Crossing the Hispanic Color Line

Latino Efforts Need to Include More Dark-Skinned People

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Rudy Duthil Rudy Duthil
I am honored to have the opportunity to write for the Big Tent blog and also get the opportunity to share some of the opinions from the "Jay-Z Generation" about the advertising industry as well. I know some of you may not know what the Jay-Z Generation is, but it is nothing more than those of us who grew up listening to rap artists (like Jay-Z) tell us (young urban youth) that we can do anything that we have ever dreamed of doing as long as we were focused on our goals and passionate about what we do.

For starters, my parents named me Rodolfo, but my mother and all my friends call me Rudy. I'd like to consider those of you reading my entry my new friends, so you can call me Rudy, too! I'm the West Coast manager of experiential marketing for Zoom Media & Marketing.

Another thing that I would like you to know about me is that I am Latino. Yes, I know, kind of shocking huh? My mother is of Dominican descent and my father of Cuban descent. My mother falls into the "Brown Latino" category, as would Eva Longoria, and my father falls into the "Black Latino" category, as would Sammy Sosa. I only mention this because although I grew up in a Latino family where some members look like me (and some don't) and have traveled to different Latino countries where I've seen many dark skinned Latinos, I've yet to see them represented in any of the ads or campaigns that I've come across since entering the marketing/advertising industry in 2004 after graduating from college. This is actually one of the main reasons why I decided to pursue a career in marketing and advertising.

I understand that most clients who work on Hispanic accounts and who aren't of Latino backgrounds (and some who are) may say that an image of someone like me appearing in any ad directed towards Latinos may confuse the Latino consumers. However, Hispanic ad agencies should educate their clients as to why images of dark-skinned Latinos like myself should be given a fair shot when it comes to appearing in a campaign's creative and not rely only on the old generic, stereotypical images of Latinos who look Caucasian for these campaigns. According to a study by the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute, about 90% of the contemporary Dominican population has African ancestry or African roots. So why wouldn't you use a dark skinned Latino in an ad targeting this group of Latinos?

Let's think about a general market ad for a second. Take for example, 50 Cent's G-Unit Clothing's ad campaign as an example of the point I am trying to make here. The better percentage of G-Unit Clothing's ads use images of the members of the G-Unit rap group (50 Cent, Tony Yayo, Lloyd Banks, and Young Buck) in their creative and they are all dark-skinned African Americans. However, a good portion of their clothing is bought by young suburban white kids, as well as young urban Latinos.

Although they are darker-skinned Americans, they still manage to get the "young and fresh" message of the brand across and it connects with all American consumers who believe in that message despite their color, resulting in the targeted consumers going out and buying the product. The white kids, in other words, aren't turned off.

And it should work the same in the Latino market. If your brand messaging is clear, the color of the Latino person in the ad should be irrelevant. Your product will sell to the overall Latino market you're targeting because they know it's made for them regardless of color. And it may pick up more consumers among dark-skinned Latinos who've felt left out of such messaging before. We should all, as an industry, aspire to make innovations with regard to this matter, and not be afraid to change the landscape of Hispanic-targeted advertising by adding more "color" to it.

The next time, for example, an agency is making a creative campaign targeting Mexicans, I ask them to create at least one concept where the main character reflects someone of the Mestizo population (a person of mixed Spanish/Amerindian blood) of Mexico, which accounts for the greater portion of the Mexican population. It has been a longstanding Latino tradition to believe that being fair skinned with blonde hair is the only standard of beauty and sophistication there is. Obviously, they've crossed the hair-color line, but skin color and other physical characteristics in ads are still pretty much the same. But isn't it about time we break this tradition?

I need not remind us of the once popular brown paper-bag test for social acceptance in certain sectors of the African American community or of historical Hollywood color consciousness. Though color bias is arguably still prevalent today with regard to black women, particularly when it comes to casting leading roles in cinema and music videos, extreme color consciousness with regard to African Americans in media and advertising has mostly been broken. I'm hoping we can collectively do the same with Hispanic advertising, and I will make sure I do everything in my power to speed up the process.
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