Hispanic Advertising Awards-Show Blues

Highs and Lows From the Hispanic Creative Advertising Awards

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Alberto Ferrer Alberto J. Ferrer
The Advertising Age Hispanic Creative Advertising Awards took place at the Manhattan Center in New York this past Friday, Nov. 6. The awards, co-sponsored by the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies, seek to recognize the most creative work in the Hispanic market.

The well-attended awards show was disappointing at times, delighting at times and just plain confusing at times.

The first impression was that it was very warm at the Manhattan Center, especially during the cocktail hour. It only got worse as more and more people piled in.

Later we were allowed downstairs where the actual show would take place and where chairs were arranged theater-like in front of the stage. After we sat down and the lights dimmed, the regrettable theme of the show became apparent. You see, this was a continuation of the AHAA Conference, using the ripe-for-Halloween theme of "Is Hispanic Marketing Dead?" and the awards show continued that theme.

"Scary" costumes, recorded screams, the occasional on-stage antic, a dungeon-esque stage setting, and many other cues were part of the show. The worst part? The script.

The unfortunate presenters, all accomplished professionals, had to read contrived and poorly written scripts off the teleprompter. (How many times can the word "killer" be worked into bad puns at an awards show? Apparently many.) I felt bad for the presenters who had to go through those motions, and I felt bad that people who paid good money for a ticket had to sit through it all.

The awards themselves were generally strong examples of good Hispanic creative across several media channels and categories -- all in all impressive work. There was a lot of applause, laughter and a good dose of irreverence in the picking up of the trophies. There seemed to be an endless number of categories, but there was good work all around. There were a lot of big winners. However, several of them aren't even Hispanic market agencies or Hispanic market work. How come?

These awards have, for a few years now, allowed entries from Puerto Rico. All of us in Hispanic marketing know that Puerto Rico is not part of the U.S. Hispanic market. Puerto Rico may be close by ("only" hundreds of miles of ocean from the U.S. mainland), use U.S. currency, and speak Spanish, but that does not a Hispanic market make.

Allowing Puerto Rico agencies to enter the competition creates the often odd effect of, for example, two Toyota agencies (the U.S. Hispanic one and the Puerto Rico one) competing against each other in the automotive category for ads about Toyota. Is it just me or is that a little nutty? I know that there were a record 718 entries this year, and I can imagine the organizers like building their entry-fee revenue. But really, people, Puerto Rico should compete in Puerto Rico and Latin America competitions, not in U.S. Hispanic ones. Moving on.

Then the non-categories came up. There is a category for English-language advertising targeting Hispanics. Why does this work need a special category? As I have written before, Hispanic marketing is not about language but rather about culture. Can't we evaluate the quality of the work in relevantly addressing our target regardless of language? Apparently not.

The other non-category is called "Beyond Hispanic" and it recognizes non-Hispanic work done by Hispanic agencies. Now this is just ridiculous. If an agency, Hispanic or not, does work targeting the general market, it should compete in a general market competition. This is the biggest non-category for me and it was a big turnoff to see.

Congratulations to all the winners, especially those who are agencies based in the U.S. targeting the U.S. Hispanic consumer. In the end, that's what "Hispanic Creative Advertising Awards" means to me.
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