Hispanic TV Summit: Growing Hispanic Market Awaits "Cultural Mind-Shift"

While the 2010 Census is very likely to back up Hispanic marketing executives claims that the increasing population will lead to a thriving consumer marketplace, advertisers may still be reluctant, according to a panel of marketing and sales executives at the 7th annual Hispanic Television Summit in New York on Sept. 23.

The Census numbers are certainly generating excitement among Hispanic marketers, but as Bromley Communications COO Jessica Pantanini says, "what really counts is the action that is taken by corporate America." Pantanini said marketers need to take the Census data but also approach advertisers with metrics that show increased Hispanic viewership means increased consumer spending in the market.

But on the advertiser side, she believes it will take a "cultural mind-shift" and a better understanding of Hispanic culture in order for buyers to see the market's blossoming potential.

Others on the panel, entitled "Media Buyers & Sellers: The State of Hispanic TV Media," agreed that lots of that potential lies in Hispanic cable. Andrew Capone, senior VP of marketing and business development for National Cable Communications (NCC), said cable could make a compelling pitch to marketers since the industry can layer its subscriber information (where customers live and how they consume their media) to help advertisers zero-in on specific audience segments.

And many marketers are seeing some positive signs despite the beleaguered ad climate. While many in the industry point to the fact that ad revenues slowed up in the Hispanic TV market for the first half of 2009-by around 7% (a sizeable dip, but smaller than the drop in the general market)-Capone pointed out that a decrease in Spanish-language media sales didn't necessarily mean advertisers weren't still getting at the Hispanic consumer. Capone said many advertisers were getting at consumers through multiplatform initiatives.

Peter Lazarus, executive VP of network sales at Univision, concurred, saying he expected the second half of 2009 numbers to indicate a rebound in the Spanish-language space. While acknowledging "we do have hurdles," Lazarus added that "the model is working and people are coming into the space."

Among the hurdles marketing executives in the Hispanic space have to contend with is the fact that corporations often have junior-level salespeople on Hispanic accounts, forcing marketers to often teach them "Advertising 101," as Pantanini joked. There are also generally high rates of turnover in those positions, making it difficult to build a relationship and long-term strategy for targeting Hispanic consumers at many corporations.

Still, many marketers have been encouraged by the newfound urgency of many companies to get to Hispanic consumers. Danielle Gonzales, senior VP and managing director of Starcom MediaVest's Tapestry division, said big-name clients like Procter & Gamble and Bank of America are stepping up their efforts to attract Hispanic consumers and acknowledging that they haven't always been great marketers to Hispanics. Gonzales is pleased to see that new level of thinking and hopes the company's understand "now is not the time to turn back."

VCI Solutions CEO Sarah Foss said she had some broadcast clients who faced up to 40% budget cuts. In the face of those numbers, she remains encouraged to see that dollars flowing into the Hispanic market haven't decreased as significantly. In today's market, that may be what Hispanic marketers can hope for, leaving them with a feeling of optimism followed quickly by caution.

"This is where the growth is," said Foss, before adding, "Flat is the new growth."

There was some disagreement among the panelists as to whether television was still the first place advertisers should go to attract Hispanic consumers. Capone cited Nielsen and said television was still the main driver of marketing message and consumer interest. Others said multiplatform content was already a strong driver of viewers and it was just a matter of time before advertisers started putting serious dollars into other forms of media.

"It's not television anymore," said Tom Maney, senior VP of ad sales at Fox Sports en Español. "It's content. What screen it comes from doesn't really matter." Gonzales agreed, saying that more money would flow to mobile and other digital devices when more long-form content became available on those platforms.

Capone, at least for now, disagrees. "No one is paying for it," he said. "The consumer wants it for free; the advertiser wants single-digit CPMs. It's a hobby; it's not a business." Capone said that until marketers and advertisers could settle on accurate ways to quantify the value of digital and mobile content, the dollars wouldn't flow away from TV.

But despite the difficulties, marketers still feel positive that 2010 will be a breakout year for the Hispanic market, with the Census and World Cup giving the population a chance to show its purchase power.

Said Univision's Lazarus, "With the Census growth, with the ratings, the story is there."