Advertisers chided for ignoring Hispanic market

By Steve McClellan

Marketers received harsh criticism from Hispanic specialists Wednesday at the 8th Annual Hispanic Television Summit 2010, presented by B&C and Multichannel News, part of Advertising Week in New York.
  “CMOs are unbelievably illiterate about the Hispanic consumer,” said Javier Palomarez, president and CEO of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. He said agencies and media companies would be “better served” to pitch company CEOs and CFOs their strategic marketing and communications ideas, given the “longer life span” of those executives in their roles.
  Even brands who play in the space received backhanded compliments. Take Levi’s, for example. The iconic jeans maker kicked off its first Hispanic media campaign this week with a 10-episode brand-integration series on Discovery en Espanol called Norte a Sur: Una Ruta, 5 Experiencias. (See the trailer above.) It did pretty well, too. According to Diane Jones Lowrey, director of diversity marketing and operations at Levi’s, the show scored the second best rating among adults 18-34 of any program in prime time last Saturday. Lowery said the series, about five young-adult U.S. Hispanics traveling along the Pan-American Highway, is intended in part to invoke the “pioneering spirit” that has long been associated with the brand. But Daija Arias, svp of RCN International Distribution, said Hispanics have been wearing Levi’s for years yet the company “considers itself a pioneer for coming into this market” now. Clearly, the notion of pioneering “depends on your perspective,” she said. Still, Arias credited Lowery for convincing the company to participate in the Hispanic ad space, even if belatedly. “I hope it does really well,” she said of the campaign, which includes online and social-media elements and traditional 30-second spots.

  Others noted inherent biases in the general-market sector. “There is not a CMO in America who will argue against the buying power” of Hispanics, said Antonio Ruiz, partner and chief strategic officer at the Vidal Partnership. The problem, he said, is “they believe those controlling the buying are being reached by the general market and that the Spanish media consumer is less valuable.” That perception, he said, “is the single biggest thing working against their own success.”
  Alain Groenendaal, president and CEO at Wing, a unit of WPP, said marketer behavior is unlikely to change unless compensation models are altered in a way that “rewards them specifically for bringing in multicultural business,” a model that is not widespread at this point.
  Ruiz added that procurement specialists, so good at cutting fees paid to agencies, should take a hard look at why the general upfront broadcast TV market grows year in and year out almost without fail when the audience for that market has been continually shrinking. At the same time, he said, they should investigate whether their companies are underfunding Hispanic media relative to that sector’s “contribution to their business.”