell would you keep doing business with him? It's obvoius to me and anyone else who reads this that "Anonymous" is full of S---t.

    Anyway, it is clear that, with regard to your opinion of this man and his company, that you are in a very, very small minority (probably of one).

  12. Earl: Love you man! Don't get pushed around by Xenophobes who can't spell (e.g. anonymous, August 9 11:50 pm). You're doing the right thing as a businessman and as an American. Let small minded people be small minded, and do the American thing: that is, whatever you want. Isn't that your right?

  13. Hello Earl Stewart, I am a hispanic who greatly appreciates your open mindedness. You clearly appreciate the business that hispanics make here in the United States. People who do not notice that, do not want to accept that fact, or they are just lazy people who just sit around on welfare and hate on hispanics because they know they have responssibilities. Thank you for thinking of us and that is true, the Bill of
    Rights backs you up so don't worry about it.

  14. ATTA BOY!! You're the one paying for the ads so it's your business. The station wants your money for advertising, you want business, and the Hispanic community is listening and watching your ads and attract new customers who'll respect you for what your doing. And after all the dust has settled other dealers and other businesses will fall right in behind you - just wait!! Just like Pizza Patron in Texas accepting pesos, they caught a little flak, but others are following right along. You go guy!!! Hispanics Love Earl!!

  15. Earl, what took you long? I've been waiting to see ads like this! Fantastic. May God bless you for reaching out to Hispanics. You know they have buying power!!

  16. For anybody that doesn't want to buy a car from Earl, there'll two more that will! Wow, glad to hear he's got a good reputation. I'll consider buying my next car there even if it means driving there from Tampa.

  17. We are honored to have this extremely insightful and complimentarly editorial written about our Spanish language TV commercial by Leonard Pitts of the Miami Herald, a Pulitzer Prize winning columnist.

    Posted on Sun, Oct. 21, 2007

    English language not endangered

    La gente dice que Earl Stewart lo hizo sólo por el poderoso dólar.

    (People say Earl Stewart did it only for the almighty dollar.)

    El dice que tienen razón.

    (He says they're right.)

    What's that? The subtitles are distracting? Fine, I'll stop.

    But the point here is, all Stewart wanted to do was sell Toyotas. It's something he's been doing for 33 years as the proprietor of Earl Stewart Toyota in Palm Beach County. Then he hit upon an idea he thought might expand his market: Spanish-language commercials with English subtitles. The spots run on English-language television and, though he speaks no Spanish, Stewart stars in them himself.

    The subtitles, he says, were an afterthought. 'I said, `You know, I'm going to be talking to a lot of people that don't speak Spanish so, as a courtesy or to explain what I'm doing, maybe I should use English subtitles.' It was really an effort on my part, albeit a failure, to be nice to the monolingual folks.''

    The ''monolingual folks'' were not feeling the love -- putting it mildly. Stewart says the commercial brought him a ''flood'' of angry, often profane e-mails and phone calls, nine out of every 10 sharply critical of his commercial. As described by Stewart, the complaints tended to be longer on emotion than on logic.

    For instance, they said that by advertising in Spanish, he encouraged Spanish-speakers to avoid learning English. But he was advertising on English stations, so anyone watching presumably already spoke the language.

    And people kept referencing Mexico, usually in sentences that began with, ''Why don't you go back to . . . '' But anybody who knows South Florida knows that, while it is home to many Spanish speakers, the bulk of them are not Mexican.

    ''I think there's a lot of fear out there,'' says Stewart. ``All of the (presidential) candidates to some extent are using the immigration thing as a lever to get elected. They're appealing to the fear Americans have, some of this 9/11 stuff. And the rhetoric has a lot of the people who are not as informed or maybe don't listen carefully, convinced that most of the Spanish people in this country are illegal immigrants or they're terrorists.''

    It's a cogent analysis, but I think there's more going on here. One suspects that at bottom what set Stewart's critics off is a fear so visceral they might not even have words to express it. Put simply: Since when do we need subtitles in our own country?

    To which the best answer is probably another question. Who is ''we''? What is ``our''?

    The fact is that ''we'' is not what it used to be, and ''our'' reflects a nation more diverse than ever before. The Census Bureau says the Hispanic population of Palm Beach County stands at 16.7 percent, nearly two percentage points higher than the national figure. Isn't it smart business to reach out to them? Why begrudge Stewart's efforts to do so?

    Granted, it's not hard to empathize with the sense of dislocation some people feel as they watch the nation changing around them. But to understand what they feel is not necessarily to share it.

    In the first place, hysterical predictions to the contrary notwithstanding, it's exceedingly unlikely that English is in danger of losing its position of primacy. In the second place, people will sooner or later have to understand that while change is frightening, change is also life, especially in a nation as susceptible as this one to the forces of the free market. Which is, for my money, the moral of Stewart's story.

    He says that as that story has become better known, the public response has done a 180-degree turnabout. The commercial -- and the notoriety -- have brought customers from as far away as Miami. And he's just had his best September, ever. All of which leaves Stewart with mixed emotions. He's disappointed in many of his fellow Americans.

    On the other hand, business is good.

    Leonard Pitts Jr.

    Leonard Pitts Jr. won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2004. He is the author of Becoming Dad: Black Men and the Journey to Fatherhood. His column runs every Monday and Friday. Email Leonard at or visit his website at

  18. I just wanted to say that as a marketing student, the spanish commercial was a great idea. According to the Pew Hispanic Center study, Miami is the metro area with the largest Latino population representing 57 percent of the population.

    Hispanic buying power surpassed a trillion dollars in 2007, and they are the fastest growing 100 k+ households in the United States.

    It would be nothing more than stupid not to take advantage of this ever so important consumer group.

    You do what you have to do, You have my support!

  19. Dear Gil,

    Thanks for your support. The percent of my customers of Latin origin has increased considerably since I began this advertising and I've lost no Anglo business.


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