Many media buying agency executives can recall the days when
clients submitted TV commercials to air on Spanish-language networks that were
either exact duplicates of those shot for English-language nets -- only with
poorly done Spanish voice-over dubbings -- or spots filmed with English-speaking
actors sporting exaggerated, stereotypical mustaches, under the assumption
that facial hair would make them look like the Hispanic males the messages were
Those days are long gone. Today, there are more than 50 million Hispanics
living in the U.S. who spend about $1.2 trillion per year on consumer goods and
While there are many national advertisers that are not trying to reach Hispanic
consumers via Spanish-language TV networks, the marketers that are seem to
realize that pandering to stereotypes and making half-hearted attempts to reach
that audience with poor-quality commercials is not going to win consumers over.
Joe Zubi, CEO of Miami-based Zubi Advertising, one of the largest independent
multicultural agencies in the country, says more clients today are also tuning
in to the cultural differences between Hispanic and non-Hispanic consumers,
realizing that their brands need to reflect the discrepancies if they want to
properly target the Hispanic consumer. "When promoting certain types of trucks
to a non-Hispanic audience, the truck might be seen as a leisure, recreational vehicle.
But for a Hispanic family, it might be seen as a work-related vehicle," Zubi
offers as an example. "The commercial has to reflect that."
More and more marketers are not only shooting separate commercials for
Spanish-language TV audiences, but they are using Hispanic actors and celebrity
endorsers and filming commercials with cultural sensibilities that reach that
target audience in different ways than they do English-speaking viewers.
Marketers looking to save a bit on production costs often film commercials for
English- and Spanish-language television at the same time, shooting different
scenes with different ethnic casting, music and voice-overs, according to an
executive at Univision who did not want to speak for attribution. This process
can also save advertisers time and allow them to air both versions of
In addition to using authentic ethnic casting in commercials for Hispanic TV,
Univision also sees a trend where some major marketers and their creative
agencies are working closely with Hispanic networks to develop research that
helps uncover insights into producing more meaningful creative commercials
targeting Hispanic consumers.
In some instances, marketers and their agencies are even integrating Hispanic
consumer insights and sensibilities into their general-market creative
campaigns, so that they can develop a single campaign that works and targets
both Hispanic and non-Hispanic audiences.
About 70% of commercials currently airing on Hispanic television are produced
specifically for that audience, with the other 30% adapted in some way,
according to the Univision exec. The 70% represents the highest amount of
original commercial programming ever produced for Hispanic TV in viewers'
native language by advertisers.
There are even some instances where the Hispanic creative agency can be the
lead shop for both the Spanish- and English-language commercials, which is
currently the case for McDonald's Smoothies commercials.
Working toward that greater sense of quality, Univision will not accept dubbed
commercials if there is an obvious lack of proper lip-syncing, or if the
Spanish dialogue is not used in proper context.
Monica Gadsby, CEO of Starcom MediaVest Group Multicultural, chuckles when she
thinks back about 15 years, when American marketers were only beginning to
discover Spanish-language television. "It was very stereotypical," Gadsby
recalls. "Commercials using the grandmother as head of the household and using
non-Hispanic actors with big, droopy moustaches to represent Spanish looking
men. Those stereotypes are very less prevalent today. The clients and their
agencies all have a better understanding of what is relevant to this audience.
Today, the message defines the commercial-not the look."
Gadsby sees more experimentation going on with Hispanic TV commercials today,
with some major advertisers and their agencies creating ads in Spanish that are
airing on both English- and Spanish-language networks. And there are also
commercials with 100% Hispanic casts shot in English and airing on
English-language networks. That, Gadsby says, is because many more
English-speaking Hispanics are watching English-language television.
In some cases, a desire to reach this multicultural audience has resulted in
large advertisers such as Coca-Cola, Ford and Walmart working with
multi-creative agencies, Gadsby says. Clients will even issue a brief on
campaign goals to each of the agencies, with a final plan being hatched through
working with all of them. "There is more of a mandate by the clients today
that their agencies work together as a team," she says.
Steven Wolfe Pereira, executive VP of MediaVest's multicultural media and
marketing unit MV42Â°, says Hispanic ad sales represent the main revenue growth
driver for many of his agency's clients, adding that they "can no longer
use a cheap way to address such an important community." Pereira says
every one of his clients has an Hispanic creative agency.
Pereira says today the Spanish-language networks are more than willing to use
their ad and marketing research departments to help clients gain insight into
the consumers they are trying to reach. And, he says, commercials can be
bolstered by product integration deals offered in novelas by both Telemundo and
Univision, and that deals can also be worked out where network talent can make
appearances as part of brand promotions.
Both Pereira and Zubi say there is still room for growth by marketers producing
more commercials in Spanish.
"There is a tremendous upside still," Zubi says. "Among the top
500 brands, less than half are targeting Hispanic consumers and way less than
that are running TV spots."
Breaking it down further, Pereira says among those advertisers currently
running commercials on English-language television, only about one-third are
advertising on Spanish-language networks. "The marketers who aren't are
missing the boat," he says.
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