Crossing Borders

As the demand for advertising that reaches the nation’s burgeoning Hispanic population increases, Hispanic agencies are struggling to find enough qualified professionals. And now, some universities are trying to help fill the void.

Carolina Milner, who in August received the first graduate certificate in Hispanic marketing awarded by Florida State University, says the FSU program helped her land a job as a project manager at Ryan + Deslauriers in Orlando, Fla. “They had never interviewed anyone with a certificate in Hispanic marketing,” she says. “All the employers I talked to were impressed.” Milner, 23, was born in the U.S. to Colombian immigrants.

FSU’s communication department began offering a graduate certificate in Hispanic marketing last year. This fall, it opened the Center for Hispanic Marketing Communication and began offering the nation’s first Hispanic marketing degree program, which allows undergraduates to obtain a minor in that subject.

“The U.S. is the second-largest Spanish-speaking nation in the world, and the pace of growth of this population far exceeds the base of true cultural knowledge and understanding of this population among marketing professionals,” says Felipe Korzenny, the center’s director.

A Mexico City native with a Ph.D. in communications research from Michigan State University, Korzenny left the private sector after two decades as a consultant on Hispanic and Asian marketing. He says he started the program in response to concerns Hispanic shops have about finding workers who understand the industry. At least two other universities—Southern Methodist University in Dallas and the University of California at Los Angeles—offer classes in Hispanic marketing, but nothing as comprehensive as FSU.

According to Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies statistics, Hispanic advertising is growing four times faster than other forms, and billings at Hispanic agencies will exceed $4 billion this year. The U.S. Census Bureau predicts Hispanics will comprise 24 percent of the U.S. population by 2050, up from its current 14 percent. The Selig Center at the University of Georgia estimates that the purchasing power of Hispanics will reach $1 trillion by 2008.

AHAA says it applauds the new program. “We welcome Felipe’s efforts with open arms,” says Jose Lopez-Varela, AHAA treasurer and managing director of Hill Holliday Hispanic in Miami. “It is key to our survival and growth.”

Lopez-Varela also is a founding member of the FSU center’s board of advisors. “It saves the agencies a couple of years in filling jobs,” he says.

Korzenny and wife Betty Ann, the center’s associate director, are the authors of Hispanic Marketing: A Cultural Perspective, which was released in September. The book is being used in courses at FSU as well as SMU.

Fry Hammond Barr in Orlando, which employed Milner as an intern last summer, gave FSU the first scholarship for the center. Pete Barr Jr., president and CEO of the shop and a 1984 graduate of FSU, says he recognized the need for a program from his experience trying to produce Hispanic ads for several clients. In exchange for his annual $2,500 scholarship contribution, he gets an intern from the program each summer.

Training Hispanic marketing experts in the U.S. will be more effective than the current system of importing them from Latin America, Korzenny says. Advertisers there target their work at the economic elite, while advertisers in the U.S. target immigrants often occupying the lower economic class. Also, U.S. Hispanics differ because of the influence of U.S. culture.

About 50 percent of the students enrolled in FSU’s program are not Hispanic. About 40 percent are white and 10 percent are black, he says.

Korzenny says he is offering to sell the naming rights for the center and is soliciting endowed scholarships.

“Private industry can play an important role in the development of the center while raising its visibility within the Hispanic marketing community,” Korzenny says.