Study: To Reach Bicultural Latinas, Go Mainstream

Traditional Hispanic media may not be the best way to reach bicultural Hispanic women in the U.S., according to a study being released this week by Latina Media Ventures and Roper ASW.

Eighty percent of Latinas polled who speak both English and Spanish and are fully acculturated prefer English-language television or have no preference for Spanish programming, the study found. When listening to the radio, surfing online or reading magazines, three-quarters or more of respondents likewise choose English media or have no preference (see chart).

For the study, 1,014 Hispanic women and 500 women in the general population were interviewed by phone in November and December.

While all Latinas watch about the same amount of television, bicultural women—who make up more than half of the 9 million Hispanic women aged 16-49 in the U.S.—consume more media overall: 15 percent more listen to the radio, 13 percent more read newspapers, 16 percent more use the Internet, and 9 percent more read a magazine every day.

“When Hispanic agencies first came into the marketplace, there was a certain push that everything had to be in Spanish,” said Beth Press, publisher of Latina, which caters to a bicultural readership. “Now, there are experts in all segmentations, and a study like this helps them say, ‘Here’s how we reach first-, second- or third-generation Hispanics.’ “

The question facing advertisers targeting Hispanics is not reach but whether English-language media can motivate Hispanic consumers. While Hispanic-agency executives acknowledge a need to incorporate more English-language media, they caution against abandoning the Spanish-dominant approach.

“There is certainly room in the market for more targeted messages to bicultural Hispanics,” said Liz Castells-Heard, president and CEO of independent Castells & Asociados in Los Angeles. “But I would argue that it should not come at the expense of Spanish-language media.”

Bicultural Latinas represent a segment “that’s been ignored,” noted Rosa Serrano, svp and group account director of multicultural at Interpublic Group’s Initiative. But Jorge Percovich, managing director of Havas’ multicultural unit, MPG Diversity, said that “a broad demo doesn’t tell the whole story, because the younger the demo, the more acculturated the audience is.”

Castells noted that growth in Spanish-language media is up 17 percent year-over-year and English-Hispanic is up 8 percent. Her shop uses a combination of media, buying Spanish-language first.