Courageous Clients Take Marketing Risks

Four Who Go With Latino Agencies' Insights

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NEW YORK ( -- Recognizing the optimism and progressive thinking in Hispanic households, these marketers trusted their Latino agencies' insights and creativity to get a strong message across and build bridges to a local community.

Leticia Dibildox
Marketing Director-fabric and Home Care
U.S. Hispanic Market and Puerto Rico
Procter & Gamble Co.

Leticia Dibildox and the Procter & Gamble Co. Hispanic agency, Conill, undertook a four-week U.S. research tour called Project Immersion, including "closet interviews" at home to talk with women about what the garments in their wardrobes meant to them.
Leticia Dibildox
Leticia Dibildox

"We talked about many things beyond what we already knew about laundry and our own products," she says. "We talked about who she is, what motivates her, what keeps her up at night, her new life in the U.S."

For the Tide brand, the powerful insights led to TV spots "Ventana" ("Window") and "Plomero" ("Plumber"), which picked up Silver and Bronze awards respectively this year, as well as print work that won a slew of awards including a Gold and four Silvers in the magazine category.

The research found, for instance, that many Hispanic women felt very alone in the U.S., having left family and community behind to shoulder more work and responsibilities in a new land. They craved recognition and a simple thank you from husband and kids, Ms. Dibildox says. In the spots, a husband and son suddenly see how much work a wife and mother does to look after them, and they thank her. A simple concept, but Ms. Dibildox says P&G got tearful calls from grateful women on the company's 800-line. And P&G, impressed by the results, did Project Immersion research in the general market, too.

Introducing Tide to Hispanics is a challenge, because the brand is often called Ariel outside the U.S. and therefore isn't familiar to recent immigrants.

Ms. Dibildox, 33, a native of Guadalajara, Mexico, joined P&G nine years ago in Mexico and three years later moved to San Juan, Puerto Rico, as a brand manager. P&G, the largest advertiser in the U.S. Hispanic market, is the only major marketer to base its U.S. Hispanic operations in Puerto Rico.

The company's Hispanic unit is often a training ground for talent that later moves to P&G headquarters in Cincinnati or into international roles. Ms. Dibildox is about to leave on a sabbatical, pursuing a dream of moving to Paris for several months with her husband and baby daughter before returning to P&G in a new, still-to-be-decided fabric and home-care role, perhaps in Europe or Latin America.

What will she miss about the U.S. Hispanic market? "Hispanics are a very progressive group," she says. "Their level of optimism and willingness to make sacrifices are admirable."

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Regina O'Brien
Senior director-national Advertising and marketing communications
Comcast Corp.

Regina O'Brien knows Comcast's messages are consistent and on target because she's the rare client who's responsible for both the Hispanic and the general markets and is Hispanic herself.
Regina O'Brien
Regina O'Brien

A self-described stickler for strategy, the 35-year-old says her customers are all looking for basically the same things: more choices, quality programming and value. Hispanics tend to consume both Spanish- and English-language media (who doesn't watch "American Idol"?), so she makes sure Comcast Corp. uses the same voice even if the language changes.

Sometimes the insight is very Hispanic, as in two Comcast CableLatino TV spots honored this year. Other times it translates well, such as the Gold-winning magazine ad that's endless doodles, reinforcing the endless calls Comcast's Digital Voice service allows. "We ask what are the needs of this group? What are they missing?" Ms. O'Brien says. "They may be starting to speak Spanglish as they become more acculturated. Or consumers wanted more programming from Mexico because they were missing home. How do we bring that to life?"

One spot, heralding the addition of a Mexican superstation to the cable offering, strikes an instant chord with homesick Mexican immigrants by featuring a man who hails a cab, then jumps into the green Volkswagen Beetle behind it. Mexicans know green Beetles are taxis in Mexico City. The other commercial shows how hard a child works over the years to learn Spanish, an inducement to reinforce the family's Spanish with Spanish-language channels.

That's something Ms. O'Brien can relate to. Her mother is Venezuelan, her father is Irish-American and she grew up in South America. First-round presentations from her Hispanic agency, Grupo Gallegos, are invariably in Spanish. When she's happy with the concept, the Long Beach, Calif., agency presents to a wider Comcast group in English. Once she had the agency present a radio spot to this group in the original Spanish first, because so much is lost in translation.

"I can't imagine doing this job without speaking Spanish and being Hispanic, because of some of the nuances," she says.

From her vantage point, Ms. O'Brien's No. 1 tip to other marketers is: Make sure Hispanic advertising is part of your overall plan. She says, "Too many marketing organizations are still set up in silos and make Hispanic an afterthought, or it's disjointed."

One of the areas she's considering for 2007 is how to reach more acculturated Hispanics who might not consume much Spanish-language media but have a renewed interest in their heritage that is sometimes referred to as retro-acculturation. That might take the form of English-language ads, with the Hispanic cultural cues all the more important if Spanish isn't used.

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Bob Stohrer
VP-brand and communications
Virgin Mobile

The way Bob Stohrer sees it, Virgin Mobile has been courageous from Day One back in 2001. The wireless carrier was the first mobile virtual network operator, or MVNO, a test case for an industry where most consumers needed credit cards to open a mobile account.
Bob Stohrer
Bob Stohrer

The company's general-market ads were always edgy, from naked gift-givers one holiday season to the mockingly ecumenical Chrismahanukwanzakah campaign the next. And now its advertising aimed at the Hispanic market is an award-winner.

Virgin Mobile, with 4 million U.S. subscribers, proved the MVNO model viable. By last year, its success brought the big carriers into the prepaid-service picture, not only with their own prepaid offerings but with family plans that garnered young subscribers, too. Enter Mr. Stohrer, who previously worked with the National Football League as VP-executive creative director. "We identified an opportunity in the Hispanic market, not only for our core 14-24 youth demographic but beyond it," he says.

Virgin Mobile's Hispanic campaign, themed "No seas normal," was the most-awarded at this year's Hispanic Creative Advertising Awards, picking up three Gold and three Silver prizes, including the Gold for the multimedia category. The judges awarded not just the outstanding individual TV, radio and other components of the campaign, but also the extraordinarily well-integrated nature of the campaign, still rare in the Hispanic market.

Mr. Stohrer, 39, says the secret to success was working with La Comunidad, Miami, as a strategic partner and "acknowledging it's not OK to translate" an existing campaign, but rather to reshape and reconfigure it to the Hispanic market.

While Virgin Mobile's "Live without a plan" resonated with the youth market, most immigrants do have a plan to improve their lives, he says. So instead, he went with the concept of "No seas normal," or "Don't be normal." "We didn't rely on traditional cues, colors and soccer balls that other people defaulted to," he adds.

Indeed, they did not. The humorous Spanish-language commercials show people who are anxious about their abnormal features, such as cocker-spaniel ears, a pin-size head or a man with large breasts. But all are deemed "normal" because they have the usual problems relating to cellphone plans with contracts, high overage charges and tough credit checks. The $3 million campaign included a web game in which the winners were those making abnormal choices.

The effort also laid the groundwork for a whole Hispanic business, with dedicated customer-care center agents, point-of-purchase materials, a website and a special boutique for Hispanic theme ringtones.

The campaign ran for six months, and Mr. Stohrer says Hispanic efforts will be brought back "as we see appropriate."

Perhaps Mr. Stohrer can relate to the not being "normal" part of the campaign. The son of a onetime Washington Redskins wide receiver, he grew up in a southern New Jersey resort community where his favorite pastime was surfing.

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Jeff Ziminski
VP-Marketing, North America

Jeff Ziminski likes to tell people he's never laughed as hard at any storyboard as when Grupo Gallegos, Long Beach, Calif., presented a spot, during the pitch for Energizer's Hispanic account several years ago, that later became famous in the U.S. Hispanic market as "Japanese Hand."
Jeff Ziminski
Jeff Ziminski

"They won our hearts right there," says Mr. Ziminski, Energizer's VP-marketing for North America.

That spot wasn't shot immediately because the story of a man who loses his arm, gets a Japanese man's limb as a transplant and begins obsessively taking photographs could be construed as potentially offensive. But the commercial was eventually made, and won a Gold at last year's Hispanic Creative Advertising Awards. Now, Energizer's most recent spot, "Beard," is this year's Best of Show.

"Many times [their ideas] are very risky when you first see them, but that's one of the things we love about them," says Mr. Ziminski, 43, who's led the Energizer brand since 1998, after working on pet food at Ralston Purina Co.

He knows what a challenge it is to keep coming up with great ideas for batteries' single, unchanging message: long-lasting performance. Especially because Energizer is supposed to be the fun brand, compared with Duracell, the serious one. In the Hispanic market, Duracell outspends Energizer but relies on mostly adapted or dubbed creative, no match for a "Beard" or a "Japanese Hand."

Mr. Ziminski may be the ideal client -- or close to it. He leaves day-to-day responsibility to a brand manager for Hispanic marketing; that brand manager reports to a brand group director. But Mr. Ziminski is at key meetings and planning sessions, so he's always moving the process along. He loves good ideas so much that he relishes the acute perfectionism of his agency's chief creative, Favio Ucedo. Mr. Ucedo sometimes rejects his own work after client approval and starts over again. He or a family member often appears in Energizer ads to Mr. Ziminski's amusement. "It's Favio's signature," he says.

Mr. Ziminski isn't Hispanic, so he trusts his agency. That sounds simple, but Anglo clients who don't get the Hispanic market can be the bane of an agency's existence and death to relevant creative work.

"We give more benefit of the doubt or leeway to Grupo Gallegos vs. our general-market agency when developing recommendations about what will be effective," Mr. Ziminski says. "We consider them the experts for interpreting and recommending what will work with our Hispanic consumers."

He's already enthusiastic, though secretive, about Energizer's next Hispanic work, just shot and scheduled to break in the next few weeks.
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