General Motors Corp., Intercontinental Hotels Group, Coca-Cola Co. and film studio Lion's Gate will be featured on AOL Latino's welcome screen, throughout the premiere sports, music and entertainment areas, and participate in research and grass-roots events, said Peter Blacker, VP-international and U.S. Hispanic, AOL interactive marketing.
For Intercontinental, which has just hired independent Al Punto Advertising, Tustin, Calif., as its Hispanic agency and added a Spanish-language online reservations capability in November 2003, this is the first foray into online advertising to Hispanics.
"We were all surprised at the rate of adoption of Hispanic travelers-80% are already using the Internet for research," said Del Ross, director-global e-commerce service at Intercontinental Hotels Group. Hispanic travelers often travel in large family groups, booking several rooms for several nights, he said. That makes Hispanics an attractive target for Intercontinental's first multicultural efforts.
General Motors is a veteran of multicultural marketing.
"We tried to align the name plates with areas of interest [on AOL Latino]," said Jim Jandasek, director-advertising for the Chevrolet Motor division. "The Colorado is in sports and music, and the entry-level Aveo for young people is in a different genre of music. The Equinox sport utility launching in April will have a presence in the entertainment category."
Mr. Jandasek said he foresees the relationship growing as AOL Latino introduces an auto channel in the second quarter of 2004.
Since AOL has both English- and Spanish-language content, research could include noting whether Hispanics prefer to see ads in English or Spanish, and how that varies by the city they live in or the type of content they are accessing.
"You can test messages to see how Latino does you go," Mr. Blacker said.
Hispanic portals are adding content fast. Hispanic media giant Univision Communications' Univision Online introduced baby and health channels in November 2003. The leader in Hispanic online advertising, Univision reported online ad revenue of $9.9 million for the first nine months of 2003. Total spending on all U.S. Hispanic online advertising for 2003 is estimated at about $35 million.
"Ad budgets are way up," said a Univision Online executive. "For the last two quarters [our ad revenue] has grown at about a 65% clip. Advertisers spending more than $100,000 have grown from 16 in 2002 to close to 40 in 2003, and I think we'll have about 120 advertisers online in 2004."
Univision is starting to take advantage of cross-platform opportunities. Procter & Gamble Co. did an online sweepstakes to win a washing machine for Tide detergent using Martita, a popular character on a Univision TV show, both on Univision Online and in TV spots. Cars, personal finance and home improvement are Univision Online's hottest areas.
"It's a different platform than a year ago," said Liz Sarachek, Yahoo! en Espa¤ol's executive director for sales for U.S. Hispanic. "Finance is really growing, and we're seeing more interest from credit-card companies and banks, and all the portals will see more entertainment [marketers'] dollars."
Yahoo! en Español last month added a Spanish-language version of music platform "Launch," opening up opportunities for marketers, like branding pages in an advertiser's colors, she said. Last year, Target sponsored red pages on the English version.
AOL Latino, Yahoo! en Español, Univision Online and other leading Hispanic portals such as Terra have formed a Hispanic committee within the Internet Advertising Bureau. The group plans to appoint an ad agency and requests for proposals will be sent to shops in February, Ms. Sarachek said.