Media shop gets diversity unit

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Media Planning, the media buying and planning operation of Havas Advertising, plans to sort out America's great melting pot for its clients with the launch of a multicultural unit.

Media Planning Diversity, a unit that specializes in working on media placement directed at Hispanic, African-American and other ethnic groups, will group together billings already at Havas or Media Planning, including MCI WorldCom, the second largest Hispanic advertiser in the U.S.; Reckitt Benckiser's Lysol; and Volkswagen. Jorge Percovich, previously president of Media Planning's Miami office, becomes the general manager of the new unit, which is based in New York. He reports to Steve Farella, CEO of Media Planning North America.

"If you take a look at the businesses that we currently have that focus on Eastern European, Hispanic, or African-American targets, there is about $40 million worth of business within the Havas and MPG family," Mr. Farella said. "Jorge's job is to pull all of that together."

"We are currently servicing Eastern European markets, Czech, Ukranian, Russian for MCI," said Mr. Percovich. "They have their own cable stations, print and local newspapers. This is an emerging market."

The unit will have about nine planners and buyers, who will come from both within the agency, and from new hires. Currently, Hispanic marketing will be the largest piece of the spending at Diversity, according to Mr. Farella. Media Planning has a natural affinity for the market because its worldwide CEO, Fernando Rodes Vilas, is Spanish and the company is headquartered at the moment in Spain. The company will relocate to Manhattan later this year.

Last fall, Havas began integrating all its media shops, and Mr. Percovich and the Hispanic division moved to New York to form the basis of Media Planning Diversity. While it is becoming common for creative shops to open multicultural units in an effort to create advertising that addresses ethnic consumers, it is uncommon for a media agency to launch one. One of the few who have is Aegis Group's Carat, which launched Carat Multicultural based in Los Angeles last year (AA, May 1, 2000)

Far ahead of its time, Unity Media, an independent New York media buying and planning shop that claims approximately $48 million in billings, has specialized in multicultural media since 1991. "The pendulum has swung," said Bob Tassie, Unity president, "to the point that this growing segment, Latino, African-American and Asian has suddenly taken on an emphasis. ... These audiences have credibility from a business point of view and companies really should be spending more time on them."

Recently released 2000 U.S. census figures show 33 million people, 12% of the U.S. population, are of Hispanic origin, up from 9% in 1990. Unity is African-American owned and is part of S/R Alliance, a consortium of multicultural marketing shops, that recently joined in a partnership with Omnicom Group's BBDO Worldwide, New York (AA, April 23).

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