Magna: Think Multicultural, Act Local

The importance of retaining cultural identity for even third-generation Hispanics and Asian-Americans will compel media buyers to place greater emphasis on local television, radio, and geographic marketing as national cable and magazines reach a point of saturation, a study from Magna Global USA says.

Marketers have already begun to notice that different ethnic groups use media with a great deal of variation, said Brian Wieser, Magna's director of industry analysis and author of the report "The Pollo or the Dan (Spanish for "The Chicken or The Egg").

One major problem has been the absence of many ethnic-media combinations, making reliable measurements of media usage by various ethnic groups exceedingly complicated, Wieser said.

The reason for the lack of ratings information of most of the channels catering to multicultural populations is their relative newness in the marketplace. For instance, upstart cable networks in general are often unable to attract significant advertiser support because ratings are not available. And most of these networks do not seek to be rated in their early years because, among other things, the costs of ratings are high and programmers typically need to prove the long-term viability of their projects before they can justify the expense of paying for ratings services.



"Despite this limitation, we believe magazines and radio for Asian-Americans, as well as local and cable TV targeting African-Americans, are promising sectors in multicultural media," Wieser said. "But those obstacles are slowly but surely being overcome. These media benefit from large populations in specific markets, supportive economics, and manageable distribution issues. From a marketer's perspective, it mirrors and enables the shift away from selling to the masses, and toward narrower groups instead."

Through this shift, marketers are better able to target on important dimensions of self-definition, such as gender, age, and lifestyle. This trend will continue in the future as the U.S. population of Hispanics, Asian-Americans, and African-Americans is expected to exceed 100 million by 2010, growing 3 percent per year (compared with a rate of 0.3 percent for all other Americans combined).

However, the development of media vehicles that are focused on the equally important dimensions of cultural self-identity and national heritage has been relatively uneven so far, Wieser said.

For example, African-Americans are targeted by only one widely available cable network and 10 others with limited distribution. This compares with four broadcast networks, more than 60 cable networks, and more than 160 local television stations for Hispanics in the 10 largest communities alone. Even Asian-Americans have access to more than 70 different cable networks--although almost all are in-language, and most are sold at prices ranging between $5 and $20 per month.

In magazines, the statistics are similar, Wieser said. Among titles published on a monthly or more frequent basis, we identified more than 80 Hispanic-targeted titles--but only 21 for African-Americans, and only 5 for Asian-Americans.

But it's the way these media are being used that's essential for marketers to understand, Wieser said.

According to a recent Knowledge Networks/SRI study that compared men aged 25 to 54 of specific groups with the general male population in the same age range, Asian-Americans spend 55 percent less time listening to radio and 50 percent more time on the Internet; in contrast, African-Americans spend 32 percent less time online, but 25 percent more time watching television.

"In terms of figuring out the drivers for media usage among different groups, income levels are likely a dominant driver of Internet users, given the monthly fees required to gain access," Wieser said. "Sample size limitations often preclude the isolation of these variables. In other cases a 'chicken-and-egg' situation skews the results: do Asian-Americans under-index in radio because they don't like radio or does this occur because there are so few radio stations which are programmed for them?"

One of the issues Wieser said Magna wanted to understand was why media does not fully reflect the ethic composition of the country. In other words, if 13 percent of the population is African-American, why doesn't this mean that 13 percent of marketing budgets and content will target that group? Is it because advertisers believe they are targeting that marketplace through the so-called general market? Or is it because the economics of developing media for a smaller market doesn't always make sense?"

The answer is yes, to some extent, for those questions, Wieser said. And therefore, local media is more likely to develop as a more certain venue for targeting ethic audiences.

Focusing on his own background as a "Canadian-American," Wieser said, "I'm Canadian, and there's certain things that will appeal to me but won't interest the general American population. As an example, I will watch NewsWorld International, because the news is from a Canadian perspective. If Air Canada or Molson wants to reach someone like me, that's a perfect venue to advertise in. Now if the differences between Canadians and Americans are so small, yet that sort of ad positioning would work very effectively, why wouldn't it work in cases where the cultural differences are broader?"

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