OVERVIEW: Some gems, but much average work

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Expectations of the U.S. Hispanic market are so high that Univision Communications' share price fell after the company posted double-digit growth in ad revenue for the first half of 2002. For the full year, the company's best forecast is ad growth between 17.5% and 20% for Spanish-language Univision, second broadcast network TeleFutura and cable network Galavision, says Tom McGarrity, president of Univision Networks sales.

"We continue to have new people come into the market, and in most cases [existing advertisers] are spending more money," he says. "For double-digit growth, you need both. One or the other can't drive it."

Although money continues to flow, this is not a banner year for Hispanic ad creative work.

"The economic situation is making clients a little more cautious, less willing to take greater risks," says Luis Miguel Messianu, chief creative officer at Coral Gables, Fla., agency Del Rivero Messianu DDB, backed by Omnicom Group.

"The gems are the gems, but there's a lot of average work. We're lucky the census coincided with the slowdown. It's acted as a buffer."

It's a year for courageous clients, who nurtured Hispanic budgets while general-market dollars were down, or approved daring creative ideas. (See profiles of Courageous Clients on Pages S-12 and S-13.) At American Airlines, for example, the Hispanic budget hasn't changed-but general-market ad spending was slashed by 20%.

GROWING SOPHISTICATION

For those already in the market, there's a growing degree of sophistication about the Hispanic community that goes beyond just knowing it accounts for 13% of the population. The Hispanic market also has many degrees of acculturation.

The best way to catch the young and bilingual or English-dominant can be on English-language TV. Marketers are increasingly trying that with ads engaging enough that non-Latino viewers won't even notice the Hispanic cues that aren't meant for them.

McDonald's Corp. has started devoting 10% of its general-market rotation to Hispanic spots, Del Rivero's Mr. Messianu says.

For instance, his agency's McDonald's commercial titled "Man to Man" (see Page S-6), a Gold winner this year in Advertising Age's Hispanic Creative Advertising Awards, has run on both Spanish- and English-language TV, and has two distinct cultural cues.

The spot opens with a little boy asking his father what sex is. Even in the English-language version, he calls him Papi, not Daddy. After a lengthy sex education talk at McDonald's, Papi discovers the boy simply read the word "sex" on a form he must fill out.

"It tells Hispanics we're talking to you, without alienating the general market," Mr. Messianu says. "That's the challenge."

Bypassing Spanish-language TV entirely, the "Got milk?" campaign targeted Latino teens by combining English-language TV with Hispanic culture. Omnicom's Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, did its first-ever Hispanic ad, a Silver winner this year (see Page S-10), by recruiting a team of Hispanic students from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif., to develop a spot for young people like themselves who had a Latin background but spoke English.

Some 35 concepts later, the team settled on the tale of La Llorona ("the weeping woman"). She is the ghost of a woman who killed her children to appease her lover and spends eternity in a tearful search for them. Latin parents sometimes tell their children to behave or La Llorona will get them. In the commercial, the ghost roams through a slumbering household and cries over an empty milk carton.

"It worked like a charm," says Jeff Goodby, the agency's co-chairman. "To people outside the Hispanic community, it looked like a milk commercial with a ghost."

Jose Rennard, the student who acted as creative director, says the spot had wide generational impact within his own family. His grandmother was proud to see a Hispanic legend in a spot. But his son was worried. "Is La Llorona coming to our house?" the little boy asked. "Do we have milk?"

In another effort that draws on Latin culture, this time culinary, the California Fluid Milk Processor Board, the group behind "Got milk?," is breaking print ads to promote the traditional milk-based blender drinks called licuados.

BRIDGING A GAP

"Like sangria and burritos, licuados will rapidly bridge the gap between Latin and American cuisine," says Jeff Manning, board executive director. "You can use any ingredient in licuados-from mangoes to M&M's."

Despite such cross-cultural efforts, advertisers still spend most of their Hispanic ad dollars, about $2.4 billion in 2001, on Spanish-language media. To encourage them, Univision plans to start five new cable channels devoted to music, movies and lifestyle by the end of this year, and is spending $3 billion to buy radio group Hispanic Broadcasting Corp.

In some U.S. cities, the leading radio stations are Spanish-language, and there's a fast-growing Internet radio network called Batanga. NBC bet $2.7 billion on the Spanish-language TV market last year by buying Univision's rival Telemundo, offering access to everything from NBC advertisers who have never advertised on Spanish-language TV to fare such as the Olympics, the NBA and "Miss Universe." On the print side, the favorite morning reading on some New York subway lines is the sports section of Hispanic daily Hoy. In October, Hoy's parent, Tribune Co., will start publishing El Sentinel, a Spanish-language weekly version of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

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