Posted on June 3, 2010 at 3:46 PM
AUSTIN -- Experts say an attempt at engaging Hispanic Texans in the 2010 Census missed the mark.
Earlier this year, the Census Bureau took out ads on dozens of Capital Metro buses -- aimed at increasing census participation among Spanish speakers.
The ads on 28 buses attempted to translate from English into Spanish the census slogan “It's in our hands.” The original ad translated "our hands" as "nuestros manos;” the proper translation is "nuestras manos."
"If you use 'she' and you mean really 'he', the 'he' will be very confused and the 'she' won't understand what’s going on. It’s the same way. That one letter means so much,” said Olga Pechnenko-Kopp, whose company translates for Fortune-500 companies around the world. “When you make a mistake like that, it's all people see."
A Cap Metro spokesperson said the mistaken ad was provided by the Census Bureau and corrected within a week. Total cost of the correction was less than $100. While the monetary cost of the mistake may have been minute, experts say the intangible cost could be far greater.
“This isn’t the first time this has happened, there have been instances in which it has impacted brands in the long term because that first, initial impression was so negative for that person," said Gabriel García, creative director at Austin-based Latinworks. The firm helps companies target their messages to Hispanic consumers.
“When you have an organization that’s communicating with them in a way that they don’t understand or is fundamentally incorrect, then, from a messaging standpoint, they can start to question, 'How do these people truly understand me?'"
The mistaken ads were only on the road for about a week. The ads have since been removed from Cap Metro buses as scheduled.