It used to be that advertising to the Hispanic segment of the population was simple.
When a client wanted to advertise to Hispanics, it hired (for the most part) a Hispanic advertising agency. The agency produced spots that were done in Spanish and broadcasted in one of the few Spanish media outlets.
Hispanics are becoming the largest minority group in 191 metropolitan areas, a fact that has the potential to shift the balance of power in the House of Representatives due to ethnic voting in states in the redistricting process.
No wonder we are becoming so sought-after. But are we really being courted the right way?
U.S. Latinos (and any immigrant for that matter) have adapted to the new habits of language and ways of doing things very rapidly in order to be competitive. However, we hang onto and cherish our traditions and value systems. We take pride in them and instill them in our progeny.
We are also not a race, but more of an ethnic group comprised of many countries of origin, each with its own regional segmentations due to education, economic status, political affiliation, religion, among others.
What is one of the common denominators among this vast group? Language! Spanish is not only related to our culture but it is also a way to enrich it. It just so happens that a very strong part of how Hispanics feel about our culture is attached to language.
Whenever Latinos get together, we speak in Spanish because it makes us feel comfortable and that we have a sense of connection; it happens naturally. In a mixed group of Latinos from different countries, even idiosyncrasies that may be regionally specific are easily understood.
There is much debate going on recently about whether the Spanish language is still as relevant as it was when most Latinos didn’t speak English. And by the same token, whether the traditional Hispanic advertising agencies are outdated.
An Associated Press-Univision poll relating to Hispanics and media consumption shows that U.S. Hispanics, including English-dominant speakers, turn to Spanish-language media on a daily basis.
- 90% of Spanish-dominant Hispanics watch some Spanish-language TV.
- 75% listen to Spanish-language radio each day.
- Among English-dominant Hispanics, nearly 4 in 10 said they consume either Spanish-language television or radio.
Why do Latinos, even English-dominant, continue to consume Spanish media? Aren’t many general market agencies now “speaking” Spanish? Why is it so complicated now to advertise to Hispanics?
It is crucial to understand that, in order to tap into the tremendous consumer and political power Hispanics represent (just like with mainstream Americans), we cannot be grouped together into a homogenous group.
The richness of knowledge that results from the merger of more than one culture and the resourcefulness that is required to adopt the acquired customers, positions multicultural individuals and organizations in an advantageous situation over monoculture ones.
If anything, Hispanic agencies — by their very nature of having to listen to and understand the needs of a brand in English, find the commonalities with their own personal experiences in Spanish, develop strategies that are relevant to a diverse target and create a message that conveys the original concept without losing all its complexity — should be seen as more able to “speak” to a diverse audience in any language. This is something that a mere translation cannot achieve.
So, are the Hispanic advertising agencies doomed? Only if they don’t speak English at work and Spanish when they go home.