Retailers push into Hispanic print, more research needed

While by all accounts Hispanic advertising is on the rise, there is also a pervasive belief that business is not as brisk as it could be. In examining how big-box retailers and agencies buy Hispanic media, one reality is readily apparent: many retail advertisers and media properties are simply not investing enough money into adequately researching- and reaching- their Hispanic audiences.

It is not for a lack of interest in reaching Hispanic consumers, however. To the contrary, most media-buyers and advertising executives agree that there is an abundance of interest in reaching out to this increasingly affluent, and populous, consumer base. Instead, it is a matter of funding: deciding how much capital to allocate, and where to allocate it.

Richard Diaz of Mindshare World multicultural consulting frames the challenges in terms of metrics. He says that there is a lot of interest in Hispanic marketing efforts, but that most companies have not invested in the research that would measure the relative success of different advertising methods.

Spanish-language neswspaper publishers like Impremedia and others are currently undertaking expensive research projects to deliver the metrics advertisers need. Additionally, newspaper media representation firms like Ethnic Print Media are working hard to provide readership studies and audits to advertisers. Ethnic Print Media audited over 70 Hispanic community newspapers. The audit was conducted by Circulation Verification Council (CVC), an independent auditing firm specializing in niche publications.

To Mindshare World's Richard Diaz, an audited circulation is one of the most important factors affecting an advertiser's decision to purchase ad space. He sees this as a short-term reality, however. “It's not a question of if they will do this market research, but rather when they will do it. They are more comfortable investing in approaches with proven track records of success, rather than risking failure with a new approach.”

David Gusse, Client Services Director of Newspaper Services of America, who buys media for retailers like Kmart, Sears, Toys R'US, Mattress Giant and Safeway, also sees growth in Hispanic advertising as being severely limited by the inability to measure the effectiveness of a particular campaign: “Right now, ad-execs are having a tough time getting funding authorized even for tried and tested campaigns which are quantitatively verifiable. As a result, the idea of increasing funding for Hispanic advertising, with all of the difficulties in gauging return on advertising investment (ROAI), is a hard sell.

Retailers show lots of interest in newspapers ….

To be sure, advertising by retailers in publications targeting Spanish-speaking audiences is clearly increasing. Dallas Spanish-language daily Al Día (Spanish-language daily, Belo Corp., circ. 40,000) recently gained new national advertising accounts including Super Saver, Rooms to Go and Office Depot. The newspaper, published by Belo Corp., is postponing its plan to produce a TMC (total market coverage) product. Many retailers like the reach of TMC products, however Belo's Dallas Morning News (approx. circ 482,000 daily; 661,000 Sundays) already publishes a similar product and can accommodate Al Día advertisers. Smaller newspapers are also landing national retail accounts. Home Depot recently started advertising in Atlanta Latino (weekly, circ. 30,000, bilingual). Atlanta Latino is distributed at 1,700 points of distribution in 15 Atlanta counties.


Due to the national reach of many magazines, retailers are also interested in buying advertising in them. Sears, Roebuck and Co. and Latina Media Ventures, the publisher of Latina magazine, recently signed an interesting deal which may lead the way for other partnerships between Hispanic print media properties and retailers. Both companies announced a partnership to create the new women's clothing line Latina Life. The fashion line, designed primarily by Jones Apparel Group and under the fashion direction and counsel of the bilingual monthly Latina, will begin rolling out in August 2005. Products will include clothes, footwear and handbags "influenced by the style of Hispanic women." It will be available in 425 of the total 870 Sears stores nationwide.

… direct mail…

To drive traffic to stores, direct mail can prove a very effective vehicle. Commenting on what she sees to be one of the more effective advertising methods for reaching Hispanics, Verena Sisa, of Euro RSCG, points to direct mail. “Hispanics tend to receive significantly less direct mail than the general market. As a result, they pay closer attention,” says Ms. Sisa. Portada® has learned that many advertisers, particularly in the retail, telecommunications and Internet services categories, are eager to learn about ways to reach Hispanics through direct mail. Circuit City, Kmart and Verizon are among the interested companies.

Kohl's, a large west coast retailer, has taken the comprehensive approach in promoting their Spring and Summer clothing lines by running thirty-second spots on television, one minute spots on radio, along with a direct mail campaign and other promotions. This can be viewed as a sort of shotgun-style advertising approach whereby, absent any conclusive metrics to deem one delivery mechanism more effective than another, the advertiser opts for all available advertising mechanisms, spraying the consumer landscape with a buck shot of “on-message” material.

…and custom Publishing

Walmart, which is the nation's top retailer for Hispanics, has quite overtly adopted various innovative ways of reaching Hispanic consumers. Apart from having in-store signage in both English and Spanish, it also publishes “Viviendo,” a bi-lingual quarterly lifestyle magazine with a distribution of 500,000. The magazine is targeted at Hispanic mothers and features home and health pieces, interviews with prominent Hispanic leaders, and general information about Walmart.

“This approach is more about cementing our relationship with our existing Hispanic customers than it is about going after new ones,” says Linda Blakely, a spokesperson for the mega-retailer. Another area which Walmart is active in is event sponsorship, such as park-renewal initiatives. Verena Sisa of Euro RSCG cites this type of as very effective among Hispanics. “When a company or retailer shows an interest in investing in our communities, it is something that is very well-regarded by the members of those communities,” says Ms. Sisa. Whether that translates directly into increased sales is hard to gauge, but it clearly helps to establish brand-loyalty.

One drawback to print advertising is that auditing of many Hispanic publications is non-existent, or unreliable. Trevor Hansen, VP at San Diego, CA based, Ethnic Print Media, notes that with the audit of more than 70 publications “our aim is to deliver more national and regional advertising dollars to our publishers. Ad Age, in their 2004 Hispanic Fact Pack reported that Hispanic Ad Agencies experienced a 16.6% growth rate in revenue in 2003, I believe with our new audits in place, readership and demographic data to support business case presentation for targeted newspaper media spend, our newspapers should experience the same growth model”.


Another concern is the bulk-drop manner in which many Hispanic publications are distributed, as there is no way to know who exactly is picking them up, and whether the advertising is producing results. “What we want as an agency, and what would make it easier to sell Hispanic newspapers to our clients is home-delivered, audited circulation that allows preprint zoning,” says Rachel Stayduhar of Torrance, CA based ACG Media. “The main problem we have with Hispanic newspapers is that they are largely single copy/bulk dropped, un-audited and cannot be zoned for preprints.”

Clearly a more concentrated effort must be made by retailers to quantify the ROAI in Hispanic print mediums, or they are bound to under-capitalize on the enormous spending power of the Hispanic consumer base in the United States. At the same time, the onus is on the Hispanic publications to offer distribution methods that are more easily and credibly audited to minimize uncertainty among advertisers over what their ROAI actually is.

Alex Andrews