More Than TV: Univision Sells Hispanic Expertise

Media Company Beefs Up Client-Development Group, Which Acts as Consultancy to Understand Consumers

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As Hispanic media owners aggressively push the latest Census data to encourage marketers to spend more money in their segment, Univision Communications is ramping up its client-development group, doubling spending on the in-house unit to $20 million and adding about 20 new hires, many from senior roles at major marketers such as Hyundai and Mars.

The Spanish-language media company is setting up category teams to focus on areas with major growth potential like auto, entertainment, restaurants and health care. For the auto team, Univision has hired 12 people who spent their careers on either the client or agency side in car marketing, including two researchers. The new auto team is headed by Paul Sellers, formerly VP-marketing at Hyundai.

Univision has also hired Michele Kessler, former VP-global chocolate strategy at Mars, for the consumer-packaged-goods team, and Alex Galindez, who was director-multicultural marketing at Burger King, for the restaurant team. The company has even picked up a video-gaming expert from MTV Networks.

Lisa McCarthy
Lisa McCarthy

"We're the McKinsey of Hispanic consulting, but we're free," said Lisa McCarthy, exec VP of the client-development group.

Univision takes some clients on immersions to learn about the Hispanic market, putting up to 40 people on a bus for the day and stopping at three different retail outlets, followed by a debriefing. "There's only so much you can do in a PowerPoint," Ms. McCarthy said.

For some clients, the experience pushes them to add Hispanic marketing to their budgets. Since Univision started the group three years ago, Kraft has gone from advertising four of its brands in the Hispanic market to about 12 now, she said. And a virtual Hispanic marketing war has broken out among cereal marketers, with Kellogg jumping from advertising one brand in the Hispanic market to about 10 when General Mills started adding heavy Spanish-language advertising for multiple cereal brands.

Univision is also forming an agency-development team for the first time, and has hired Cynthia Ashworth, a former agency exec who was most recently VP-consumer engagement at Dunkin' Donuts, to lead it. "About 90% of our work has focused on clients," Ms. McCarthy said. "We now see a need and opportunity to help creative, media and digital agencies build their capability in Hispanic."

That's a potentially controversial move given the resentment some Hispanic agencies feel about general market agencies' efforts to poach their clients. "Overall, Hispanic agencies believe our efforts are growing the market," she said.

The pharmaceutical category, which does little Hispanic marketing, poses a particular challenge for Univision. "You have to reach the person who's lying awake at night thinking about growth opportunities, but in pharma, it's hard to get to those people," Ms. McCarthy said.

Xbox Kinect is a new brand on Univision.
Xbox Kinect is a new brand on Univision.

Part of the job is debunking myths about Hispanics. Campbell, for instance, may still believe that Hispanic moms prefer to cook from scratch and won't use canned soups. (Campbell isn't a Univision advertiser.)

"They're putting their money where their mouth is ," said Teresa Wakeley, national media and diversity marketing manager at Volkswagen of America, which spends 15% of its ad budget on Hispanic. "They have quite an extensive team now with experience across auto marketing and have hired senior-level people. One of [Univision's] key strengths is that most [client] companies don't have the bandwidth to roll up their sleeves and do the research to make senior management realize how important Hispanic is ."

For VW and Ms. Wakeley, who was new to Hispanic marketing when she joined the carmaker three years ago, Univision comes in and brings VW's team up to date, including a deep dive into Census data. They also help with one of her current goals, to convince dealers to do more Spanish-language advertising of their own.

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