The Dallas Morning News
Monday, April 7, 2003

Hispanic advertisers urge companies to increase marketing

By Hanna Lobel / The Associated Press

DALLAS (AP) -- For years, Hispanic advertisers have told companies that their marketing budgets need to increase to catch up with the fastest growing ethnic group in the nation.

Two recent deals suggest that online companies, at least, are finally listening.

Nielsen/NetRatings, an Internet traffic measurement company,announced a partnership this week with Univision Online, Inc. to track Hispanic online behavior.

Also this week, America Online Inc. announced a deal with Univision Communications, Inc. to advertise on the country's largest Spanish-language television network. In turn, AOL, the world's largest Internet service provide, will feature Univision content on AOL Latino.

"2003 is the year that AOL has sort of arrived in the Hispanic world," said Peter E. Blacker, vice president of AOL Latino.

With 12.4 million Hispanics online, the United States has more Hispanic Internet users than any Spanish-speaking country, said Richard Israel of comScore Networks, which has been tracking the online behavior of 50,000 Hispanics since October.

The Hispanic digital divide began closing two to three years ago, as younger Hispanics signed on and shared their technical savvy with older members of their family, said Hispanic marketing expert Isabel Valdes.

Just as Internet companies noticed an increase in Hispanic users, the attention of the broader corporate world was grabbed by recent census figures showing Hispanics as the country's largest and fastest-growing minority.

"We're growing and our market is growing with us," said Ingrid Otero-Smart, the president of the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies. "Our purchasing power is growing faster than our population is growing."

Despite an increased interest in tapping into the Hispanic market, Hispanic advertisers say spending remains inadequate.

The association released a report Friday recommending allocations far larger than the average 3.2 percent of marketing budgets spent by the top 50 companies targeting Hispanics in 2001.

The report found that Internet media companies have been a bit quicker in moving to woo the Hispanic audience than other industries.

Five years ago, Yahoo! launched a Web site catering to Spanish-speaking Internet users in the United States and abroad after following the traffic of its users, said Liz Sarachek executive director of sales for Yahoo's U.S-Hispanic division.

The November release of AOL 8.0 allowed users to register in Spanish, and more recently, the company unveiled Yahoo! Para Ninos, a section geared toward children.

Using the Internet as an entree to Hispanic markets makes it easier for companies to measure consumer trends and also allows them to access a more affluent segment of the population.

Hispanics still lag behind the general population in terms of Internet usage, according to a study released last year by the U.S Department of Commerce's Economics and Statistics Administration.

It found that about 68 percent of Hispanics did not use the Internet in September 2001, compared to about 46 percent of the total population.