Creativity Is My Culture

Why I Didn't Open a 'Hispanic' Shop

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Gary Bentz Gary Bentz
In my professional career I have done a pretty good job at carving a niche for myself as a creative director in the so called Hispanic ad industry. As such, I've brought my "Latino-ness" to the party. I've brought insights to the Latin culture to help client partners be relevant to this segment of the population. And I've enjoyed every minute of it. I've had the honor of working with clients such Miller, Pepsi, Gatorade, Burger King, Verizon and General Motors, to name a few. With these clients, I've had the opportunity to work with some of the best talent in the commercial world. It has helped me validate my position and my creative talent (my portfolio is proof of that). It has also taught me something about culture.

It's all cool to address us Latinos in our own language and it's OK to make the images livelier with bright colors and big bold letters. I'm fine with bringing the family and the hot music to help connect. While this is the first instinctive approach to make sure everyone is on board with what must be in target, I dare to challenge those who think we Latinos live in that exclusive traditional box.

Yes, I am Puerto Rican and my first language is Spanish. I have read many books and seen many works of art, some from American artists, and lots from afar. I've been to the Super Bowl and rocked with the Rolling Stones during half time, singing along just like everyone around me. I buy shoes at Nordstrom's and/or Payless and frequently go to Starbucks (not to get the expected Colombian coffee, but rather to order a Caramel Frappuccino). I even downloaded Carrie Underwood's "Before He Cheats," and all with a simple computer click.

I'm sure you might be thinking, "How amusing, right?" That's my point. There's no science to art. Great creative work is stimulating not ethnocentric. Throughout my life, I have always been touched by great creative work, regardless of its target culture.

We Latinos consider ourselves cool and hip, we're fashion driven, trend setting -- and not any different than any other culture out there. (If you don't believe me, come visit us in Miami.) When it comes to retail or entertainment spending, we're right up there (just ask my wife and daughter). When it comes to what we like -- well, we're as diverse as you will ever care to dissect.

You see, we Hispanics share the same diverse cultural insights with most of the general American population. Culture is not only defined by ethnic background, color of skin or language. It's much more. Computer Gurus -- that's a culture. Wine Connoisseurs, that's another culture. Baseball Fans, NASCAR Fans, Soccer Fans, Broadway Fans. Members of these cultures all speak the same language, even if their accent is different and the color of their skin is not the same. They can be defined! They live in their own little world, their very own culture, at least part of the time. But even for them, a particular culture is just one slice of the pie that defines them. A doctor from the Midwest can be a wine connoisseur, a sports fan and a great salsa dancer.

The world is getting smaller each day, and as we are exposed to more, our pies (or at least our stomachs) are getting bigger. And that Hispanic label that worked so well for the last 15 years or so, has been redefined, redesigned and repackaged.

Embracing the multitude of perspectives, the differences in attitudes, the not-so-common flavors of the world and overlapping these with the similarities in each culture, I intend to promote great creative work that is more creative in culture! And like every great product out there, I will make my new and improved strategy work in a way that touches everyone, whatever their culture.

So if anyone thinks that I am going to wake up in the morning again planning how to be the best "Hispanic" creative I can -- well, I guess we don't share the same culture. Because from now on I have decided to define myself as the artist formerly labeled Hispanic.
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