General-Market Shops Snatching Up Hispanic Business

Recent Moves by Home Depot, Wendy's Causing Concern Among Specialty Agencies

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NEW YORK ( -- After years of trying to convince the mainstream world of the size and importance of the Hispanic market, Hispanic agencies are finding that one group has started to listen: general-market shops. Pressured by cost-cutting clients, general-market agencies are taking on Hispanic shops for a bigger share of the fast-growing Latino market.

With 2010 Census data likely to show big growth in the Hispanic population, the fight is likely to intensify as general-market agencies poach talent and specialty shops protect their turf.

The ad industry was stunned earlier this month when Home Depot moved its $37 million Hispanic account from incumbent Vidal Partnership to Richards/Lerma, a little-known Hispanic capability at Home Depot's general-market agency, Richards Group.

Separately, Unilever is doing a pitch to consolidate its Hispanic business that doesn't rule out participation by general-market agencies. "The business should go to whoever pitches it best," said Tatiana Hansell, senior brand manager-multicultural at Unilever.

Since then, Wendy's has started a review of its Hispanic business that requires contenders to forward their information to Wendy's general-market agency, Kaplan Thaler Group, according to a critical statement issued by the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies about both reviews.

In a reference to the Wendy's review, Joe Zubi, chief operating officer of Zubi Advertising, wrote in the agency's ZubiNation blog: "One RFP was actually sent to us by the person who heads up the account at the general-market agency. The first question was to describe how well we get along with general-market agencies. If that does not send a clear message that the Hispanic shop will follow the footsteps of Big Brother, I don't know what does. Not to mention that Big Brother can then figure out how best to approach the market and tell the client that they can do it just as well for less money ... does the name Home Depot ring a bell?"

Pitch to 'band together'
Javier Palomarez, president-CEO of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said he dispatched a letter April 14 to the CEO of Home Depot "voicing our disappointment and surprise," and sent copies to the Hispanic Chamber's 210 chapters across the country.

"As a community we have not done a good enough job of banding together," said Mr. Palomarez, who in the past headed multicultural marketing for Bank of America and early in his career developed Allstate's first Hispanic advertising. He said the chamber represents about 3 million companies generating more than $4 billion in revenue, with about 21% coming from businesses that work in fields such as construction, renovation and landscaping and are "great customers of Home Depot."

Although Home Depot represents the biggest Hispanic account to go to the least-known agency, other general-market agencies are gaining traction.

Havas Worldwide is hiring a top Hispanic creative director, Vidal Partnership's Mauricio Galvan, and Leo Olper, chief operating officer of Hispanic shop Lapiz, to build a Hispanic agency to serve Euro RSCG Worldwide and Arnold clients, replacing the moribund Euro RSCG Latino.

DraftFCB has assembled about 55 multicultural specialists at the agency's 1,100-person Chicago office, said Simon El Hage, senior VP-multicultural segments. Integrated in the general-market account teams, they work on multicultural business for the agency's general-market clients such as State Farm, Kmart and Taco Bell, whose Latino account it just stole from Hispanic shop Dieste. DraftFCB has even joined the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies as an associate member.

"Multicultural audiences are the pop-culture creators," said Ken Muench, who joined DraftFCB in December 2009 as senior VP-director of multicultural planning from leading Hispanic agency Grupo Gallegos. "You can't be a credible general-market agency without considering the multicultural segment."

One of the biggest changes shaping the market is the trend toward what many are calling the total market -- a melding of the general market and the growing multicultural market, partly due to the increasing numbers and influence of Hispanic and black consumers.

"Mainstream culture today is not the general market," Mr. Muench said. "It's a multicultural-inspired total market."

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