Ads Targeting Hispanics FinallyLose Their Bad 'Stache

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 moustaches, under the assumption that facial hair would make them look like the Hispanic males the messages were targeting.

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 services.

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 mutlicultural 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 commercials concurrently.

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 MV42°, 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.