Analysis: One Size Fits None

In an effort to grab a bigger slice of the advertising pie, online publishers are serving as the agents of change in Hispanic marketing strategy. MSN Latino just announced a program that will offer advertisers second generation Hispanic eyeballs. The plan is to target users with more English-language messaging, as second-generation often speak English as much, or more than, they speak Spanish. The website will also begin featuring more bilingual content on the site, according to Microsoft’s vice president of ad-sales, Mike Hard.

MSN Latino’s partner MRM Worldwide is also getting into the mix, developing ad programs that rely more heavily on cultural cues such as food and music than on language. MRM will test the approach with banners, pre-roll video and other formats, and evaluate it by measuring the click-through rates of each delivery mechanism.

Look for other publishers and agencies to follow suit in the months ahead as the case for more diverse Hispanic advertising approaches gathers steam.

That marketers have tended to generalize in their assumptions about the U.S. Hispanic market is no secret: “They speak Spanish—let’s speak to them in Spanish. They’re mostly Mexican—can we get some Mexicans in that ad there? They’re deeply religious. Get a cross in the picture, will you? Great, I think we’ve got it.…”

Of course, the market is much more complicated than that, with as varied a range of interests and tastes as the general market. But for too long, marketing efforts have been steered by broad assumptions and truisms, at the expense of highly valuable nuances and distinctions that serve to truly connect with the Hispanic target.

Language is the only common bond shared by all Hispanics, although the number of dialects spoken presents its own challenges. Geographically, Hispanics come from far and near. Some are from Mexico, some from Spain, some from the Caribbean, others from Central and South America. The range of cultural variations and traditions represented therein is staggering.

So why do many advertisers continue to assume a one-size-fits-all approach?

One reason is lack of understanding: the acknowledgement of U.S. Latinos as a driving market force has come about only rather recently, for many only in the last couple of years, when Latinos superseded African Americans as the most populous minority group in the United States.

Another reason for watered-down messaging is limited budgets. Some companies do not have the money to commit to segmented Hispanic marketing efforts, so they go for mass appeal by running generic Spanish language ads or appealing to the Mexican market.

What many fail to realize is that, instead of appealing to everybody, generic Spanish-language ads in fact appeal to nobody.