Although he likes to describe himself as the only half-Mexican, half-Romanian adman, he moves effortlessly between the U.S. Hispanic market, Mexico, Latin America as a whole and DDB Worldwide. The Omnicom Group network bought a stake in his Coral Gables, Fla., agency, now del Rivero Messianu DDB, earlier this year-for the second time.
"So much of what Luis Miguel does has universal appeal," says Keith Reinhard, DDB's chairman-CEO. On work for mutual client McDonald's Corp., "invariably we'll do it in both English and Spanish. Is that a Latin commercial? Is it a general-market commercial? Yes and yes."
The agency's work humanizes-either humorously or seriously-the client's product or benefit. McDonald's spots, for example, often playfully portray the parent-child relationship, like a father struggling to answer a child's question, "What's sex?" only to learn the inquiry arose from a questionnaire about gender.
Even del Rivero Messianu's Florida Anti-Tobacco work stresses the importance of familial relationships and respect in Hispanic families. In one ad, a child reminds his parents that they made him use safety devices like seat belts-only to subject him to secondhand smoke.
AN ABILITY TO LISTEN
That was perfect for the market, says Frank Penela, director-communications and program marketing for the Florida Department of Health. "What makes them successful is that they listened to the youth of the state of Florida and connected with them," he says.
"The days of `Trust me, I'm Hispanic' are over," adds Mr. Messianu, chief creative officer.
"A lot of advertisers aren't breakthrough type advertisers," says agency President-CEO Eduardo del Rivero. "There's an evolution on the agency and client side. It becomes the agency's responsibility to push and teach so the client feels comfortable putting the signature on it."
In the small, sometimes petty Latin ad community, Mr. Messianu, 43. is universally respected and even revered. The most-heard phrase is "Ask Luis Miguel."
Two years ago, he started the Circulo Creativo to gather Spanish-speaking creatives and served as its first president.
To DDB's Mr. Reinhard, many things set Mr. Messianu apart. "He brings a particular passion to his work, and to the idea of a new generation of Hispanics rooted in Hispanic cultures but completely at home with the general market."