Energi Begets Energia for Latino Gen-Xers

LOS ANGELES Energi Creative Partners has formed a new division to help clients reach second- and third-generation Hispanics.

The division, called Energia, will target under-40 consumers who prefer to speak English but maintain family ties to Hispanic culture. The independent Los Angeles agency will dedicate 75 percent or more of its total resources to Energia, said Albert Sandoval, the shop’s president and creative director.

Clients already aboard include the Los Angeles County Museum of Modern Art, the Hollywood Film Festival, Good Guys electronics and a “national fast-food joint,” said Sandoval. Energia’s first campaign, which breaks in August, is a series of outdoor ads written in “Spanglish” for Los Angeles-based San Antonio Winery.

According to the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies, Hispanic market ad expenditures topped $3.4 billion in 2003. Until recently, however, many companies have attempted to reach the entire market by creating Spanish-language advertising for Spanish-only media outlets. Feeling disconnected by this approach, Sandoval—a 33-year-old family man whose grandparents moved here from Mexico—rhetorically asked his colleagues, “Who’s talking to us?”

“To me, it’s staggering,” he said. “All the money that’s been spent, and [the messages are] very likely not reaching a significant segment of the Hispanic market.”

Brands including Crest, Coors and Skittles, which have in the past relied on strictly Spanish-speaking ad campaigns, have begun to adopt new, demo-specific strategies to reach Latino Gen-Xers. Fast-paced, funny Coca-Cola ads, for example, feature English-speaking actress Selma Hayek, originally from Coatzacoalcos, Mexico; just last week, Burger King launched a spot in which an English-speaking Latino longingly recalls the “food mommy used to make.”

There may be resistance from “traditional Hispanic marketing agencies” fearful of deterring their current base, said Sandoval. But with the nation’s Hispanic population growing by 17 percent since 1999, according to the AHAA, he expects sufficient opportunities to take advantage of both Spanish and English ad campaigns.

Formed in 1997, Energi Creative Partners specializes in print, TV and radio creative. In addition to traditional media sources, the Energia division will incorporate buzz techniques such as street-level distribution, sponsorships and community involvement.