Multicultural: Marketers turn to celebrities to lure Hispanic consumers

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As more and more marketers sign up celebrities for their Hispanic advertising, the stars are increasingly names that anyone, Hispanic or not, would recognize.

In a McDonald's Corp. spot that broke last week on Spanish-language TV, Daisy Fuentes personifies the choices offered by the Dollar Menu. The ad opens with the words "Daisy on variety" and the commercial follows Ms. Fuentes' bilingual career from local weather girl on a New York Spanish-language TV station to VJ for MTV to actress. The endline is "Variety is the spice of life."

In fact, Ms. Fuentes is well known enough that her story was shot in both Spanish and English-language versions. The Spanish-language spot is airing in New York's tristate area and may go national. The English version will be introduced later in the general-market rotation.

more acceptance

"As more Hispanic artists come out in the mainstream, sometimes an idea crosses over," said Fernando Fernandez, senior VP-group account director at Bravo Group, New York, part of WPP Group. "It's brought about new thinking from clients about the overall use of Hispanic celebrities, because they do sell. There's more acceptance."

In late May, the general-market campaign for Viacom's Blockbuster Video by independent Doner, Southfield, Mich., featuring animated animals, will get a Spanish-language voice-over from actor Hector Elizondo and comedian John Leguizamo. They will recreate the roles of Carl, the calm, sophisticated rabbit, and Ray, the crazy guinea pig, originally voiced by James Woods and Jim Belushi.

For marketers entering the Hispanic market, stars can be a short cut.

"We see lots of new companies going into the Hispanic market who have never advertised before and one way is hiring celebrities," said Raul Mateu, VP at talent agency William Morris who represents many Hispanic personalities. "It seems like an easy way of getting instant credibility in the marketplace is using [the celebrity's] equity."

Tricon Global Restaurants' KFC earlier this month broke its first national Hispanic effort, a $5.3 million campaign starring Fernando Arau, the jovial co-host of Univision's top-rated morning show "Despierta America." In one Spanish-language spot by Adelante! Advertising, Los Angeles, a geeky family tries to impress their daughter's cute Hispanic boyfriend and dinner guest Jorge by serving all-American hamburgers for dinner. Mr. Arau appears with a bucket of spicy chicken and rescues Jorge from the bland, microwaved Anglo burgers. "Who was that?" the bewildered mother asks in broken Spanish.

"He's so warm and friendly and genuine and likable," said Michael Tierney, KFC's director-advertising and public relations. "It gives a certain approachability and credibility to your brand."

In print, Gloria Estefan's niece, actress Lili Estefan, did a "Got Milk?" ad for the California Milk Processors Board by Anita Santiago Advertising, Santa Monica, Calif.

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