Ad Pioneer Eduardo Caballero on the Intricacies and Potential of the Hispanic Market

Advertising Hall-of-Famer Talks About the Past Struggles and Future Ahead

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Advertisers, ignoring "the reality of this country," hoped at one time that the Hispanic market would disappear.

"They had had some experience with the Jewish market, with the Italian market, and they thought it would happen the same with the Spanish market."

That's the view of Eduardo Caballero, founder of Caballero Radio & Television, from his perch as operator of the nation's only unwired network of independent TV stations aimed at the Hispanic market.

Advertisers kept the faith that Hispanics would assimilate into the general population, as Jews and Italians did, Eduardo told me in a video interview on the occasion of his induction into the Advertising Hall of Fame .

What advertisers failed to realize, Eduardo explained, was that with Hispanics, "it was not only a matter of language, it was a matter of culture, and it was a matter of music, and it was a matter of food." For his efforts to persuade advertisers to buy time on his TV stations, "it was very, very difficult."

And even today, he said "we find some advertisers that are not inclined to do anything in the Spanish market. And many of those who are doing something in the Spanish market are not doing it to the extent they should. Sometimes I consider that to be tokenism."

Now that the Hispanic advertising and media market has grown into a $5 billion business, Eduardo's efforts are gaining more attention, but he added that "the obstacle we still have to overcome" is the resistance of some young people running Hispanic divisions. He said they are often not attuned to the cultural differences of the Hispanic consumer.

What it all boils down to, Eduardo told me, is that "it's not a matter of reaching people. It's a matter of selling to people. So they are not selling to me. They are not selling me the product when they are talking to John Doe. They are not talking to Eduardo Caballero."

Among his accomplishments—he also started a Spanish-TV music video and entertainment network—Eduardo was the driving force behind the formation of the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies.

The late Bob Goldstein, once the head marketing guy at Procter & Gamble, called him a couple of weeks before he died in a white-water rafting accident. Bob needed Eduardo's help putting together a group of Hispanic ad agencies to work with the Partnership for a Drug-Free America.

The Hispanic agencies came together for a good cause and after that , Eduardo said he "realized that they were not that reluctant to get together." He decided that he was going to try to do something so they'd work as a group, rather than one against the other. "There was a cannibalism as to what existed rather than to go and try to expand the market."

When the Hispanic ad group was formed there were about 40 such agencies; now there are 70—not that many more. The reason, Eduardo explained, is that the agencies "made a mistake. And it was against my advice." They used Nielsen and Arbitron numbers on Hispanic audiences, but "there is an aspect that goes beyond numbers, and that is the culture aspect." What happened, he said, is that the buying of Spanish-language media fell into the hands of general-market agencies.

"Some of them are doing a good job. Most of them are not doing a good job. They don't have the infrastructure. They don't have the resources to do a good job.

"And I say that with all respect, because they have tried. But one thing is trying and another thing is being able to accomplish it." What the general-market agencies were able to do was cut their rates so the Hispanic agencies had a hard time competing with them.

Eduardo pointed out that the Hispanic population in the U.S. is the second-youngest in the world (Mexico is the youngest). Advertisers, he said, should start cultivating the young Hispanic people here not only in Spanish but also in English. "And they should do it in a way that will be acceptable to both the young and the older."

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