New Carat unit offers ethnic media expertise

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While the Rev. Jesse Jackson builds his Rainbow Coalition in the political arena, in the world of advertising, David Verklin, CEO of Carat North America, pieces together a mosaic.

The latest tile in Mr. Verklin's floorplan is Carat Multicultural, a new division launched last week that will focus on Hispanic, African-American and Asian audiences. "My vision of media in the future looks like the tiles in your bathroom floor, with lots of different components," Mr. Verklin said.

The new division will be based in the agency's Los Angeles office. John Barnes, exec VP-managing director of Carat, Los Angeles, will oversee the unit's operations; Elsa Antonia Saldana, formerly a freelance consultant and a partner at Cruz/Kravitz:Ideas, Los Angeles, will head the division as senior VP-director of multicultural services. "Elsa worked with us before on a consulting basis," Mr. Barnes said. "We were very impressed with her knowledge of the multicultural market."


Ms. Saldana has 20 years experience in the media business, having also worked in media at then-called Grey Advertising, New York; GSD&M, Austin, Texas; McCann-Erickson Worldwide and Young & Rubicam, both Los Angeles; and Mendoza Dillon & Asociadoes, Newport Beach, Calif.

"In the future, the ethnic market is not going to be a minority," Ms. Saldana said. "So it's important that this market be looked at long-term, because this is where future sales are going to come from."

According to Carat, the Hispanic, African-American and Asian populations in the U.S., combined, are expected to grow by 75% to 140 million by the year 2020.

The agency is already working on a multicultural assignment for Church's Fried Chicken, and others will soon be on board. "There are other clients within Carat that have expressed a desire to develop a multicutural plan," Ms. Saldana said.

At the outset, the agency will focus on Hispanic media buying. Ms. Saldana expects to outsource the Asian component of the business. Asian media buying "is a very specialized area," she said.

One of the agency's greatest challenges, according to Ms. Saldana, will be to get involved earlier in advertising campaigns with creative agencies of record so that the work reflects the culture rather than simply translates it. "That is part of our overall marketing advisement that would happen at the client level. I've already met with one creative agency of one of Carat's clients, they were hired to do the Hispanic creative. We saw it and we talked about several things."


Although many multicultural creative shops and divisions of larger agencies have surfaced over the past few years, few are associated with media agencies. Starcom Media Services is one of a few sizable media companies with a unit devoted to multicutural planning and buying.

"This is the first time that I have heard of a division devoted to multicultural media. But if you look at the industry on a wide basis, it's not [surprising]. The Hispanic marketplace is so much richer and as multifaceted as the general market these days," said Dolores Kunda, president of Chicago-based Lapiz, the Hispanic division of

B Com3 Group's Leo Burnett USA.

"How can you build a media services company," Mr. Verklin asked, "if you're not recognizing that 25% of the population speaks Spanish? At least that's what the projections are in the next 35 months. What we're doing is trying to manage all of the customer connection points."

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