Questions are raised by mystified executives (on both the sales and buy side) why so many large marketers view Hispanics as some sort of niche market, one worth tossing a little money at if all other initiatives are funded. They wonder how that makes sense, when in categories such as telecom and consumer packaged goods Hispanics spend more per capita.
Statistics floated Tuesday at the annual Broadcasting & Cable/Multichannel News Hispanic TV Summit - the first one since the 2010 Census showed significant Hispanic population growth - had Hispanics making up 16% of the U.S. population, but only 4.5% of ad dollars spent targeting them.
"I personally think it's disgusting," said Antonio Ruiz, director of communications planning at The Vidal Partnership, an agency with clients such as Heineken and Sprint. With such talk, attendees may leave inspired. But, when they reconvene, they again wonder about advertisers' skewed logic.
To be sure, that's not necessarily a bad thing if it is rooted in never being satisfied, a desire to never stop working to grab more share.
But the question persists when will the tone change? When will there be overtones of we're making our case successfully and the market is buoyant or we're not in the end zone anymore and we're in excellent shape to move the ball further down field?
That appears to be a long way off.
To be sure, there are some green shoots. Univision just completed a record upfront.
State Farm advertising director Ed Gold said Tuesday that over 20% of the insurance giant's ad dollars are spent in the Hispanic market. "We are over-indexing in that to make sure we grow there," he said.
No doubt, it wasn't cheap for State Farm to have "Modern Family" superstar Sofia Vergara appear in a Spanish-language spot.
At Kraft, Chris Montenegro McGrath, who oversees Latino marketing, said the company is boosting its Hispanic budget by three times this year. And if the ROI analysis is favorable, that should go up.
Still, there is work to do in persuading Kraft brand managers about the importance of the Hispanic consumer; a few years ago, only a handful of them were running Spanish-language creative.
Ruiz, the Vidal Partnership executive, who has particular influence in the industry and was mobbed Tuesday after appearing on a panel, said the fact word that a Hispanic budget going up piques interest plays into that pep-rally atmosphere, which is layered with frustration.
"We are largely speaking to ourselves and to me that is evidence corporate America still does not embrace the Hispanic consumer," he said.
He asked rhetorically how many C-suite executives were in attendance Tuesday. Pointing ahead to the the ANA multicultural marketing conference in November, he said "there won't be CMOs or CEOs or senior marketing leadership" there.
He also wondered why sessions devoted to the multicultural consumer don't seem to make it onto the agenda at the ANA "Masters of Marketing" event.
Sill, he's optimistic that getting the attention of the country's top advertising executives may become easier with more MBAs and business majors coming from Hispanic backgrounds and moving up the corporate ladder. That's "going to be conducive to more of a multi-ethnic approach to marketing" over the next decade, he said.
And right about then, results from the 2020 Census will come in, showing the Hispanic population is that much larger.