Latinos continue to be misunderstood by advertisers. Despite their strong purchasing power of $1.5 trillion each year, advertisers need to start "marketing to Latinos based on their needs, not where they are from," says "Orange Is The New Black" actress Dascha Polanco. She spoke at the 4As Transformation Conference Tuesday afternoon at a session with Valdez Productions’ Jeff Valdez. Former JWT CEO Gustavo Martinez was scheduled to participate but bowed out after a sex harassment lawsuit naming him as defendant made national headlines two weeks ago.
Advertisers continue to segregate the Latino audience in their marketing plans, Polanco asserted. Last year, Polanco starred only in the Spanish version of Old Navy ads, while Amy Poehler was featured in the English-version spots. "I guess language was the goal, but I didn't understand the difference," she says.
In fact, half of U.S. Latinos don't speak Spanish. "You can't target an audience that doesn't have a connection. It has to start from the bottom to the top," said Polanco.
Polanco embodies the conundrum that advertisers face when trying to speak to the Latino community. For instance, she has never done one Spanish-speaking show, yet she is often siloed as a Latino actress. She recounts one audition where she freaked out because she needed to fake a Mexican accent since it was assumed she would have a perfect one. "There is a lot of labeling,” she said.
Perceptions about Latinos in t he U.S. don’t reflect reality. Some 47% of white Americans think Latinos are here illegally, while the actual figure is 16%, says Valdez. Only 3% of news stories on NBC are about Latinos, and of these stories, 64% are about crime and immigration.
Ultimately the most effective strategies in changing these perceptions are access and education. "Target them based on their needs," says Polanco.
Lip service to diversity won’t lead to meaningful change, added Valdez.