Major Ad Categories Still Failing to Target Latino Consumers

Synovate: Financial-Services Missing Opportunity; Efforts Must Go Beyond Ads, Focus on Relationships

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Whole categories of marketers are still paying scant attention to Hispanics -- and it shows.

In financial services, for instance, just 77% of Hispanic adults have any kind of bank account, compared to 90% of African-Americans and 98% of general-market consumers, according to research from Synovate. The research company's U.S. Diversity Markets Report, published every two years, is out this week.

"It's education and exposure," said Lou Lopez, VP, consumer and business insights at Synovate. "Financial institutions were something for the rich [in some immigrants' countries]. And it's a trust issue."

In other data, Synovate found that only 61% of Hispanics have a savings account; 32% have a retirement account; and 18% have invested in stocks or bonds. In other financial services, just 51% of Hispanics are credit- or charge-card users; 40% buy life insurance; and 26% have a mortgage.

Personal touch
"A big thing is how you treat Hispanics," Mr. Lopez said. "Hispanics expect to form a relationship with their bank. American consumers are transactional. With Hispanics, I want [bank employees] to know who I am. I want to be friendly with them and go to them if something happens. We tell banks you can't just do advertising. You have to back it up with Spanish-speaking personnel, an 800 support number."

More advertising might help, though. Some banks, such as Washington Mutual and Bank of America, market heavily to Hispanics, but the only financial-services marketer ranked among the top 50 advertisers in Hispanic media was Visa International at No. 46, according to data in Advertising Age's 2007 Hispanic Fact Pack. And financial services didn't even rank among the top 10 categories by ad spend (automotive and retail advertising were the leaders).

In consumer electronics, according to Synovate's research, Hispanic ownership of items such as cellphones and iPods is similar to the general market. Hispanics spend more money on in-home entertainment and are more likely than general-market consumers to have a plasma TV (53% compared with 39%) and a video-game system (47% to 38%). They are less likely to have a digital camera (52% to 66%). Looking at online behavior, Hispanics are less likely to pay bills online (24% to 38%) or shop online (25% to 57%), but are as likely as general-market consumers to visit YouTube (24%) and slightly more likely to use social-networking sites (23% to 21%).

Synovate's research was conducted by phone in July 2007 with 1,913 Hispanics, 967 African-Americans and 1,087 non-Hispanic whites, all 18 or older.
Source: Synovate
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