Ford Motor Co.'s Ford Division broke creative work early this month from its Hispanic shop, Zubi Advertising in Coral Gables, Fla., and its African-American shop, UniWorld Group, New York, on national broadcast and cable TV. Also, the auto marketer's general-market agency, WPP Group's J. Walter Thompson USA, Detroit, has included more non-white actors in its mainstream commercials for the F-Series pickup truck.
"That's the face of America," says Francisco "Cisco" Codina, general marketing manager of Ford Division since March. "The latest census numbers give it credibility in the business world."
Mr. Codina, former president of Ford Argentina and a Cuban-American, explains his multicultural strategy: The brand plans to reach Hispanics and African-Americans through "mainstream media" as well as more targeted media. "It's a parallel strategy. It's about connecting with the consumer in the way they want to be connected with."
Americans of all backgrounds, he explains, will tune in to sports fare such as Major League Baseball and National Basketball Association games, as well as pop-culture programs such as NBC's "Friends."
`A LIFETIME OF PROSPECTS'
The U.S. Hispanic population almost doubled from 19 million in 1990 to 35 million a decade later, says Tim Swies, the exec VP overseeing Ford's account at Zubi. But the size of that group isn't what's vital-it's that a third of the Latino population is under 18 years old. "That's a lifetime of prospects," he says.
In Zubi's spot for the Ford Focus, a young man makes a series of stops to pick up not one but four dressed-up young women for a date. None of them is at all pleased to see the others, but the commercial ends with the question: "What would you do with room for five?" Although it's particularly relevant for Hispanics, who tend to have larger families, the message that the car has space could appeal to anyone.
Ford is somewhat of a leader in this arena. Don Coleman, president of Don Coleman Advertising, Southfield, Mich., says the division was running African-American ads in the mid-1980s on national TV networks when he worked on the account at Burrell Communications, Chicago. (The Ford account has since moved to UniWorld, in which WPP holds a 49% stake.)
Mr. Coleman said his African-American agency first created general-market spots for Domino's Pizza in the mid-1990s. His shop also developed general-market ads for Kmart Corp.'s "Blue Light Always" TV campaign, which broke Sept. 1, and is working on fresh creative for the 2002 "Live Responsibly" effort of Philip Morris Cos.' Miller Brewing Co.
"Some marketers that still have their heads in the sand don't understand that good work can come from anywhere," says Mr. Coleman, who's also chairman of GlobalHue, a holding company for multicultural shops that's 49% owned by Interpublic Group of Cos. "The face of America is changing, and companies that don't realize that will suffer."
Marketing to multicultural groups is a business necessity for advertisers, he adds, since African-Americans, Hispanics and Asian-Americans account for more than $1 trillion annually in consumer spending.
American Honda Motor Co. altered its multicultural approach two years ago when its first English-language commercial from its Hispanic agency, Los Angeles-based La Agencia de Orci & Asociados, ran once during the national broadcast of a Major League Soccer game on Walt Disney Co.'s ABC.
In late September of this year, Honda returned by airing a trio of English-language 30-second spots from the agency on cable networks such as Disney's ESPN and Viacom's MTV in select spot markets. One of the commercials also ran nationally three times Oct. 21 before, during and after ABC's MLS broadcast.
"We presented a pretty solid case to Honda" about the tactic "and Eric [Conn, assistant VP-national advertising at Honda] went for it," says Susan Casillas-Perez, director of client services at the agency. She predicts more clients will jump on the bandwagon.
In one of the commercials, a guardian angel rushes around after small children, saving them from little setbacks. But once the kids scramble into the family Honda, the angel lounges comfortably in the back seat. The message: "So safe even angels can take a little break."
Buying English-language programming for Hispanics is tricky. "Sometimes when you think Hispanic, you only think of Spanish programming, but that's just not the case," Ms. Casillas-Perez says. For example, young Latinos watch MTV. She's hoping the recent acquisition by General Electric Co.'s NBC of Spanish-language Telemundo Net-work will "help NBC see the power of the [Hispanic] market."
Julie Roehm, marketing communications director of the Dodge brand at DaimlerChrysler's Chrysler Group, says the marketer gathered all its agencies together late last month to develop storyboards at the same time, a first for the brand. The goal is to give the ads a more similar feel.
MORE ETHNIC FACES
She plans to place more multicultural faces in Dodge's general-market ads from Omnicom Group's PentaMark Worldwide, Troy, Mich. Ms. Roehm cites a new spot from the agency in which the driver of a Durango sport-utility vehicle is "stuck" behind a sports car going uphill. The "wife of the driver is a woman whose main language is Spanish," she says.
But Ms. Casillas-Perez cautions that marketers using "a palette of people in ads" must be careful the message is right for all the audiences represented due to cultural nuances. The use of multicultural spots in general-market programming isn't always strategic. Speaking generally, she says, "what we hear in the industry is sometimes clients like [multicultural] spots so much they figure it's appropriate for the general market." In fact, sometimes there's jealousy or tension with the general-market agency when a marketer hints at a preference for a minority agency's spot and wonders if it would work in the general market.
A Kmart spokesman says that Don Coleman Advertising was tapped for its recent general-market work because Omnicom Group's TBWA/Chiat/Day, New York, was busy on its holiday ads. Those broke the week of Nov. 11. The spokesman says Coleman is working on an unidentified "special project" and will be used for other projects "as needed."
Contributing: Alice Z. Cuneo