Special Report: Political Advertising; Courting the Latino Vote

(From our Q2 2012 Print Issue)

As the republican presidential candidates were preparing for the Iowa Caucus at the beginning of the year, Newt Gingrich´s campaign sent an email in Spanish stressing the importance of the Iowa Hispanic community to secure his nomination. At a town hall meeting later that day, in front of an English-speaking audience, he drew some of the loudest applause when he reiterated his support to make English the government´s official language, meaning English should be the exclusive language for government collateral and educational campaigns. This episode was reported on probably millions of TV screens, computers and mobile phones in Spanish. As can be seen, Political Marketing targeting the Hispanic population is not without controversy.

Political Advertising targeting Hispanics has grown over the years. “Most definitely we have seen an increase over the last 10 years,” says Philipp Woodie, president of LER. He adds that “awareness of the importance of the Latino vote is much more pronounced now. Media vendors continue to tell the story; Census numbers have helped; and participation of Hispanics in the political process have all contributed to making this segment, which cannot be overlooked. Still, we continue to struggle to get our fair share of the political investment and to get it early in the cycle. 65% of the dollars are spent Labor Day to Election Day as a rule of thumb. Far too often we get dollars coming down late in the cycle. We have seen good growth from 2004 to 2006 to 2008 to 2010. 2008 to 2010 were big jumps.”

Market by Market Play

Local grassroots media including community newspapers, local websites and radio/TV stations play an extremely important role in political marketing and advertising. That is why political advertisers tend to have a spot (local) rather than a network (national) approach. “Typically political, especially candidates is spot business. If you look back in history, there have been times over the last decade or two where Federal candidates have chosen to go to network. Some political issues could also use network. But by and large is a market by market play,” says Woodie.

Politics might be local, but it plays in multiplatform, multi-lingual national media outlets, and in this presidential campaign cycle, Hispanic media outlets, big and small, are stepping up their game. Univision has been at the forefront.

The network has expanded its “Destino 2012” election coverage, which includes programming, online coverage with interactive graphics, polls and mobile features. Univision also scored a big victory with its “Meet the Candidates” forum, in which Jorge Ramos interviewed Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney about their stances on issues concerning Latinos.

“Our job is to be sure that our audience hears all perspectives and hears directly from the candidates. Ultimately our goal at Univision is to present the news, including poll results and key interviews, so that our community can make informed decisions for the 2012 U.S. Presidential election,” Isaac Lee, president of New, Univision Communications, tells Portada.

It hasn´t been a smooth ride for Univision. Last year the republican candidates boycotted a debate to be held in Univision with Jorge Ramos over a story that the network ran about the brother-in-law of Florida´s republican senator Marco Rubio, who was convicted to 25 years in prison over drug and murder charges. But despite accusing Univision of bias, the candidates relented to the biggest Latino network in the U.S. this past January.

“The 2010 U.S. Census was a wakeup call as the results demonstrated Hispanics are the fastest growing segment of the country, and with more than 14 million Hispanics registered to vote, it is critical that presidential candidates engage with this community if they want to win the races. Hispanics not only have weight as consumers, but also constituents,” Lee adds.

Catering to the internet generation is Terra USA. Terra´s website already features a section dedicated to the election, and according to Fernando Rodriguez, CEO, Terra USA, there is a second editorial phase in the Works. Starting in February, Terra will also provide more content and interactive features as well as editorial commentary from two award winning journalists, Carlos Harrison and Tania Luviano. “I think this is a very important vote and a very important role. We want to contribute with the most accurate information so they can make the best decision to help make the country better,” Rodriguez says.

Despite the coverage, the question remains if Latinos will in fact vote in mass and have a significant impact on election day. According to census data, in the 2008 presidential election only about 60% of eligible voters were registered to vote, despite massive registration drivers.

The media, along with grass roots organizations aim to increase that percentage. In addition to covering the electoral process, media outlets are also featuring information on how to register and where to vote, and partnering with grass roots efforts to encourage Latinos to go to the polls. Terra is considering partnerships with two independent initiatives it collaborated with in 2008, Rock the Vote and Voto Latino because, as Rodriguez tells Portada, “we want to report the news, but we also want to reinforce the importance of voting, and specially of Latinos voting.”

But this election might turn to be more challenging. “In 2008 people were more motivated to participate, to register and vote,” Mega 107.5 radio host of and educator Edgar “Shoboy” Sotelo tells Portada. “But after four years people are disillusioned.” Sotelo has partnered with grass roots organization Voto Latino since 2008 and he has often used his program, “Shoboy en la mañana” to educate and encourage people to vote.

According to the census, 33% of Latinos eligible to vote are between 18 and 34 years old. Sotelo and Voto latino, co-founded in 2004 by actress Rosario Dawson and Maria Teresa Kumar, it´s Executive Directos, aim to engage and mobilize this demographic.

“What´s interesting about our younger generation is that overall, they inherently believe they can create change so the first step is out of our hands,” Maria Teresa Kumar tells Portada. Voto Latino is investing in an information app that would serve as a registration and voting guide for Young Latinos to share with friends via Facebook and Twitter. Voto Latino is also kicking off their 2012 election campaign at their annual Power Summit in Los Angeles on April 14th.

The Candidates

But the major obstacle might be that none of the candidates has really won the hearts and minds of the Latino electorate. Obama´s support within the Latino community is weavering. According to a poll released by the Pew Hispanic Center last December, more than 50% of respondents disapprove of how the Obama administration has handled deportations. The discontent also stems for his failure to pass immigration reform and The Dream Act. And the Republican candidates still fighting for the nomination as of this writing, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul, have all expressed views that fall out of the mainstream to most of the Latino electorate, especially in immigration.

And if the republican candidates could afford to be perceived as anti-immigrant in states with smaller Latino populations, like Iowa, home of  Gingrich seemingly contradictory Spanish-language email and statement, leading to Florida they had to adjust their message.

Flirting with the Sunshine State

Florida is considered one of the largest, if not the largest, presidential swing states (see Bush vs. Gore). It has a huge Latino population and a charismatic Cuban-American Republican Senator, Marco Rubio, According to the Pew Hispanic Center, there are 2.1 million Latinos eligible to vote in Florida, or 13.1% of all registered voters in the state, the third-largest Hispanic eligible-voter population nationally. Although according to a report from the Florida Division of Elections, only 1,473,920 Latinos are registered to vote statewide.

The Republican battleground in Florida was fierce, full of personal attacks by the candidates and the super PACs that support them. Among them, the Gingrich campaign released a radio commercial calling Romney brought up a clip of Gingrich from 1997 in which, speaking against bilingual education, Gingrich said people should learn “the language of prosperity, not the language of living in a ghetto.” The message was widely perceived to be against Spanish speakers.

Gingrich went on to defend his comments with Jorge Ramos, as parts as Univision´s “Meet the Candidates” forum, where he called Spanish “a language of enormous cultural power” and “one of the greatest languages of the world.” He also praised Jorge Ramos as a tough interviewer and wished “buenos días” to the Miami audience.

A lot of resources are being invested on the coverage of the electoral process and on registration drives aimed at Latinos, not to mention on the actual political campaigns. But all this will only count if Latinos in fact go to the polls. “The Latino electorate is like a giant without muscles,” says Sotelo.

He´s planning to register people standing on line at an Alejandra Guzman concert in Dallas in March. “We have to give that giant his strength.”

The Ad Sales Process

Like in any advertising sales effort, media properties start contacting political parties and candidates a long time in advance of the actual elections. “We spend a lot of time prior to the election year presenting to advertising agencies and consultants.” LER´s Woodie says.

“Once the election starts, it is very difficult to get in front of the decision makers. We also try to infiltrate the advisors and political camps themselves to get our story to as many people who are involved in the candidate, issue or Political Action Committee.” Getting a big chunk of political ad dollars demands resources: “We have political specialist in all of our regional offices and they use their contacts as well as the grass roots efforts of our 150+ stations in each of their respective markets, which races are up. Many of our GM´s have deep ties with many of the politicians in their respective markets and thus are great resources and of great help and insight during this process. We also take advantage of our corporate government affairs team who have terrific connections and who constantly have their fingers on the political pulse.”

What do non-political advertisers say about having candidates/political parties advertise in spaces/programs they usually use to promote their products and services? According to LER´s Woodie, “We do have some shows which we will be simulcasting with our TV stations, i.e. interviews, town meetings, etc. As far as advertisers in these types of shows, it will depend on the advertiser and show. Some like the environment if it fits their demographic and psychographics. Others want to stay away from anything political. It all depends on the client.”

Finally on the Cover of Time

The Hispanic population finally made it to the cover of Time magazine (see image).  The magazine decided to highlight the political clout of Hispanics in the upcoming November elections by showcasing 20 Latinos on its front page. In it Latinos pose next to a “Yo Decido” title. Followed by “why Latinos will pick the next president”.

The editors at Time magazine have certainly taken their time to display the Hispanic population in such a prominent way. Let´s not forget that the magazine was created in 1923 by Britton Hadden and Henry Luce, who made it the first weekly news magazine in the U.S.

The story of how the “Latino” front cover of Time magazine came about has a lot to do with the Hispanic Advertising and Media sector. Apparently, MV42, Starcom´s multicultural advertising agency, pitched the story to many editors of many major magazines. As Fox News Latino reports, Steven Wolfe-Pereira, EVP and Managing Director of MV42, the multicultural arm of MediaVest, and Robin Steinberg, EVP of Publishing Investment and Activation at MediaVest met with several English-language thought-leadership publications, including Time Inc´s Managing Editor Richard Stengel to share their thoughts on how to shift from “Multicultural Marketing” to “Marketing to a Multicultural Nation.” “Stengel decided to not only do the article, but was motivated to make a statement, hence he put the “Hispanic Voter” on the cover and for the first time in the magazine´s history had the copy in Spanish,” Wolfe-Pereira told Fox News Latino.

Honest Recognition?

However, Fox New´s Mariela Dabahh wonders whether “the front cover reflects an honest recognition of the power of Hispanics in the country and is the beginning of ongoing coverage, or if it only plays to an election year´s news-cycle.” Time is the world´s largest circulation weekly news magazine with a readership of 25 million, of which 20 million are in the US.

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Marcos Baer @MarcosBaer

Marcos oversees editorial and sales. He is based in Portada's NYC headquarters. Prior to launching Portada in 2003, Marcos worked in both the media and finance sectors. He occupied leading roles at the Spanish edition of The Wall Street Journal, in Spain’s newspaper Cinco Dias and at SwissRe. He is an MBA, and a CFA. Marcos is a print junkie and also loves all things digital media. He also is passionate about everything related to New York City and loves to play tennis.


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