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AHAA’s Kravetz: Understanding the Latino Identity

Carl Kravetz is president of the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies in addition to heading his own marketing firm, Cruz/Kravetz Ideas. Kravetz has attempted to shift the industry conversation away from the English-Spanish debate and towards the nature of Latino identity. He recently spoke with Multichannel News contributor Luis Clemens about the language issue as well as the Hispanic cable industry. An edited transcript follows:

MCN: Are you sick of this whole English-Spanish debate?

CARL KRAVETZ: Totally, totally, totally — and I’ll tell you why. English and Spanish both have roles in communicating with Hispanics, but the question about whether you should do English or Spanish is tactical.

It is not strategic. It really doesn’t rise to the level where it deserves to become the central question around which our entire industry is built. It is only common sense and all we have to do is stick our heads out of our own offices and look at our own agencies and we notice immediately that people are speaking English, Spanish and some blend of the two. Pretending that it ain’t so doesn’t make it so.

The question then becomes, which segment of the Hispanic population are you trying to reach? What is it that they are like? How do they identify themselves? How Latino do they feel? Who are they, in other words? And then once you have figured that out, then you look at that particular segment and you make a decision. Do I do it in English? Do I do it in Spanish? Do I do it in some blend of the two?

The strategic question really needs to go more to the heart of what is the identity of the person you are trying to reach or the group of people you are trying to reach, and only then does the choice of language become a tactical decision you make.

MCN: Do you think the focus on the English-language cable networks for young Latinos has maybe unduly overshadowed the very real success of the Spanish-language networks?

CK: I don’t think unduly so. Look, I have to be very sanguine about this. If you are Univision or Telemundo or TV Azteca, you have to emphasize the use of the Spanish language because that’s who you are and you are selling advertising time in Spanish. If you are SíTV or MTV Tr3s, you are going to be saying somewhat different things.

SíTV is going to be saying, ‘[Hispanic youth] speak English.’ MTV Tr3s is going to say, ‘Guess what, we figured out they speak both, and it is just a matter of creating great content regardless of language.’ Those are sales tactics for people who have a very specific product to sell. It is important to them to make their points.

Sometimes it is a little hyperbolic and it gets a little over the top, and that’s fine. But as agencies, we’re in the business of maximizing our clients’ dollars in reaching out to the Latino population.

We have to do what’s right and not what is expedient. I think there is room for all of them.

As an advertising person myself, I know that advertising can go a little over the top in stretching a point.

To me, the problem is not so much that the English networks are overshadowing the success of the Spanish networks or that the Spanish networks are denying the existence of the English networks, or the need for the English networks.

Those are sales tactics, quite frankly. To me, the problem is that the entire discussion about our industry is being couched, is being dominated by these sales tactics instead of a more strategic thoughtful discussion taking place.

MCN: What do you make of the variations between Nielsen Television Index and Nielsen Hispanic Television Index in terms of ratings?

CK: I think part of it is simply debugging the system, getting enough information in. Any time anything is new, it is going to take a little while for it to stabilize. I wouldn’t get too excited about either increases or decreases quite yet.

This has only been running for six months. Not all of the competitors were being read. There are still a significant number of players, particularly the cable players, who are not being measured yet, and there is an economic issue on their behalf which affects that.

It is going to take a little while for the numbers to settle down and stabilize, which was another good reason to wait until next year to actually use it as the basis for negotiation.

MCN: You mentioned the Hispanic cable networks. Do you see an increased willingness to advertise on Hispanic cable and satellite or not?

CK: I can only really speak for my clients, and I do definitely see a shift and more willingness to advertise to Latinos on cable.

Our issue is always going to be making sure that we have good measurability and also that we have good qualitative data on just who the viewers are so that we are able to target, and that is getting better and better and better.

I know that we bought a pretty significant amount of cable this year on behalf of our clients.

It is still a very small proportion of our television buy, but in comparison to previous years, it is significantly larger.