AOL Introduces Hispanic Service

NEW YORK In its second market niche play in less than a week, America Online today introduced a service targeted at U.S. Hispanics who are bilingual and Spanish-dominant speakers.

Called AOL Latino, the service offers Spanish-language programming in the content areas of news, sports, entertainment, music and lifestyle. Some material stems from partnerships with on- and offline publishers such as La Opinion, Merriam-Webster’s Spanish-English dictionary, People en Espanol, Univison Online and, among others.

The move is part of AOL’s effort to appeal to different audiences by tapping into their unique interests with distinct programming. Earlier this week the Dulles, Va.-based Time Warner Internet unit unveiled its KOL service for 6- to 12-year-olds [IQ Daily Briefing, Sept. 29]. Later this fall it plans to roll out another for teenagers called Red.

“The biggest aim is to create a home and community for Hispanics online,” said Peter E. Blacker, vice president of international and U.S. Hispanic interactive marketing at AOL. “Our name is America Online and we have a responsibility to reflect the portrait of America.”

Increasingly, U.S. Hispanics are representing a larger piece of that portrait. There are more than 40 million Hispanics in the U.S., or about 13 percent of the overall population, and at a 5 percent annual growth rate, that number is expected to exceed 50 million by 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Of that segment, there were about 12.4 million online in January 2003, according to comScore Media Metrix. AOL claims 2.4 million U.S. Hispanic members.

“They are growing at a four-times faster pace than the general market,” said Paulo Lemgruber, executive director of international and U.S. Hispanic interactive marketing at AOL. “That’s an opportunity for marketers.”

Indeed, more than 27 advertisers participated in the AOL Latino beta test, including Procter & Gamble, Heineken and the U.S. Army, reported Blacker.

As a part of the launch, AOL Latino plans to offer four or five charter advertisers category exclusivity during the first quarter of 2004, said Blacker, adding that these deals are still being hammered out. The launch-sponsor program also will include “roadblocks” on the Welcome Page and premier placements on the sports, music and entertainment areas of the service. Other marketers will be able to advertise in other areas of the property.

A new campaign touting AOL Latino is expected to break in November from Casanova Pendrill, the Irvine, Calif.-based Interpublic Group shop that handles the Hispanic portion of AOL’s ad account. A TV effort, due to run on Univision Networks, will be supported by print, radio, direct mail, grassroots and online advertising.