Cultural stereotypes abound, production is poor and good ideas are scarce.
But a look at the hottest Latino creative directors-and how they're making their agencies' broadcast and print work better-is more hopeful. Advertising Age's Hispanic Creative Advertising Awards showcase some of the best work. (Winners start on Page S-2, followed by profiles of a half-dozen top creative directors starting on Page S-15.)
U.S. Hispanic agencies have been importing creative talent from all over Latin America-and with Argentina's collapsing economy and Colombia's sad fame as the world's kidnapping capital, there's no lack of eager candidates. There's also a new generation of management at some of the older Hispanic agencies.
Even in a tough economic climate, there are new growth opportunities as even hard-pressed advertisers try not to miss out on the Hispanic boom. Plus more Hispanic agencies' work is finding its way into the general market because clients like it or a product has a Latin flavor or simply because there are so many Hispanics consuming English-language media. Allied Domecq Spirits USA, for example, is considering a Hispanic agency to handle its Sauza tequila general-market account.
Holding companies that own Hispanic agencies are increasingly tapping them to help out with Latin America, where many of the Hispanic shops' staffers come from anyway. Publicis Groupe bought Sanchez & Levitan and part of another Hispanic agency, Siboney USA, to create Publicis Sanchez & Levitan, Miami, earlier this year. Part of the new agency's mission is to help with Latin American coordination, starting with a British Airways assignment won this summer. And Grey Worldwide last year put Jackie Bird, the president-CEO of its Puerto Rican agency, in charge of all U.S. Hispanic advertising. That operation, Wing Latino in Hato Rey, Puerto Rico, now reports to Grey's Latin American division and is taking on regional projects such as responsibility for Procter & Gamble Co.'s Pantene shampoo in Latin America, an assignment previously handled out of Mexico by Grey.
The best Hispanic agencies look to top general-market shops like Cliff Freeman & Partners, New York, and their award shows for inspiration. They yearn to win Lions at the International Advertising Festival in Cannes (2000 Lions won by U.S. Hispanic shops: 0). Or awards at the Cannes of Latin America, the Buenos Aires-based Festival Iberoamericano de la Publicidad, where U.S. Hispanic agencies managed to take home one Gold, one Silver and one Bronze award this year from their 193 entries.
Part of their challenge is reaching the multicultural youth market that's equally at ease in the U.S. and Latin worlds.
Javier Castillo, a former copywriter at independent Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., whose work for Nike won a Gold and two Silver Hispanic Creative Advertising Awards this year, says there's pressure to portray Latinos as Ricky Martin types, which young urban Hispanics won't respond to.
"The establishment in the Latin advertising community is so conservative, so image-conscious and uptight," he says. "They don't allow you to do good work, because they think you're making them look bad."