LatinWorks generated impressive revenue growth of 32% in 2013. But the real story is how those billings broke down: 59% U.S. Hispanic work and 41% total market, meaning work that addresses the general market and multicultural consumers. Just a year earlier, the split was 82% Hispanic work and 18% total market.
The total market is a destination the ad industry is moving toward," said Sergio Alcocer, LatinWorks' president and chief creative officer. "It will be a reality, not an alternative."
Consider AT&T, which selected LatinWorks after a pitch against general-market agencies to launch a pre-paid wireless brand called Aio Wireless. The business, LatinWorks' largest win in its 15-year history, now represents 21% of the agency's revenue.
Aio didn't set out to hire a Hispanic agency for its entire account, although multicultural consumers are more likely to opt for pre-paid plans. Cindy Matthews, director-advertising and brand at Aio Wireless, said LatinWorks stood out for its fearlessness, a crucial quality in building a new brand.
It also proved to be unflappable. On the eve of a TV shoot, she called the agency at 10 p.m. with news of big changes in the promotion being advertised. "They're very flexible, strategically and tactically, and that's very important in helping us launch this new brand," she said. "They never wavered."
As marketers struggle to understand just where consumers are going, LatinWorks released research last year on ambiculturalism, the idea that more Hispanics are culturally ambidexterous, fully embracing both the Latino and American aspects of their identities.
"In the past, to achieve the American dream, you moved on a continuum from immigrant to fully American," Mr. Alcocer said. "What we see now [is] you have the alternative of staying in the middle. Having that choice makes a person more powerful. And navigating toward the center is where we see potential for insights that work for the total market."
LatinWorks' eight account wins in 2013 included Target, which moved from using Hispanic shops on a project basis to a new diversity platform across all its product groups; Humana Vitality, which brought it into a hot new category of health care; and a project with Rock the Vote to register 100,000 young Latinos to vote.
As specialist media agencies reach deeper into the multicultural market at the expense of Hispanic agencies, LatinWorks bucked the trend. The agency's media buying doubled to $100 million last year, and its media department, which started as a party of one in 2005, reached 36 staffers.
For longtime client Anheuser-Busch InBev's Bud Light, LatinWorks parlayed the statistic that 70% of Hispanic homes have outdoor grills compared with 50% for non-Hispanics, into an emotional and aromatic link between the beer brand and carne asada, or barbecued meat. The integrated campaign includes the slogan "Smells like Bud Light" evoked by the tantalizing aroma of a barbecue, and a celebrity chef, Aaron Sanchez, dubbed the "Carne Asada Master" in the spot.
Austin, Texas-based LatinWorks, started by Managing Partners Manny Flores and Alejandro Ruelas and partly owned by Omnicom Group, was the third-biggest Hispanic agency by 2012 revenue, up from ninth place five years ago, according to Ad Age's Hispanic Fact Pack.
"In the general market, everyone has the answer to everything," Mr. Alcocer said. "But in the multicultural market, things are happening as we go. Agencies need to have a point of view. Sometimes you'll be right, and sometimes you'll be wrong."