But, as business booms, Hispanic agencies find themselves under increasing pressure to beef up their staffs, especially at the lower levels where the workload has increased dramatically.
While there are entry-level jobs, are there also long-term opportunities?
To find out, we spoke to more than 40 executives in markets all across the country. And they made one thing clear: Hispanic agencies are a great place for juniors with some knowledge of Spanish to rev up their careers. In fact, they offer far more opportunities for growth than their general-market counterparts.
For one thing, even the largest Hispanic agencies don't have the kinds of layers found in the general market. That's partly because client budgets are tight, but it's also because the industry is so new there just aren't that many senior people available.
As a result, said John Kane, exec VP at IAC Advertising, Miami, "account people get more responsibility faster."
It's a point echoed by both account and creative executives. "Because we're more leanly staffed," said Maida Chicon, director of client services at New York's Fova, "a beginning account executive is involved in research, strategic sessions, client meetings right from the start."
There's also a chance to be exposed to more kinds of marketing activities. Amy Niederhauser, an account supervisor for Bromley, Aguilar & Associates, San Antonio, Texas, added that "juniors are exposed to more disciplines -- packaging, promotions, events and PR as well as advertising. So it's a super training ground."
TRAINING IS VITAL
Training is critical if entry-level people are to meet the heavy demands placed on them. In fact, the industry as a whole is concerned that candidates are properly prepared. Hector de Orci, president of both La Agencia de Orci & Asociados, Los Angeles, and the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies, said, "Training is one of our prime concerns. AHAA wants to get involved with curricular issues regarding Hispanic advertising to help students prepare themselves for their careers."
Not surprisingly, then, Hispanic agencies not only offer programs for junior media people, like those found in the general market, but they also provide the kind of hands-on training for creative and account people that most general market agencies no longer offer.
"We don't expect you to be bulletproof when you first start," noted Cat Lopez, a writer at Bromley Aguilar. "In fact, your real education starts the day you get here. Then before you know it you'll be teaching the next guy."
At Casanova Pendrill Publicidad, Irvine, Calif., Associate Creative Director Pepe Salas said, "We hire creative trainees and work with them on strategies, `concepting,' presenting. If they grab the opportunities, we look to keep them on."
ACC'T SERVICE CRUCIAL
Training is equally important for account service people. "Without training, people don't progress," said Joe Castro, a management supervisor at Zubi Advertising, Miami. Mindy Sue Price, group account director for Vidal, Reynardus & Moya, New York, agreed, saying, "I really spend a lot of my day teaching beginning [account executives] how to write memos, structure documents and formulate strategies and presentations."
And in contrast to general-market shops, where junior account executives often just focus on the day to day with little exposure to larger issues, Hispanic agencies said they help their juniors develop faster by involving them in key discussions with clients. Zubi's Mr. Castro said, "When we have any exchange with the client, we make sure we bring in the junior people to help them get a better understanding of how requests are made and how strategies are developed."
Entry-level account executives said such hands-on training pays off.
"When I first came here, a senior account person and even a partner always worked closely with me," said Nicole Hamilton, an account executive at Vidal Reynardus. "You see how they think and interact with the client. You learn a lot, and before you know it you're at a higher level then where you expected to be."
TRIAL BY FIRE
Despite the training and the attention, the junior people still say it often feels like a "trial by fire." And Vidal Reynardus' Ms. Price admitted that, while the rewards can be tremendous and the promotions can come much faster than in the general market, "there's no place to hide. So if you don't prove yourself to be good, you stick out like a sore thumb and could be let go much faster than in the general market."
But the risks and rewards are just as great for the agencies. The "Trust me, I'm Hispanic" buttons were thrown out long ago. Success now depends on having sufficient marketing resources and on having the right people to use those resources intelligently. So there's pressure to find strong candidates. Doing so could enable agencies to begin to grow their own senior executives in significant numbers. That would help solve a continuing problem and bode well for the future.
While there are challenges, agencies are nonetheless optimistic. With billings increasing, opportunities and salaries are increasing, too. And that's helping agencies find the people they need. Indeed, most expect to grow.
Said Bromley Aguilar's Ms. Niederhauser, "It's the future. If you can learn it, be good at it and get in with a great agency, you'll be the superstar of the next decade."
Mr. Robbs, formerly VP-co-creative director, DDB Needham Worldwide, Washington, is associate professor and director of the undergraduate advertising program at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Ms. Rose is associate professor in the School of Journalism & Mass Communications at Florida International University, North Miami, Fla.