David Chitel is a pioneer in the bilingual/bicultural Hispanic media and entertainment space. Preferring the term “New Generation Latino,” or NGL, Chitel has launched several companies targeting this demographic over the last 12 years, including the first Latino social network, the first Latino animated TV series, and an agency dedicated to helping Fortune 500 companies reach young Latinos through live events, magazines, the Internet, and college campus marketing.
In 2006, Chitel founded the New Generation Latino Consortium (www.NGLC.biz), an organization dedicated to hosting business conferences and fielding research studies focused on the NGL audience. His new company, NGL Media (www.NGLMedia.com), specializes in producing, aggregating and distributing in-culture and in-language video content for today’s digitally connected Latinos.
In this interview, we discussed how the market has changed over the last decade, advice for content creators wanting to attract young Latino viewers, and where he sees the market going over the next five years.
Q: You’ve been working within the bicultural/“New Generation Latino” demographic since 1999, when the focus in the industry was almost exclusively on Spanish media and the foreign-born segment. What inspired you to get involved in this market?
A: To start, I worked at a Hispanic ad agency, SiboneyUSA, for many years. There, I got a terrific foundation for everything I’m doing today. Though it mostly focused on Spanish-dominant Hispanics, it’s where I realized there was uncharted territory with respect to the bilingual/bicultural majority.
What struck me was that NGLs were not only underserved, they were the majority of U.S. Hispanics. Even 10 years ago when the 2000 Census came out, U.S.-born Hispanics represented 60% of the total population. Nowadays, people are awake to the fact that this market exists and that it represents a big opportunity.
Q: What are the most important changes you’ve seen in this segment over the last decade?
A: There’s been the most change in media. The market itself has existed for many years but the biggest hurdle has always been aggregating and defining it from a media perspective. Now, there are more media vehicles dedicated to NGLs, and we’re seeing them portrayed in mainstream media and entertainment as well. And, of course, they’re a trendsetting group that’s part of the fabric of mainstream America. Among Latinos, it’s becoming very popular to retro-acculturate. They’re openly embracing their heritage in a more overt and visible way … which should be the case.
Q: Young Hispanics are increasingly watching English cable – especially networks like Nickelodeon, Disney, MTV, and Adult Swim. What advice do you have for English networks to attract a greater share of Hispanic viewers?
A: Great content is what attracts people to these networks. But then a deeper connection through the casting, the theme of the show, or other lifestyle touch-points could attract or engage NGL viewers. Don’t start with an idea that’s trying too hard to single out this demographic. If the content is solid, the rest falls out of that.
Latinos, especially younger ones, really don’t like to be marginalized by “this is a show for Latinos.” It has to be balanced. When mainstream networks try too hard to be overtly Latino, they tend to get it wrong. A more subtle, nuanced approach is most effective.
Being linguistically relevant is less important than being culturally in tune with the NGL lifestyle and mindset. There are things that may not be “Latino” but that speak to the 18-24 demographic as a whole that are just as important as cultural or linguistic cues.
Q: What are your predictions for the Hispanic marketing field five years from now?
A: I think digital will play a much larger role. We currently have less than 1% of the total market digital spend, so we are not getting our fair share when you look at the number of Hispanics online. We’re going to see a much more fragmented U.S. Hispanic TV market -- and that will include Spanish, NGL and mainstream networks.
I hope we’ll see marketers planning Hispanic media from a more holistic total market perspective, not solely a linguistic one. Today’s U.S. Hispanic media buyers are getting budgets predominantly based on language. To get anywhere close to our fair share, marketers will need to feel comfortable targeting Latinos in a non-endemic environment. A great example of this would be the way Hispanics at NBCU is positioned.
Q: Are there any ways you see the Hispanic market starting to look like the general market five years from now?
A: I’m not a fan of the term “general market” – there is no general market. Hispanics are a significant part of the general market today. If you mean, do I think there will be a downswing in Spanish media – no. That’s where the bulk of the Hispanic media spending takes place today, and there’s plenty of room for growth. The question is how we are going to target, reach, and speak to the NGL majority using all means possible and not limiting ourselves to language.