MBNA Puts Hispanic Business Into Play

NEW YORK MBNA America Bank, the credit card company purchased last month by Bank of America, has launched a search for an agency to handle its U.S. Hispanic outreach, the company has confirmed.

Earlier this year, the Wilmington, Del.-based company contracted San Antonio-based Cartel Creativo to develop some Spanish-language creative and strategic marketing consulting for its planned outreach.

But MBNA America said it has also initiated a review to search for a shop to work possibly as its lead Hispanic agency.

Sebastian Vargas, project analyst for MBNA America, who is helping to organize the company’s plans for the U.S. Hispanic market, confirmed that a review has begun.

The company, a subsidiary of MBNA Corp., has historically focused its marketing efforts on cards branded and marketed through organizations, universities or associations. It now wants to step up its efforts with individual consumers, particularly Hispanics, said Vargas, an MBA who was hired eight months ago from his native Colombia, to improve the financial giant’s reach into the U.S. Hispanic market.

This month the company reported a 4 percent drop in its second-quarter earnings.

MBNA’s Hispanic work is being handled by two divisions in the company, a Hispanic business development unit and a business integration department. The latter will handle the company’s marketing and its search for an advertising agency.

New York-based The Bravo Group is participating in the review, according to sources. The agency said it is interested in the work, but senior management at the shop indicated they have not yet seen a request for proposal.

“We have a good deal of financial services experience and would be interested, but we haven’t been contacted as of yet,” said Gary Bassell, chairman and CEO of The Bravo Group.

Houston-based Lopez Negrete handles work for Bank of America, MBNA’s new parent company, but it has not been determined whether it will incorporate MBNA’s Hispanic work into what it is already doing in the market.

In 2004, the company spent $14 million on advertising in the U.S. general market, according to TNS Media Intelligence. Through March of this year, the company spent $23 million on domestic ads. No Hispanic spends were recorded for the company for the period ending Mach 31, according to TNS.