What the Campaigns Got Wrong and Right in Reaching Hispanic Communities

The damaging Hispanic stereotype the ad game needs to address going forward

Don't miss ADWEEK House at Cannes, June 16-19. Join us as we celebrate our 45th anniversary and explore the industry's now and next. RSVP.

Hola advertising.

While this past weekend has allowed a lot of us to heal, breathe and feel seen again, there’s still a lot of work to do. Why? Because America continues to treat the Latino vote as a monolith. They see one Latino community, whereas we see multiple. This problem isn’t just happening in the realm of national politics; it’s happening in our own backyard.

We are Cuban American and Puerto Rican. We both identify as Latinx—but we don’t identify with the same community. When speaking about a plaintain dish, Laura Marie says, “mofongo.” I say, “fufu de platano.” This is why Latino/Hispanic/Latinx representation matters when advertising to different communities.

In this past election, the Republican party gained ground amongst Latino voters in Florida, in part due to the Cuban and Venezuelan demographic. But the young Latinx community came in strong for Democrats in Arizona and helped flip the state. While Biden’s campaign spent more on Latino outreach, this effort came in a little too late in the game. The Democratic party mistakenly assumed that Latinos would naturally vote against Trump; they soon realized wasn’t enough to gain their vote.

For Cuban and Venezuelan voters in Miami-Dade County, Trump’s anti-socialist message hit home for millions of voters who fled a Communist regime, while Biden came across as “Hispandering” when playing “Despacito” on his cellphone. Newsflash: Talk about real issues, not a Bad Bunny track.

All in all, however, both campaigns were successful in showcasing diverse Latinx groups in their regional and national campaigns. This is the future of advertising going forward.

Here’s where it’s not: Hearing political pundits claim “the Latino vote projections were off” in this day and age, has been extremely irritating to process. Let’s break it down for you, Van Jones style: “We have to stop acting like all Latinos and Latinas are the same people.” The political messaging for a Cuban-American voter is not the same messaging for a Mexican-American voter, a Colombian-American voter or a Puerto Rican voter, nor should it be.

For the record, we don’t all listen to mariachi music. We’re not all loud or speak with our hands. Many of us don’t eat spicy foods—and some of us don’t even speak Spanish.

Latinos make up the largest minority group in America. Brands pour millions of ad dollars to target these diverse communities, and agencies need to know how to appeal to their values. Because when you advertise to all Latinos, you advertise to no Latinos.

This past year, we’ve seen a recent push by the advertising industry to double down on DEI efforts. While there’s still much ground to cover, it’s important to keep in mind that representation across the Latino/Hispanic/Latinx demographic is what truly helps diversify the workforce. It’s not enough to have one token Latinx creative. It’s about promoting as much visibility as you can for all demographics—Dominican, Ecuadorian, Peruvian and many more. 

For starters, don’t assume we are all Latino or Hispanic, some of us identify as Latinx. And while several hail from North America, others are from Central and South America or the Caribbean, like Laura Marie and myself. Understanding these basic distinctions, makes a world of difference.

It’s these types of damaging misconceptions the ad game needs to address. Because for being such a woke industry, how they’ve handled Latinidad is anything but woke. A lot of Latinx creatives out there can relate, because this pressing issue has gone unchecked for far too long.