Recession resistant: Hispanic market stays hot

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The recession-resistant U.S. Hispanic market continues in 2003 to attract first-time marketers, from pantyhose to rental cars, and a slew of other marketing services eager to cash in on a market that grew an estimated 11% last year.

Sara Lee Corp.'s Hanes, for instance, appointed its first Hispanic agency of record, Publicis Groupe's Lapiz, Chicago, in late 2002.

"We're working on creative and have started to develop strategy, but we're still in the very early stages," said Lapiz President Dolores Kunda.

Enterprise Rent-A-Car Co. , believed to be the first in the sector to target Hispanics, broke its first Spanish-language advertising in late January. In the spot by the Vidal Partnership, New York, Enterprise takes advantage of having offices in heavily Hispanic neighborhoods to promote its "We'll pick you up for free" service.

In its annual ranking of top Hispanic advertisers, Hispanic Business estimated ad expenditures grew by about 11% in 2002, to $2.46 billion. The top five spenders were Procter & Gamble Co. ($70 million), Philip Morris Cos. ($64 million), General Motors Corp. ($51 million), AT&T Corp. ($45 million) and Sears, Roebuck & Co. ($42 million).

more to come

More Hispanic media are on the way. Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN is starting a 24-hour Spanish-language sports channel this year, and The Dallas Morning News plans a Spanish-language edition. Spanish-language media giant Univision is being tracked by a growing number of stockbrokers; Lehman Brothers and CIBC World Markets recently initiated coverage by their analysts.

Although census data documenting that Hispanics account for 13% of the U.S. population has been out since 2001, it's taking some marketers a while to figure out what works for them. Kmart just started a Spanish-language wrap called La Vida for its weekly circulars late last year, while rival Sears has been publishing Nuestra Gente, with a circulation of 865,000 copies every two months, for a decade. Nuestra Gente will take in "several million dollars in advertising" this year, said Gilbert Davila, Sears' VP-multicultural management.

Kmart's biggest effort, in recognition that more than 17% of the chain's sales are from Hispanics, will be the summer 2003 launch of the Thalia Collection, a branded apparel, accessories and footwear line built around Latin entertainer Thalia.

For some marketers, an initial Hispanic effort builds credibility to expand multicultural programs. H&R Block found that following its first Hispanic push last year, including ads from Omnicom Group's Dieste Harmel & Partners, Dallas, bilingual tax preparers and a Spanish-language Web site, Hispanic customers contributed 26.5% of the company's growth in returns. The account is now in review, because Dieste is a finalist, along with Vidal and Zubi Advertising, Coral Gables, Fla., in a pitch for GE Financial, an Omnicom client that competes with H&R Block.

In public relations, Fleishman-Hillard started FH Hispania in January 2003. A month earlier, WPP Group's Burson-Marsteller announced Pulso Latino, a range of services to help clients grow their businesses in the Hispanic market.

catchier names

Not everyone is truly new. Burson-Marsteller has had a U.S. Hispanic practice for some time and some companies already serving the Latin market are trying to cash in with higher-profile services or catchier names. C&R Research has covered the U.S. Latino and Latin American region for a decade, but sent out a flurry of press releases touting its new LatinoEyes division.

In one change, a Costa Mesa, Calif. agency with the forgettable name Crossover Interactive & Advertising has morphed into Spanglish Communications, a reflection of the growing need to address bilingual, crossover Hispanics.

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