Advertisers stay out of immigrant debate...for now

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Marketers and agencies are anxiously watching the debate over the fate of an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants-a sizeable part of the 40 million-person Hispanic market. So far, none have spoken out, but the topic dominates Hispanic media.

Los Angeles-based cable channel SiTV, whose tagline for targeting acculturated Hispanics is "Speak English, live Latin" started airing 15-second spots April 10 featuring footage from the Latino demonstrations in Los Angeles.

"Our audience was speaking," said Ed Leon, SiTV's senior VP-programming and production. "The people we're programming to were making a point. SiTV is here to give a voice to that community."

Each of the four spots superimposes well-known words from Cesar Chavez over footage of the recent marches, followed by the phrase "Many voices. One community."

Mr. Leon, who said his own family came to the U.S. from Cuba when he was 6 years old, said SiTV has been talking to people at the demonstrations and will start airing spots using their words after May 1.

"Advertisers will in some ways be forced to take a stand on these issues, like personnel practices [because] companies like Wal-Mart and Tyson rely heavily on immigrants," said Carlos Garcia, president of Garcia Research Associates. "Advertisers are watching this play out but don't really know where to go or what to think."
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