Hispanic TV Summit: Spanish-Language Marketing is Sensitive

Cable-operator and satellite-TV marketers shared stories about targeting Hispanics – whether to go Spanish-only or bilingual in messages, how to stretch niche-marketing dollars in a down economy – at a Hispanic Television Summit session Sept. 23 that even put a Time Warner Cable executive on the spot over the company’s choice to hire a non-Hispanic marketing agency to promote its El Paquetazo package.

David Gray, TWC’s regional VP of marketing and sales in New York City, where the 138-channel, $35 El Paquetazo launched in June, said the cable operator expected “it was going to be a little controversial” when TWC opted to run bilingual commercials to promote the big mix of English and Spanish-language programming. Broadcasters were expected to resist running such ads, he said, but TWC ended up getting “much more pushback” from Spanish-language programmers. So the company had to develop a Spanish-only campaign for those networks.

Moderator Laura Martinez, a Multichannel News contributing editor, observed on the panel that some Hispanic-focused media agencies in Miami, Fla., were unhappy that TWC opted for Gotham Inc., instead of a Hispanic-specializing agency, to roll out the El Paquetazo message (which launched first in Los Angeles). Gray was asked about that choice by an audience member, and essentially said the company wanted a bilingual message and Gotham was ultimately selected.

Philip Polk, director of segmentation marketing at Cox Communications, said Cox targets Hispanics in TV commercials in Spanish – but sends printed material to the home in both Spanish and English. Some customers don’t like being targeted in English and others don’t like being marketed in Spanish, he said. “You can’t win,” he said. But as demographics and language usage evolves within U.S. Hispanic homes, marketing pitches must evolve. So does the programming mix: Cox first launched a Hispanic tier about five years ago with an all-Spanish lineup, and later added English language channels, Polk said.

John de Armas, VP of WorldDirect (international-language channels) at DirecTV, said for “clarity” DirecTV prefers to do its marketing to Hispanics all in Spanish. “I’m Hispanic and selling to a Hispanic audience, I like to use Hispanic media and speak Spanish to them,” he said.

Polk said that when marketing budgets tighten up, Hispanic marketing budgets really tighten up because the audience is smaller. To stretch dollars further, he adds bilingual messages and casts Hispanics in general-market advertising.

“What we have been able to prove is when you create these [bilingual] spots properly, you will not alienate the general audience but you will bring on many more Hispanics than you would have,” Polk said. It’s also vital that customer service agents and field installers also understand the package, and the language, he said.

As with all marketing, the more relevant the message, the better. Christine Clavijo-Kish, senior VP of multicultural markets for PR Newswire, gave ESPN Deportes high marks for packaging baseball content (including a Major League Baseball game and a documentary about Cuban pitcher Luis Tiant in a bilingual way that appealed to Caribbean Hispanics.

“ESPN really knows how to hone in on what Hispanics they want to talk to,” Clavijo-Kish said.

She also credited History en Espanol for messages that touch on Hispanics’ desire for their children to achieve more than their parents (the theme of “aspiration”). “It ties the brand back to a consumer insight,” she said.

The summit, an annual event sponsored by Multichannel News and Broadcasting & Cable, concluded Sept. 24 at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Times Square.

Kent Gibbons

Kent has been a journalist, writer and editor at Multichannel News since 1994 and with Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He is a good point of contact for anything editorial at the publications and for Nexttv.com. Before joining Multichannel News he had been a newspaper reporter with publications including The Washington Times, The Poughkeepsie (N.Y.) Journal and North County News.