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¿Comprende? Hispanic Ad Execs Speak Out

It's estimated that 60% of major U.S. advertisers do not use Spanish-language advertising. According to a panel of media executives speaking at last week's Hispanic Television Summit in New York, however, there is evidence that new advertisers are steadily coming on board, albeit at a slower rate than expected.

And many others are getting the message that they need to do so as well or risk missing a huge marketing opportunity. (BROADCASTING & CABLE and sister publication Multichannel News produced the summit.)

Eduardo Caballero, chief executive of Caballero TV and Cable Sales, recalled a meeting with a major agency executive who predicted that Spanish-language TV wouldn't be around in five years. Clearly, the executive wasn't following cultural trends closely. But Caballero's larger point is that "it is still a struggle just getting in the door." Many companies still "lack the knowledge" they ought to have about the Hispanic market. Ultimately, however, most major marketers will target Hispanics, he said, "because it is in their business interests to do so."

Meanwhile, at a separate, Goldman Sachs media conference last week, usually tight-lipped Univision executives told attendees that their company's controversial acquisition of Hispanic Broadcasting Corp. will help convert non-believers at a faster pace.

The idea, they said, is to get the unconverted to buy radio first; it's cheaper, for one and has a longer history and track record. Once advertisers are hooked on radio, the tack would be to upgrade them over time to television.

"It's a huge opportunity," said McHenry Tichenor, who continues to run HBC as a unit of Univision. "We think we can accelerate that [conversion] rate with the merger." The strategy, he added, is to get advertisers to buy the notion that "the branding power of TV and the promotion drive of radio" will equal marketing success.

At the Hispanic Summit, Tony Ruiz, a partner in The Vidal Partnership, a New York-based ad/marketing agency, said that, "despite the economic environment in this country," advertisers have remained committed to fully executing their Hispanic marketing strategies. "Our budgets have held up," he said, adding that three of the agency's four largest new pieces of business—Wendy's, The Gap and Kohl's—were new entrants to the Hispanic market.

Having said that, Ruiz stressed that none of his agency's clients are "spending at levels they should be" in the Hispanic marketplace.

Lisa Contreras, managing director for Carat's multicultural office in New York, agreed that progress is being made but not quickly enough. "There are still a lot of categories that aren't using Hispanic advertising that should be."