Hispanic Agencies Seek Opportunity in Economic Turmoil

While Hispanic agencies used to have the clear mission of implementing Spanish-language campaigns to reach Spanish-speaking consumers, their objective in recent years has become less straightforward as acculturation lines have been drawn, redrawn, and reconsidered. In the current economic climate, Hispanic account managers are mindful of tightening budgets, and are seeking creative solutions to make sure that their accounts are not trimmed out. Some are concerned that clients will reassign their Hispanic initiatives to heir general market agency in a costcutting effort.

Rene Salinas, a media planner at California-based agency Anita Santiago says, “Now more than ever is the time to demonstrate to your clients why they have you around. Maintaining the status quo is not sufficient. It's important in this climate to be coming up with interesting, cost effective solutions and proactively presenting them to your clients.”

Salinas points to a Valentine's Day campaign that they put together for client See’s Candy as an example. “We partnered with Myspace Latino to produce a Valentine’s Day live music event as part of the Myspace Acoustico series here in L.A.” The idea was for Latin youth to make a date out of it, and form a positive association with See’s candy that would be part of their Valentine’s Day tradition for years to come. The event was free and all they had to do was present a print-out showing that they were a Myspace Latino member. “The campaign was also quite cost effective, because Myspace Latino covered the production costs,” Salinas adds.

The Cultural Edge

Industry insiders and the agencies themselves argue that language choice is merely a component of providing relevant messaging that will connect with Hispanics. This insistence is nothing new: Hispanic agencies have long made the case that simply translating general market copy into Spanish is not the best way to market to Hispanics; that showing an understanding of their cultures and values is extremely important in winning their trust and loyalty.
Some sectors that have been reliable advertisers in Hispanic media—such as financial and automotive— are being forced to look at their budgets and make tough decisions: “Oftentimes, it is the multicultural advertising budgets that get cut first,” says Miguel Serrano Consumer Insight and Strategic Planning Manager for Lopez Negrete Advertising. “Too often, Hispanic and other ethnic minorities are viewed as auxiliary target groups. They’re seen as nice to reach, but not essential.” Still, Serrano cautions against a sky-is-falling type of pessimism: “Sure, many budgets are tighter, but when you look at the facts you see that Hispanics over-index in categories like long distance calling, entertainment consumption, financial services and many others.”

It’s all about value

MEC Bravo Managing Director Gonzalo Del Fa agrees that succumbing to panic is not productive and emphasizes that clients with established Hispanic programs are not going to shoot themselves in the foot by cutting off their Latino outreach. “Overall, what we’re seeing is growth over last year.
Some clients are keeping investment flat and some are increasing The message that we are bringing is that the economic turmoil can be viewed as an opportunity. We are even seeing clients who were inactive in ’08 jumping into Hispanic programs for ’09.

 Part of our approach is to say ‘Well, you’ve invested X in the general market, and you’re saying you’d like better results, so perhaps its time to really engage on the Hispanic side to shake things up.’ And we’re definitely bringing new clients aboard.”

The case of MEC Bravo is an interesting one when examining Hispanic and general market agencies separately, as its sister companies Media Edge and MediaCom are general market agencies. This relationship can prove useful for prospecting, says Del Fa: “This dynamic does make prospective clients more approachable. It’s like meeting a friend through a friend as opposed to cold-calling and saying, ‘I’m in Hispanic marketing and I want to tell you what we can do for you.’ In this situation, we’re happy to put a Hispanic initiative together if it makes sense for the client, and if it does not, no problem. They are still investing with us on the general market side, because we are all in it together.”

“The biggest development arising out of the economic crisis is that clients expect more for their investment,” says Del Fa. “The logic is, ‘Well, we spent this much last year when things were OK, now we should be getting more’— which is understandable. It does make our work more difficult because we are in the position of asking our vendors for more, and they’re saying, ‘Well, we have to make a living, too.’ So it’s a matter of finding a good middle-ground where the client is happy and you haven’t ruined your relationship with the vendor by taking too much advantage of their position,” says Del Fa.

Why general market agencies are no substitute for Latin shops

“A Hispanic agency can accomplish a faster, smarter, warmer response from Latino consumers and be a step ahead, having case studies, trial & error experience of ROI programs that produce results,” says Andre Jean, Associate Director of Strategy for OMD Latino. Because grassroots, word-ofmouth, community/family marketing is so vital to create sales from the Latino household and Hispanic agencies can leverage the edges it has over General Market agency.

What are these competitive edges?
According to OMD's Andre Jean, there are four:
1) The most important edge the Hispanic agency has is the knowledge, experience, relationships, and philosophy of its leaders / management team.
2) The first-to-market 20-year head start they have.
3) The insights that are gathered by the personal experiences of its (hopefully) bilingual, multi-national staff.
4) The FUBU (for us by us) mentality. Latinos will always gravitate to things created by them for them.

A South Florida media sales executive, who asked not to b named, told of one experience working with the general market agency of a luxury goods client: “They wanted to place one ad with us, one with another top-name Hispanic magazine, one with another and so on, to get ‘maximum exposure in the Latino market.’ We tried to explain that they would get greater ROI picking one property and establishing some frequency, even if it wasn’t with us. Latinos are loyal to brands that are loyal to them. A drive-by approach just isn’t going to work,” he told Portada. “What was most interesting was that the representative on the client side agreed with us and basically said, ‘Look, I hear you, but this is our agency and this is who we have to go through.”

Of course not all experiences dealing with general market agencies are as confounding. Loida Ruiz, sales manager for The Houston Chronicle’s Hispanic publications tells Portada, “I have worked with general market agencies making Hispanic buys and have not had any bad experiences. We do work with some general market agencies that combine their Hispanic buys with us through the Houston Chronicle’s sales reps. We train our Houston Chronicle people to offer that up; it makes sense.”


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Editorial Staff

Portada Staff

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