AHAA urges Latinos to register their clout

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In order to fuel a nearly 50% boost in Hispanic voter registration, and with it greatly increased Hispanic influence, the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies is expanding its already heavy media push to the Internet.

StarMedia Network has launched a site (www.latinvote.org) under the push dubbed "Voto." The site includes biographies of the candidates, position papers, Spanish-language coverage of the presidential race, links to state and local voter registration sites.

The Web site comes on top of a a humorous ad campaign via Casanova Pendrill Publicidad, Irvine, Calif., launched in August and airing on Hispanic media.

The commercials feature characters in situations where important decisions are made for them by other people. In one spot, a couple in a restaurant is told what they will have to eat and drink and, finally, what they will pay in check and tip. The spots are tagged "Inscribete vota tu eliges."

Horacio Gavilan, executive director of AHAA, said more than $5 million in time and space has been committed to the program by Hispanic media.

Only about half the 12 million Hispanic citizens are registered to vote and the overall aim of the effort is to increase registration from the current 6.6 million to about 8 million to 9 million, according to Juan Andrade Jr., president of the U.S. Hispanic Leadership Conference.

KEY ELECTORAL STATES

Mr. Andrade said the Hispanic vote could have a big impact on the outcome of the presidential election because of the high concentration of Hispanic residents in the key electoral states of California, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas.

"We felt last time there was a lack of enough resources to reach everyone," Mr. Andrade said. "We have to overcome the institutional barriers which have served to [get] people thinking their vote would make no difference."

Mr. Gavilan said AHAA looks at the overall effort as serving several needs of Hispanic consumers. Though the ad campaign is meant to encourage voter registration, it should be helpful in encouraging compliance with the U.S. Census.

"Our goal is to get people to go and vote and help the community," Mr. Gavilan said.

Officials of the ad group said higher Hispanic voter registration and a more accurate census count could give the community more political power, prompting marketers to spend more to reach Hispanics.

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