Powering up Internet en Espanol

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When raul lopez took the job of director of sales at Yupi.com, a Spanish-language portal, he faced a culture change.

After 11 years in advertising sales with The Miami Herald, Mr. Lopez now faces more interest from advertisers and agencies than he did at any time during his days in the print world.

"You can tell how hot something is by the number of questions you get at the end of a presentation," he says. "The Spanish-language agencies are realizing they have a brand new Spanish-language medium out there."

Yupi.com boasts placements for BellSouth Corp. and Fox Sports.


If the years spanning 1996 through 1998 were the age of enlightenment for Hispanic print, where more than a dozen new Spanish-language titles debuted, then 1999 must be the Year of the Hispanic Web.

Recently ElSitio.com and Consejero.com expanded their offerings to include the U.S. Hispanic market along with the Latin American region. El Sitio also filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for an IPO.

Intelligent Life Corp.'s Consejero.com just launched the first leg of a campaign via del Rivero Messianu Advertising, Coral Gables, Fla. The personal finance site's commercials will air on Telemundo and Fox Sports World Espanol in the U.S. and Latin America. Print supports the effort.

Last month Espanol.com broke a $10 million multimedia campaign in Puerto Rico, Mexico and the U.S.

Univision reportedly won't be airing dot-com commercials because it doesn't want to promote rivals to the Web site it is about to launch.

"They don't accept Web site advertising," says Luis Miguel Messianu, chief creative officer for del Rivero. "We can agree or disagree, but we have to respect their policy."

For now, marketers are turning to Telemundo and other TV outlets.

About 33% of the estimated 32.4 million U.S. Hispanics own a computer, compared with 43% of general market consumers, according to Tomas Rivera Policy Institute. Another 27% of Hispanics plan to buy a computer in the next 12 months. Some 3 million U.S. Hispanic households are online, vs. 29.4 million general market households, according to Forrester Research.

Additionally, the institute says 20% of Hispanics have Internet access at work. More important for marketers, some 12% of Hispanics have bought something over the Internet, the institute noted.

What's more, some 70% of U.S. Hispanics are under 35 -- a prime age of decision making and brand loyalty -- according to research from StarMedia Networks, an Internet service targeting U.S. Hispanic and Latin American audiences. Some 75% of U.S. Hispanic households earn $35,000 or more, and between 1994 and 1998, PC penetration outpaced that of the general market two to one, the company reports. In fact, some credit StarMedia for making the market fertile for widespread acceptance of Hispanic and Spanish-language Internet. From Hispanic consumers to investment bankers to marketers hoping to use a Web-based campaign to hit the audience, StarMedia introduced a diverse audience to the new medium, says Greg Gendron, managing director at Real Media, Miami, an interactive media buying and consulting company serving the U.S. Hispanic and Latin American markets.

"They've done a really good job educating the market," he says. "They've given a face to that market. It really paves the way for everyone else."

In fact, what began as a Latin America-focused service has evolved to include the U.S. Hispanic market.

It's a market too large and influential to ignore, says Adriana Kampfner, senior VP-global sales with StarMedia. Since its debut in 1997, the online service has worked to introduce others to the buying power of Latin America. Now, much of its focus is turning to educating marketers to understand the potential of the U.S. market, she says.


"Many people underestimate the U.S. Hispanic audience in many industries, and the Internet is no exception," she says.

For marketers, the Internet provides a powerful targeting tool. For StarMedia, its service targets Hispanics by the nation they live in. Similarly, services operating in the U.S. can provide content based on the city in which the user lives and their historical or cultural context.

The next move will be to hit Hispanics by language of preference, adds Barbara Sargenti, VP-marketing and sales with Quepasa.com. The service debuted earlier this year offering viewers a choice of Spanish or English content.


Research has shown that young Hispanics in the U.S. prefer surfing in English, she says and adds the ability to focus content on the market's dominant language will set the Internet apart from traditional media.

"A lot of the money historically was spent within a language preference," Ms. Sargenti says. "Now you have a property where you can get the whole market. It's affinity marketing."

Ms. Sargenti hopes to tap the $1.7 billion spent against the segment in the U.S. alone last year.

"While people talk about Latin America, there's not as much spending there. The U.S. market brings tremendous opportunities for transactions, building awareness and traffic for a major advertiser," says Ms. Sargenti, who has held posts with America Online, Prodigy Communications and IBM Corp.'s interactive division.

Cultural Internet is emerging much like cable did in the 1970s and '80s, says Tony Dieste, president-CEO of Dieste & Partners, Dallas. Dieste launched an interactive division, Samba Interactive, earlier this year. Specialty channels like ESPN, MTV, Food TV and The Golf Channel emerged as the market grew to support them, he says.

"The power of that is huge," Mr. Dieste says. "You are going to see a global Hispanic market emerge. You have to put yourself in the immigrant mentality."

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