Commentary

Top 10 Latino Creative Devices

As we were presenting work to a client a question came up: “Where is the Latino relevance in the execution?” Frequently, when presenting creative work for the Hispanic market, there is tension in trying to show something that is unique to Latinos in the work, and the question of whether or not you really need it.

A lot of this stems from the perspective that Latino consumers behave differently than the general market consumer and therefore require something different when it comes to brand communications that Hispanics will connect with. Enter the “Hispanic creative device.” Once I asked my executive creative director what is a “creative device” or as they say in Spanish “un recurso.” He responded, “Something that helps us have a hook to engage the consumer with our work.” After further discussion, I learned it could be a word, a setting, a sport, a celebrity, a glass of water. Literally, anything. In this case, it just “has to be Hispanic.” This seems to help clients justify the need for creative that is divergent to the general market.

What happens though is that over time if you are looking for a unique cultural “device,” you start seeing these devices pop up over and over in creative work across many categories. I could say they are overused, but in some cases, even if they are clichés or stereotypical, I have seen these devices work and perform in the marketplace. It is what it is. Rather than get into a dissertation about whether this is good or bad, I decided to put a list together of some of the more common devices I frequently see in work targeted towards Latinos. 

So here they are, whether you call them stereotypes, clichés, devices or nuances. If you work in the advertising/marketing business, it’s very likely to have run across these when marketing to Latinos.

  • Abuelita en la Cocina: How many more commercials do we need to see with Grandma in the kitchen or living room giving advice to her daughter while her granddaughter listens intently?
  • Birthday with Piñata party: Whether you are selling insurance or cars, I have seen this scene frequently creep in, whether it’s the focus of the execution or blurred out in the background so that you can see what it is in an impressionist sort of way.
  • Luchadores (Mexican wrestlers): Okay! Yes, they are colorful, fun to watch and are very typical of Mexican culture but do you really need a luchador to sell cars or beer or cellular services? Sometimes you do, I guess; once a year maybe?
  • Loteria: From agency websites to financial services to beer, how many more times do we need to see the loteria board game treatment to represent a product, scene or print ad?
  • Novela Setting: Regardless if it’s a radio ad for fruit or TV ad for spring fashion, yes, Latinos love their novelas but do they really need to listen at your product pitch in this setting that often?
  • Papel Picado: Hmm…I guess that’s the only type of decorations Latinos buy. Okay, I have seen some awesome work using this and it’s a great merchandising tactic for in-store.
  • La Quinceañera: Yes, we have a Sweet 16 a year before; it’s important, frequent and insightful. Even MTV did a few sweet 16 episodes on this and there is a whole industry (similar to Indian weddings) to support this celebration.
  • El Partido de Fútbol: Guys or couples sitting in front of the TV or in the soccer stadium or at a bar, watching the ever-present soccer game (wearing their seleccion jersey) is something that keeps popping up in almost every category, especially during World Cup years.
  • Dia de los Muertos: The general market has Halloween, what can we do that is Hispanic? In come the Calaca designs and Catrinas. Mind you, this is “not just a Latino thing anymore”; check out what HEB did last year.
  • The Big Parrillada: Yes, Latinos have extended families and like to invite all friends and neighbors for an outdoor BBQ. Look for the ever-present smoke and grill in everything from soft drinks to Wal-Mart ads.

Are these good devices? Yes. Are they bad devices? Yes. It’s not just what you say but also how you say it that matters, so it’s not just how you use these devices but also when you use them that matters.

Editor's note: This article originally appeared on May 19, 2016, in Engage:Hispanics.

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