There is a hope for the ailing media economy
Amid the general downturn of everything, here's some good news: Hispanics rocketed ticket sales of Fast and Furious so high on its opening weekend that Variety took note. Hispanics were 46 percent of the audience, Variety reported, for a domestic opening of $72.5 million, second only to The Dark Knight. The editor of the Spanish-language daily El Diario La Prensa was swept up in incredulous media interviews because the paper's circulation actually grew during two of the past three years. And Univision says it's seeing double-digit sales growth for marketers who advertise to Hispanics.
It's tempting to wonder: Can these consumers save the world? Or at least the u.s. economy?
"That's a stretch," says Graciela Eleta, senior vice president for brand consulting at Univision, and formerly with Procter & Gamble. However, she adds: "Even in the recession, advertisers who started or have been supporting Hispanic marketing through the recession have experienced some very dramatic results. And the reason they continue to come in is because they're seeing returns."
Univision is using arguments like this - and its consistent Nielsen rankings, often fourth after Fox, CBS and ABC, and beating CW and NBC -- in a new campaign to get marketers' attention for online and offline campaigns.
"This is no longer a nice-to-have, below-the-line, sometimes diversity-focused effort," Eleta says. "It really has to be treated as a business imperative."
Today, 54 percent of Hispanics are online, a growth rate of 13 percent since 2004, compared to 8 percent growth among all consumers, according to Scarborough Research. Hispanics are more likely than average to download content, and their online purchases are increasing at a rate on par with the average Internet user.
It's true that Hispanics came late to the Internet, Eleta says. "Because they did so, they almost leapfrogged non-Hispanics to go directly into broadband access and into mobile, and as a result of that, they're on the cutting edge."
Hispanics accounted for a record 20.3 million online visitors in February 2009, according to comScore - that's 11 percent of the U.S. online market. Hispanics ranked first in community among teens; gaming; entertainment, specifically radio and multimedia; discussion, chat and IM; and music.
It's not like it was a secret that Hispanics love music and socializing, Eleta says, but now online marketers are paying attention. "All of these areas where we over-index are now relevant in the social space," she says.
The nonprofit group Voto Latino won two Webby Honoree designations this year -- one for the social site Crash the Parties, and one for its online telenovela parody La Pasion de la Decision, which starred Rosario Dawson and scored 10 million online views and a mention on Larry King.
We always view youth as the influencers in their families and in their communities," says Josh Norek, deputy director of Voto Latino.
Voto Latino uses Twitter, text, email, and iTunes cards featuring Latino artists. Norek says voters who registered online with Voto Latino had a higher turnout at the polls than paper-registered voters, probably thanks to geotargeted text reminders called Text2Represent.
State Farm has been advertising directly to Hispanics since 1997, says Ed Gold, advertising director at State Farm. Last year, the company worked with aol, Yahoo and msn to create auto-insurance centers on their Spanish-language sites. If State Farm sponsors a show on-air with Univision, it also sponsors it online.
"We recognize the need, and see all the projections regarding the future growth in this country," Gold says.
Alex Lopez Negrete saw that need, too, when he left a Houston ad firm in 1985 to start Lopez Negrete with his wife - the Hispanic-focused agency had one employee. "It was clear to me that there were a lot of us, a lot of people like me, and a limited number of companies targeting us," Negrete says. "It just felt illogical that the market would be stagnant. There was just too big a need."
Today, the full-service agency has 170 employees and offices in Houston and in Burbank, Calif.; its longtime clients include Bank of America, Wal-Mart and Sonic. Lopez Negrete contributed media planning, buying and execution for Fast and Furious. These days, almost every campaign the agency works on includes an interactive component.
It's rare that a general-market campaign can simply be translated into Spanish. "It's in the online space where I think it becomes very evident that in order to lure Latinos, you don't have to just address the language issue, you have to address the cultural issue," Negrete says. "At our agency, I say, 'We don't do work in language. We do work in culture.' "
"You're dealing with different cultures," says David Lawenda, Univision's president of ad sales. "It's different by
category. It really does require a different creative."
Y Tu Mamá También
Because of the growing power of Hispanics online, Univision is bringing new resources to interactive. State Farm will sponsor an upcoming online-only telenovela, and supports soccer coverage online and off. Home Depot worked with Univision to create do-it-yourself educational sites. This year, Univision Online became Univision Interactive, including mobile content, wireless integrations and SMS.
But the company says it's still doing basic education for marketers - proving its demographics' value.
"Many of the companies I'm working with are trying to get to the 18-34 market, and they have a blind spot when it comes to Univision. They're just skipping it," Eleta says. Univision used Partnership Forums during this year's upfront season to show marketers the data. "Twenty-one percent of all moms are Hispanic today.... They realize, 'I cannot get to my sales target if I'm not reaching those moms.' "
The time is right for marketers to embrace Latinos, Negrete says - and not just because this demographic has money to spend. It's because Latinos, despite anti-immigration sentiment, are integral to American culture.
"Take a look at the last couple of Oscars, for example: You have Javier Bardem," Negrete says (and Penelope Cruz, Mexican filmmakers Guillermo del Toro and Alejandro González Iñárritu, and more). "Take a look at the pantries - more tortillas than white bread, more salsas than ketchup."
Then there's the power of numbers: Since 2000, Hispanics have accounted for more than 50 percent of u.s. population growth, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.
"Besides our ratings, you look at the demo and spending power of Hispanics," says Univision's Lawenda. "Still growing."