A mix of new players is targeting the U.S. Hispanic market, from tiny startups like We Believers to general market agencies including Havas-owned Arnold Worldwide.
"When I believe in something, anything is possible," said Gustavo Lauria, who started We Believers with Marco Vega after the two recently left their jobs as managing partners at Vidal Partnership, a Hispanic agency that has suffered major client and staff losses in the last few years.
Mr. Lauria, a former creative director at La Comunidad, and Mr. Vega, whose background is in planning, are setting up shop in the stylish Neuehouse shared working space in Manhattan's Flatiron district. For one of their first pitches, they rented a house in Atlanta on Airbnb and cooked dinner there (black squid pasta with jalapeno peppers) for the prospective client as part of a long conversation about the U.S. market.
"The country is going through a co-creation process with the new mainstream culture," Mr. Vega said. "If you don't have your hands on the pulse, you're losing the conversation."
At Arnold, Christopher Campos and two other executives from WPP's Hispanic shop Y&R/Bravo have joined the agency. Mr. Campos is managing director, growth strategies and development; Marco Castro is VP, director of operations; and Hugo Castillo is VP, creative director.
"Our function is to offer clients cross-cultural marketing expertise, and if it requires Spanish-language capability, we can do that as well," Mr. Campos said. "I'm working across both [New York and Boston] offices to develop new offerings."
Havas may have the worst holding-company track record on Hispanic. After struggling for years with Euro RSCG Latino, Havas opened a multicultural unit called Totality based at Arnold's New York office with great fanfare and several high-profile hires. Eight months later, in June 2012, Totality was closed down.
"Totality was a separate silo or division," Mr. Campos said. "We're not creating an Arnold Latino division. We're creating a completely integrated agency team. We strategize from the get-go together."
General market agencies continue to raid Hispanic shops, and Hispanic agencies are increasingly recruiting non-Hispanics for senior jobs.
On the west coast, Deutsch last month lured Montse Barrena, a 20-year veteran of Hispanic agencies and an account director and partner at Grupo Gallegos for the last decade, to head its year-old multicultural practice DLAtino in Los Angeles as EVP-group account director. A big creative hire is expected soon. DLAtino does some Hispanic work for Deutsch clients Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Georgia Pacific's Angel Soft and Taco Bell.
Over at Ms. Barrena's former agency Grupo Gallegos, John Gallegos recently filled the chief creative officer slot, held by an Argentine creative since he started the independent agency in 2001, with a non-Hispanic, Marty Orzio.
"We're not trying to be a general agency," Mr. Gallegos said. "We want to be a good roster agency. Put us on a roster, and give us assignments. To do that, we've got to hire people like Marty."
Mr. Orzio isn't the first non-Hispanic at the agency. In the last two years, Mr. Gallegos has added an Australian, Andrew Delbridge, as chief strategy & engagement officer, and former BBH exec Joe Da Silva as managing director.
And on Sept. 29, the agency's first chief marketing officer starts work. Jennifer Rusin-Mull was a group account director at David & Goliath, with a business development role, and will drive that area at Grupo Gallegos, too.
"Hispanic has turned into the H-bomb word," Mr. Gallegos said. "There are all kinds of anxieties. The segment represents growth. The top talent should be focused on it, whether they're Hispanic or not."
After years working in parallel with Goodby Silverstein & Partners on the California Milk Processor Board, the client's latest work was done by mixing teams from both two agencies. Jeff Goodby led creative, and Grupo Gallegos' Mr. Delbridge led strategy and media, Mr. Gallegos said.
In another twist, Saatchi & Saatchi's Hispanic agency Conill went from a non-Hispanic chief creative, who left in June after two years, to an Argentine who was working as chief creative officer at FCB Garfinkel in New York following a job as FCB's regional creative director for Latin America. Javier Campopiano joined in August, and will serve as chief creative officer of both U.S. multicultural shop Conill and Saatchi's Latin American operations.
Elsewhere, Chicago-based Sylvia Cruz-Perryman leads Mcgarrybowen's Hispanic effort as account managing director, Hispanic marketing, since joining the agency in 2011 after leading Hispanic initiatives at Sears.