Brands Spend Billions Annually To Reach Hispanic Market; Is The Investment Misplaced?

There’s no doubt about it: the face of marketing has transformed over the last 20 years. Yet, for more than three decades, marketing to U.S. Hispanics has undergone little change; Spanish-language television still represents the bulk of U.S. Hispanic media spend, even though digital media use is now ubiquitous among Hispanics while television viewership is declining.  

There is a new study in the Journal of Cultural Marketing Strategy, “Nativity-based view: A new audience measurement standard that drives television return on investment for U.S. Hispanics” authored by Dr. Jake Beniflah, Brian Hughes, and myself, has revealed a major opportunity for brands to improve results when marketing to U.S.-born vs. foreign born Hispanics. This new study challenages a core tenet in Hispanic marketing; that the best way to reach U.S. Hispanics is through Spanish language television. It also presents a more effective way to drive return on investment (ROI) for brands that do use television to reach the Hispanic demographic.



Nativity-Based View (NBV) is a new methodology that promises to enable marketers to keep up with the rapidly changing U.S. Hispanic demographic. The NBV model, which uses nativity as a key factor, was tested in a real marketing context. Its effectiveness was measured across three business categories. The results were eye-opening:

1. Not surprisingly, most foreign-born Hispanics would still rather watch Spanish-language television. U.S.-born Hispanics, not so much; the study found a strong preference for English-language television programming among Hispanics born in the United States.

2. Incorporating viewer age as a factor, the study found that 73-79% of Spanish-language television does not reach Hispanic millennials.

3. Measuring nativity along with age creates a nuanced measure that quantifies the audience reach of Spanish-language television programming. This data strongly suggests that Spanish-language television is, in fact, not the best way to target the U.S. Hispanic audience.

What These Results Can Mean for Brands

This type of measurement precision (which is commonplace in digital) has not been widely applied to television at this point. It also shows that the NBV can be a valuable planning and investment tool for companies looking to target key segments of the Hispanic population. 

  • Brands can now measure their television audience size and reach by age and nativity. This level of granularity can help to target core Hispanic segments with greater precision. 
  • With a more accurate picture of their television audience, advertising agencies can make well informed investment decisions.
  • For brands looking to launch a campaign targeting Hispanic millennials, the NBV can help to allocate spending on this specific audience. 
  • This new model can also be used for other ethnic consumers, including Asians in the USA, and in other media (i.e. digital, radio, etc.).

Clearly, if culture matters in U.S. cultural marketing, then nativity matters as well. These study results point to the potential of the NBV in television buying and planning. In fact, companies in the U.S. and abroad who adopt the NBV could see a significant increase in the ROI of Spanish television. 

Additional analyses using the NBV by brands across different business categories and future industry-wide discussions are welcome.

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