Media X: Get a Vida

"What's an Anglo?" asked my New York copy editor when I filed my first "Hispanic Marketplace" column for Adweek West in 1984. Marketers were just then waking up to the fact that Latinos actually bought things. Every column I wrote used the word "burgeoning" to describe the market. And, of course, it has burgeoned like street vendors on Olvera Street ever since.

Back then, there was no shortage of points of view muy stupido about Hispanic consumers, on both sides of the language barrier. Like the marketer who, after hearing a Univision presentation in his office in a big Midwestern city, walked over to his window, looked down and declared: "I don't see any brown faces down there." To which the presenter replied, smiling: "You will."

Or the white-bread Least Coast client who insisted his Spanish spot, which would run only in New York, had to include kids playing soccer in their backyards. To which his Left Coast Hispanic agency replied dryly: "Puerto Ricans don't have yards. They have fire escapes."



Or the indignant Chicana who gave me a tongue-lashing at a Mexican-American Grocers Association conference for using the word Hispanic, which she thought was a colonial term. To which I replied, smugly and perhaps incorrectly: "Latino is Spanish for Latin. The French are Latins. So are Romanians. Hispanic is a media term for consumers from Spanish-speaking backgrounds. I like my word better."

Or the constant caterwauling from Hispanic media carping that they never get dollars proportionate to their population. To which I wish someone, anyone, would reply, sternly, "If you buy the top five metros, maybe one or two others, you'll reach every Hispanic in this country except for Alberto Gonzales, and nobody wants to hear any more from him, anyway. That is why you don't get a proportionate slice of ad spend. And you shouldn't."

So it was with a great sense of satisfaction that I read in Ad Age that Procter & Gamble is shifting its Hispanic marketing operations from San Juan to Cincinnati to acknowledge how integral Hispanics have become to its overall efforts. I bet there are even people at P&G now who even know how to pronounce "Sepulveda." (Not "Cahuenga," though. Let's learn to walk before we try to run, ninos.)

Sure, Hispanic marketing is still relegated to the "multicultural" wing of Queen City's corporate overlord, as it is in every other mainstream marketing, media or advertising organization. But it's a far cry from "What's an Anglo?" and P&G should be commended.

Now we need to take that last, brave step and direct bazillions of media and creative and marketing dollars at acculturated, bilingual Hispanics. I'd like to see visionary shops, or clients, or both, rally the business around this deliciously fascinating target--an entirely new type of American consumer--neither Hispanic nor mainstream, but a hybrid of both.

You know, like the country itself.

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