Latino Branding Guru Looks to Boost Batanga

Rick Marroquin Joins Multimedia Company After Five Years at McDonald's

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NEW YORK ( -- One of the leading Hispanic marketers, McDonald's Corp.'s Rick Marroquin, has left the chain to try out his flair for brand-building as chief marketing officer of Batanga, a small but fast-growing Hispanic multimedia company best known for its online radio network.

"I'm the first marketing employee they've ever had," Mr. Marroquin said. He plans to change that quickly.

Building from scratch
Mr. Marroquin is building a marketing department from scratch and is about to issue a request for proposals to hire Batanga's first ad agency. The move of a seasoned marketer to the Latino operation adds credibility to a Hispanic online market that is growing faster than the general market but is still small -- estimates range from $150 million to $200 million a year in ad revenue -- and needs more research.

"Rick is starting work on integrating all the pieces-Latino print, events and online-into a consistent brand message across all those platforms," said Batanga CEO Rafael Urbina. "Batanga has been pretty much an organic brand that's grown with its audience. Now we want to shape that and send it out to a wider audience."

Batanga diversified beyond Latino online radio with the November 2006 acquisition of LatCom, renamed Batanga Live, which specializes in events and publications for the college and high-school students, who are the biggest users of online social networks, a key area for Batanga. Last month the company started My Batanga, and about 40,000 people signed up in the first few days, Mr. Urbina said. My Batanga lets users take Batanga content and create their own radio stations, put content on their profile pages and create groups around special interests.

Among giants
Batanga is the only independent company among the top 10 Latino sites, Mr. Marroquin said. The Hispanic online market has been dominated by Spanish-language media giant Univision Communications' Univision Online. Univision is followed by AOL Latino; Yahoo Telemundo, a recent merger between Yahoo en Espa¤ol and Spanish-language TV network Telemundo's sites; and Terra.

At McDonald's, the Latino marketing role will be taken over by Cristina Vilella, 39, who becomes director-marketing for U.S. Hispanic. McDonald's was the seventh-largest Hispanic advertiser in 2006, spending $81.1 million on Hispanic media, up from $70 million in 2005, according to TNS Media Intelligence.

Ms. Vilella, who is Puerto Rican, has been on McDonald's Hispanic Consumer Market committee for several years and was most recently division marketing director for McDonald's central region. She started working on McDonald's in 1998 at Leo Burnett, where she managed the agency's business for McDonald's Latin America in seven countries. She joined McDonald's in 2001 and has been marketing director for Puerto Rico, among other roles.

Like Ms. Vilella, Mr. Marroquin started working on McDonald's on the agency side, spending five years at the marketer's Hispanic agency, Del Rivero Messianu DDB, Miami, before moving to McDonald's five years ago.

Staffing plans
At Batanga, Mr. Marroquin plans to staff up by hiring a consumer-marketing director, a public-relations-focused marketing manager, several people dedicated to trade marketing within the music and media industries, and a research director to add much-needed insight into Hispanics' online habits.

"Everyone knows how many unique visitors and how much time is spent on a site, but no one can tell you why," he said.

Mr. Marroquin is moving from Chicago to Batanga's headquarters in Coral Gables, Fla., where Batanga is headquartered. (His wife, Elena Marroquin, who is VP-director of strategy at Publicis Groupe's Tapestry, the largest multicultural media-buying group, is relocating to Tapestry's Miami office.)

Mr. Marroquin, 35, said he has always had a passion for music, as well as soccer and family.

"Everything Latinos are supposed to be about is me," he said.
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