Online Hispanic Audience Continues to Grow

From AHAA Conference: Google Enters Market and Social Networking Is Hot Topic

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CHICAGO ( -- The fast-growing audience of online Hispanics -- and how to market to them -- was the hot topic at the spring conference of the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies last week.
Monica Gadsby
Monica Gadsby

The number of Hispanics using broadband at home grew from 40% of online Hispanics to 61% last year, while their use of social network sites soared by more than 200%, researcher Tamara Barber from Forrester Research told the 500 people who attended the AHAA conference April 26-27.

Minutes online, page views
Last year, the total number of Hispanics online grew by 11% to 16.3 million, while the total number of minutes they spent online per month grew by 34% and total page views by 49%, said another panelist, Jack Flanagan, exec VP of ComScore Media Metrix.

And Google has finally discovered the U.S. Hispanic market. Sarah Carberry, a conference panelist and Google's senior account executive-consumer packaged goods, now works part time on multicultural efforts and will become the company's first multicultural manager later this year.

Ms. Carberry, who is Cuban-American, described a campaign supermarket chain Albertson's did with Google for products for quinceaneras, the party traditionally held for a Hispanic girl when she turns 15. The campaign used keyword targeting and display ads to draw families planning quinceaneras to Albertson's bakery, paper products and flower departments in heavily-Hispanic areas.

"We test both languages [Spanish and English], and we're also testing Spanglish," she said.

Social-networking sites
In other areas of online, is about to launch its own social-networking site; MySpace has started a Latino version; and Batanga, fast-growing Hispanic multimedia company best known for its online radio network, has also entered the area, and is adding about 500 people a day for a total so far of 60,000 people.

"Intimate social networks are next," said Rick Marroquin, chief marketing officer, Batanga. "There are so many big ones like MySpace and Facebook. We think we can be the place for Latin music."

Marketers appear to be open to funding Hispanic digital efforts without cutting funds from other Hispanic media.

"You can do a lot with $100,000," said Monica Gadsby, CEO, Publicis Groupe's SMG Multicultural, Chicago, the biggest multicultural media-buying group. "Some slice budgets as thin as they can. But many clients, once they see results, don't want to jeopardize other media and will fund [digital] incrementally. Plenty of clients will invest against results, so we should see an increase in overall dollars."

Conference participants also discussed opportunities for Hispanic agencies to do work that goes beyond the Latino market, and the encroachment of general-market agencies onto their turf as the bilingual and English-speaking segments of the Hispanic market grow.

Asked to vote during a conference session called "What makes a budget Hispanic?" on whether Hispanic media budgets should be defined by language (into separate Spanish-language and English-language pots of money) 80% of the audience said no.

Collaborating with general-market shops
"We need to move forward to some collaboration [with general-market agencies] when we need English-language media to reach a portion of the Hispanic market," said Lucia Fernandez-Palacios, a panelist and media director at Hispanic shop Dieste Harmel & Partners, Dallas. "If it makes more sense for a general-market agency to buy [airtime on ABC's] 'Ugly Betty' because they have more leverage, so be it."

Measuring return on investment is also an issue.

"The trap is that ROI is short-term, and the Hispanic market often brings longer-term return," said Fina di Salvo, U.S. Hispanic and Puerto Rican communication planning and media manager for Procter & Gamble Co. "We need tools that help us measure not only short-term ROI but also how it's impacting on the future in the expectation of growth in that sector."

Gilbert Davila, VP-multicultural marketing, Walt Disney Co., said that when the Association of National Advertisers' multicultural marketing committee met recently, the three main topics of discussion were acculturation, technology and measurement.

Mr. Davila, who chairs the ANA committee, also warned that general-market agencies try to position themselves as able to reach Hispanics who are bilingual, affluent and acculturated.

"It's easy for a media planner in the general market to say I can deliver Hispanics to you," he said. "How can a Hispanic agency leverage this trend and say it's important for us as an industry to create commercials that transcend Spanish? You need to find a way to position yourselves as more insightful. There's [also] an opportunity for multicultural agencies to develop general-market work. In the African-American market, that's happened for many years."

In a change of AHAA's leadership, Jackie Bird, president-CEO of WPP Group-owned Hispanic agency Winglatino, New York, took over as chairman of AHAA from Carl Kravetz, chairman-chief strategic officer of Cruz/Kravetz:Ideas, Los Angeles. Jose Lopez-Varela, CEO of ADN Communications, Miami, stepped up to chairman-elect.
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