ANA Multicultural Conference: Agencies Must Learn to Play Nice

Marketers Favoring Cross-Cultural Idea Over Narrowcasting; Idea Over Agency Status

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MIAMI ( -- The term "inclusion" is taking on a new definition for multicultural agencies: that of making room to collaborate with general-market shops.

If there was one big theme at the Association of National Advertisers' Multicultural Marketing & Diversity Conference this week, it was that the best marketing idea will carry the day, no matter whether it comes from a multicultural or general-market agency. From the podium and in response to often defensive questions from some of the 610 registrants, marketing executives from Coca-Cola to General Mills, State Farm, Best Buy and Unilever were unapologetic in urging agencies to work together with one another rather than against one another in this regard.

"The pressure is on us to deliver," said Pam El, VP-marketing at State Farm, the country's largest auto insurer. "I need to know that Agency X has my back and they can't have my back if they are at it with each other."

She added, "There is enough business for everybody," so "do your part, bring your best stuff to the table and it will work out for you."

Indeed, it was clear some multicultural agencies are seriously concerned about the migration of business to general market agencies and, in fact, were still smarting from Home Depot's shift of its $37 million Hispanic account to a Richards Group unit in March.

At the same time it's also clear that clients are demanding a holistic approach. "I believe an agency is an agency," said Beatriz Perez, chief marketing officer, Coca-Cola North America. "We put them in a room together and reward those who deliver the best plan." She added that can also work to the advantage of smaller multicultural agencies that don't have enough scale for a Coca-Cola brand but can partner with a larger shop on an idea.

General Mills favors a "brand navigator" approach, said Mark Addicks, its senior VP-chief marketing officer. "We put together a team around a brand or category and the best idea wins," he said. Though the Minneapolis food giant's major agencies are Saatchi & Saatchi and McCann, "the best work often comes from our multicultural agencies," he said.

Speakers were almost universal in their belief that narrow-casting one group, such as African-Americans or Hispanics, is missing the point. Teresa Iglesias-Solomon, VP-multicultural and Latino initiatives at Best Buy, said the company had a tendency to break out three groups: women, Latinos and business owners -- but she herself could have been lumped into all three categories at once. The point, she said, is that there are commonalities within each target group. "We need to make sure we are looking at the whole customer." For example, moms have similar interests whether they are African-American, Asian-American, Hispanic or Caucasian.

That kind of insight was the impetus behind OgilvyCulture, a new "cross-cultural strategic-service practice" now launching from the WPP Group agency.

"It is not multicultural advertising, which tends to focus on specific ethnic markets," said a spokeswoman. Instead, "cross-cultural marketing has the objective of developing one brief for clients designed to communicate across different cultures by celebrating shared values and insights." Ogilvy units that are a part of the initiative are Black Diaspora, LatinRED, RedLotus, OgilvyPride, Young Professionals, Working Parents, Women's Leadership and Administrative Professionals, which will collaborate to "provide clients with a full range of services starting initially with marketing strategy, creative strategy, digital strategy, CRM and analytics," she said.

"It gives us the capability to have a single voice to the consumer," said Jeffrey Bowman, director of OgilvyCulture, who presented at the conference with his client, Ruy Yokoi, brand manager at Unilever. Together, they presented a case study of their effort to launch Hellmann's light mayonnaise to the Hispanic community two years ago, which led Mr. Bowman to the realization that "we didn't need to create a Hispanic agency within our agency," but a cross-cultural one.

When asked whether he had considered working with a Hispanic shop rather than Ogilvy for the effort, Mr. Yokoi said, "I don't want to disparage anyone, but we had been working with a Hispanic agency and the creative wasn't working. It didn't jibe with our general-market strategy."

How? "Every Hispanic ad had a picnic" with a revolving cast of Latin musicians, he said. "It was almost patronizing."

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