Advertisers Carve Out a New Segment
By Mireya Navarro / The New York Times
"Not one more bite, Cesar Luis," a young blond woman in a sequined,
strapless dress tells an attractive man as he lifts a pasta-laden fork
to his mouth, "until you fix me that Bustelo."
The ad, a spoof on Spanish-language soaps, or telenovelas, is for Café
Bustelo, a coffee brand that is familiar to many telenovela fans. But the
target market in this case is English-dominant, American-born and urban
in other words, the kind of bilingual, acculturated Latino who would rather
watch "The Simpsons" on Fox than the soaps that populate prime time on
Univision or Telemundo.
It is a market that has to a large degree been neglected by advertisers,
even though United States-born Latinos account for the fastest-growing
segment of the Hispanic population. Most marketers that create campaigns
for Hispanics generally run commercials in Spanish, aiming them at the
traditional segment of the market. Yet it is estimated that nearly 70 percent
of the overall Hispanic market is composed of people under 35, representing
more than $300 billion in purchasing power about half of all Hispanic spending.
"The way to reach these Latinos effectively can't be limited to Spanish
only," said David Chitel, chief executive of LatCom Communications, a media
and entertainment company in New York.
"It's not about language. It's more about culture." Mr. Chitel is part
of an organization, the New Generation Latino Consortium, that was formed
recently to help raise the profile of the demographic segment it calls
"new generation Latinos": second- and older-generation Latinos, from teenagers
into their 40's, who are bicultural but use mostly English-language media.
The organization, on the Web at nglc.net, comprises 18 Latino professionals
in media, advertising, entertainment, public relations and marketing who
would like the new-generation Latinos to be viewed as a distinct media
and marketing target.
"We recognized that we weren't really connecting with the audience"
in Spanish, said Alan J. Sokol, who until recently was the chief operating
officer for Telemundo. It switched its Mun2 cable network's programming
to mostly English from mostly Spanish. "A large percentage of young Latinos
live in an English-language world."
Some advertisers are already seeking the Hispanic who is comfortable
speaking and reading English or Spanish, either by placing general-market
ads in programs and publications aimed at the acculturated Latino or by
creating campaigns that use a mix of English and Spanish, images of Latinos
and cultural content that resonates with the intended audience.
For instance, a commercial for the Honda Civic shows a fleet of cars
in different colors with customized features like chrome rims and tinted
"The ad speaks to the culture that's about customizing your car," a
culture particularly popular with younger, urban Latinos, said Joe Bernard,
sales director for Mun2. Jorge E. Cano-Moreno, founder and publisher of
Urban Latino, said his eight-year-old magazine has become an easier sell
in the last two years for advertisers that now include Budweiser, Coca-Cola,
HBO, Heineken, Pepsi-Cola, Toyota and Volkswagen. He singled out a Budweiser
print campaign as particularly ingenious. One ad shows actual young Latino
consumers dancing at a club, holding beer bottles.
The ad reads: "March 14, 12:31 a.m. Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA.
Budweiser Asi Es," which translates to "It's like this."
One founder of the consortium, David J. Perez, president of the Lumina
Americas agency in New York, conceded that media outlets for bicultural
Latinos are still limited to a few magazines, cable networks, radio stations
and television series like "George Lopez" on ABC. (Another, "Welcome to
Tucson" on WB, is not returning for the 2003-4 season.)
"It's at the ground level," Mr. Perez said. Another problem, Mr. Perez
said, is that agencies that specialize in the Hispanic market have few
incentives to recommend that clients advertise to English-dominant Latinos.
Those that stress Spanish, he added, may risk losing assignments to mainstream
agencies. Aida Levitan, chairwoman and chief executive at Publicis Sanchez
& Levitan in Miami, part of the Publicis Groupe, and president of the
Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies, said she agreed that advertisers
use Hispanic agencies primarily for Spanish-only campaigns. But the main
reason most ads aimed at Latinos are in Spanish, she added, is because
"study after study demonstrate that Spanish is the most persuasive language"
for the majority of the country's Hispanic population, which is nearly
40 million people. "Definitely people use English, but does that mean they're
abandoning Spanish?" Ms. Levitan asked. "Not necessarily."
Hispanic agencies are already using some English in campaigns when appropriate,
she said, and marketing through events with crossover appeal to the different
Latino markets, like concerts. Some agency executives said they believed
that marketers must be aggressively pushed to use English if they want
sales for their products to grow among Latino consumers. "We have to stop
telling clients that they absolutely have to do it in Spanish," said Carl
Kravetz, chief executive at Cruz/Kravetz:Ideas, an agency in Los Angeles
specializing in the Hispanic market. Just as 20 years ago Hispanic agencies
were born by convincing advertisers of the need for Spanish-language ads,
Mr. Kravetz said, they must now "continue to look forward and continue
to keep our clients smart."