Old Navy to Tailor Message to Hispanics

Old Navy’s Family Feud-parody spot may have conjured up cozy memories of cheesy ’70s game shows to general-market audiences during last year’s holiday season, but the references were likely lost on many Latinos who had never heard of the show. This Christmas, they will be able to relate to Old Navy in Spanish, as the Gap Inc. chain will launch its first Hispanic campaign to woo what is becoming a key market for retailers.

The San Francisco-based client is expected to choose an agency this week to develop the TV effort. Last week it heard strategic and creative presentations from independent The Vidal Partnership in New York and Omnicom Group-backed Dieste Harmel & Partners in Dallas. Gap representative Claudia Hawkins said the client’s new svp of marketing, Susan Wayne, is participating in the process.

Old Navy is one of the top five sportswear brands purchased by Hispanic families and teens, according to Cambridge, Mass.-based STS Market Research. In 1998, only 5 percent of Americans of Hispanic origin shopped at Old Navy; as of last fall, 21 percent said they shopped there, according to New York-based Mediamark Research Inc. Irma Zandl, president of marketing consultancy The Zandl Group in New York, said Latinos find its value pricing and the large size of its stores appealing.

The Hispanic assignment is consistent with the client’s strategy of targeting specific consumer segments to complement its overall message, an Old Navy rep said, declining further comment on the review.

Old Navy’s in-house general- market work, with its insistent pop-culture references—it has also parodied Green Acres and The Brady Bunch—is likely having “some degree of Hispanic success” because of its hip flavor, said Victoria Varela, CEO of San Antonio independent Cartel Creativo. (That shop has handled the Latino account for JCPenney—which spent about $25 million in Hispanic media in 2002, according to Hispanic Business—for nearly nine years.) But, she added, “if stores like Old Navy have not reached out to me and showed me how I as a Latino am satisfied intrinsically by the shopping experience, it doesn’t matter if you tell me it’s cool.”

Other clothing retailers—including Sears, Wal-Mart, Kmart and Kohl’s—are already marketing to Hispanics, and statistics help explain why. For one, Hispanic women spent 0.86 percent of their median household income on apparel from April 2001 to April 2002, a larger share than the 0.76 percent spent by American women overall during the period, according to MRI.

Old Navy spent $150 million on ads last year, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus. Spending for the Christmas Hispanic effort was undisclosed. Omnicom’s PHD in New York and San Francisco handles media.

With same-store sales up 11 percent in June, compared with a decrease of 4 percent at the same time last year, Old Navy is outperforming the Gap and Banana Republic divisions.

Among Old Navy’s competitors in the Latino arena, Sears spent about $40 million in Hispanic media in 2002, the sixth-largest budget for that market in the U.S., according to Hispanic Business, and Wal-Mart spent about $20 million.