Agency Profile: Tapestry

Starcom’s multicultural division stirs the melting pot. Usually an agency likes to give clients what they want and tell them what they want to hear. Give them brilliant creative executions. Efficient media plans. Innovative media buying strategies. Just don’t count Monica Gadsby among the coddlers. She has some news and views that might unsettle you.

"If you’re developing a media plan for a client in L.A., you’re developing a plan for the Hispanic market," she says. "In L.A. Hispanics are the majority. You should develop your media plan for them and supplement it with a plan for what we would consider the general population. That’s reality. But people may not want to accept it. It’s outside their comfort zone."

Gadsby has made a career out of pioneering the world of multicultural marketing. She has brought clients toward a closer understanding of the population that may be outside their comfort zone, but she has also made that zone more comfortable in her role as general manager of Starcom’s new multicultural agency, Tapestry.

Tapestry was officially chartered in October 2001 and started client work in January 2002. Upon graduation from the University of Texas in 1987, Gadsby joined Leo Burnett on the agency’s only account that was using Hispanic marketing — Procter & Gamble. Her understanding of Hispanic language and culture helped her rise through the ranks at the agency. Eventually, Leo Burnett launched Starcom, and she was named head of Starcom Hispanic, which took its $100 million in billings to its new brand name this year. She has played a key role in spreading the gospel of multicultural marketing to domestic brands.

"It has become a more integral part of what marketers do these days," she says. "Without a multicultural part of your campaign you cannot deliver the level of success that you could guarantee to your client in the past. In certain marketplaces, it is absolutely essential."

As stated in her opening quote, Gadsby is realistic about the majority or near majority status that minorities now occupy in markets as big as New York, L.A., Chicago, and Miami. Yet many of her colleagues at other agencies — and many of her potential clients — still don’t accept multicultural elements into their campaigns. They haven’t adapted to the fact that tortillas now outsell white bread in this country and salsa outsells ketchup. According to a survey from Insight Corp., the proportion of African-Americans is expected to grow moderately, from 12.6 percent of the total U.S. population to 15.4 percent in 2050. The proportion of Asians will grow much more rapidly, from 3.6 percent to 8.7 percent in 2050, while the proportion of people of Hispanic origin will grow from 10.2 percent to 24.5 percent in the same period

"People resist change," she says. "It’s easier to deny than to adapt. We still refer to ‘the general market’ in the ad business, and even sometimes I fall into that trap. What is the general market? There is no such thing anymore as the general market."

Two things need to change to improve brands’ and their agencies’ approaches to multicultural marketing, according to Gadsby. First, audience measurement companies such as Nielsen and Arbitron need to build more representative samples in multicultural markets so that foreign language media is properly measured. When Nielsen recently measured a Hispanic affiliate as the number one station in Miami, the Fox affiliate cried foul. That measurement shouldn’t be so hard to believe if you truly understand the market. That’s the second area that needs improvement, she says. Media planners and buyers need to understand more about Hispanic culture and media so they can be more effective in building campaigns.

"The connection is in language and culture," she says. "But language is not the only solution. You have to understand what consumers are passionate about. Then you have to leverage that insight. Hispanics tend to watch TV as a family more than other groups. So prime-time TV ads might be a good way to get to Hispanic kids."

Some retailers have been effective addressing the multicultural landscape, in Gadsby’s view. When Kmart announced that it was turning its post–Chapter 11 focus toward multicultural marketing, she called it a smart move. But she saves her superlatives for the retailer she has worked with personally, which is Sears. To its credit, Sears has addressed many different segments of the population through its "Crossroads" campaign. For example, it has several languages available to users of its website. It also sponsors events in the Hispanic community in major markets.

"Sears is very integrated," she says. "Their inventory is different in multicultural communities. They’re involved in the community. They’re involved in the culture. I think other retailers will eventually be smarter about addressing the multicultural audience. Sears is doing a lot of smart things."

Gadsby is also proud of some recent wins and high-profile account work Tapestry has been working on. The agency recently won an Effie award for its work in repositioning Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes to the Hispanic community. It also helped Toys R Us connect with Hispanic audiences in several major markets. The key to that campaign was identifying key holidays in the Hispanic market that represented gift-giving opportunities. For example, while the general population was going to TRU to return gifts on Jan. 6., Hispanics were going there to shop for presents in celebration of Three Kings Day. Tapestry also helped Miller beer find its Hispanic connection in Texas and California. The challenge was not figuring out that men like beer and like to drink while watching sporting events. The challenge was identifying soccer and boxing as the best sports to advertise in. Under Tapestry’s guidance, Miller Beer has become the official sponsor of the Mexican national soccer team.

"Our corporate goal is to become catalysts of innovation in delivering a total market solution," Gadsby says. "We will continue to foster that goal. More and more clients are recognizing the need to address the multicultural market. It’s our job to find better and more innovative ways to do it."

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