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.”
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.”
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.
“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.
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.
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.”