Pepsi’s Hispanic Campaign Inspires Slew of Comments

Category: Culture, Language

Pepsi received some great coverage in AdAge yesterday about its Hispanic-focused marketing campaign, playing off of the multilingual advertisements for the 2010 U.S. census, which urges all Americans to make themselves “count.”

But within 24 hours of the story — which was also distributed on mainstream media outlets like Crain’s New York — was a hotbed of discussion, er, disappointment, in both Pepsi and its Hispanic agency, Dieste.

The argument? “Yo sumo,” the literal Spanish translation for “I count,” may not have been the wisest choice for a campaign whose self-proclaimed purpose is to encourage Hispanics to go beyond being counted numerically and to share their experiences.

As Judy from New York put it in her comment:

“Yo sumo” means I add numbers (1+1=2). However, “Yo cuento”, can mean either I count numbers or I count as a person. Hence, in this context, “Yo sumo” does not make sense. It works exactly the same in English: it’s the difference between “I add” and “I count”. What makes sense is “I count”. What would make sense in correct Spanish is “Yo ME sumo” (I add/include myself).

Lauri, a Hispanic marketing specialist from Seattle agreed, and took it one step further:

If the objective here is not for Latinos to just be counted, but to count — and to share their experiences — wouldn’t a better tagline be “Yo Cuento”? That language, with its double meanings of “I Count” and “I Tell/Share” might align better with the true objective. “Yo Sumo” seems a little flat in comparison because it does nothing to capture the sharing that it’s intended to inspire.

Two readers out of the 16 that have commented so far disagreed, and thought that “Yo Sumo” was the proper translation. First, because it is more of a proactive word, and second because it is less likely to be interpreted as open-ended statement. “I count…what?”

Still, the overwhelming majority of comments on the AdAge article and other distributed sites expressed doubt in the translation. If anything, as one person observed: it may be the “right” translation, but it’s the wrong message.