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Agencies to Try to Reach Fast-Growing Ethnic Population

The implications of the increase in minority populations, as underscored by census data released last week, are being reflected on Madison Avenue. A big agency is making a major investment in the Hispanic advertising market, and a small specialist in the Asian-American advertising market is reorganizing to encourage growth.

Such appeals to segments of the general consumer market are likely to intensify, not only because of the 2000 census but because of the 2001 economy. During tough times, it could be a shrewd strategy to concentrate suddenly scarcer marketing dollars on faster-growing groups rather than the moribund majority.

The investment involves Publicis in the United States, the American division of the Publicis Groupe. It is forming Publicis Sanchez & Levitan - which will handle advertising aimed at Hispanic consumers - by acquiring two of the four offices of Siboney in Miami along with a 49 percent stake in Sanchez & Levitan, also in Miami.

The reorganization involves Admerasia in New York, which is becoming an agency company named New A offering advertising along with marketing, interactive and translation services aimed at Asian- American consumers as well as so- called emerging ethnic audiences like Indians, Pakistanis, Poles and Russians.

"The 1980 census showed the trend toward multiculturalism, the 1990 census confirmed it and the 2000 census proved it was a phenomenon," said J. Melvin Muse, chief executive at Muse Creative Holdings, an agency company specializing in multicultural marketing, which recently moved its headquarters to New York from Los Angeles.

"What we're saying to clients and prospects," he added, "is you'd better start shifting how you talk to people."

Publicis Sanchez & Levitan will have about 100 employees handling accounts with billings estimated at more than $80 million from marketers like BellSouth, Coca-Cola and Nestlé. The formation of the agency, which will take over the Siboney offices in Dallas and Los Angeles, represents a doubling of a bet by the Publicis Groupe on the importance of the Spanish-speaking consumer.

That's because the Saatchi & Saatchi division of the Publicis Groupe owns an Hispanic agency, Conill Advertising in New York, which will now compete against Publicis Sanchez in the same manner that Saatchi competes against Publicis in the United States.

"Ethnic communication will grow in the U.S.," said Maurice Lévy, chief executive of the Publicis Groupe in Paris, because "communication has to speak to the inner person, not only to the mind but to the heart and soul."

The Publicis Groupe, which also owns 49 percent of an agency specializing in ads aimed at black consumers, the Burrell Communications Group in Chicago, "obviously will have to look at the Asian market" as well, he added, "because it, too, is a growing market."

Aida Levitan, 48, chief executive at Sanchez & Levitan, will be chairwoman and chief executive of Publicis Sanchez & Levitan, and Fausto Sanchez, 47, president and chief creative officer at Sanchez & Levitan, will add chairman to those titles at Publicis Sanchez & Levitan. He and Ms. Levitan worked together on some projects with Robert H. Bloom, chairman and chief executive of Publicis in the United States in New York, before making the deal with him and Mr. Lévy.

"This is a pretty wonderful opportunity," Ms. Levitan said. "It provides us with a strategic alliance and a quick conversion of our agency into a national agency, with offices in the top three Hispanic states: California, Texas and Florida."

Mr. Sanchez said the Publicis Sanchez & Levitan office in Miami could serve as "a hub for Publicis as it seeks new business in the Caribbean and Latin America."

Siboney, in which True North Communications in Chicago owns a 40 percent stake, will continue operating offices in Miami and New York after the two others become part of Publicis Sanchez & Levitan.

"Aida and Fausto are entrepreneurs who came from Cuba and built an agency from nothing," Mr. Bloom said. "They understand how to reach the growing Hispanic population with messages that are culturally and linguistically relevant, and at the same time they believe strongly in messages relevant to those in the general-market advertising, so there's no dissonance."

That desire for a complementary relationship between specialty and general advertising is also a goal of New A, which will have 100 employees at five divisions in offices in Los Angeles, New York and Toronto, handling accounts with billings estimated at $40 million for marketers like the E*Trade Group, MCI WorldCom and Metropolitan Life.

"We've been talking about the concept for some time," said Atsuko Watanabe, executive vice president and general manager of Admerasia, who becomes the chief operating officer of New A. She added that the census data "validates what we've been talking about" since the founding of Admerasia in 1993.

Zan Ng, 45, becomes chairman of New A after serving as chairman of Admerasia and two other units, Cyverasia and aLanguage Bank. Jeff Lin, 38, chief creative officer at Admerasia, becomes its chief executive. Jeanine Kim, 28, vice president and general manager for Admerasia's West Coast operation, becomes president at AAAZa, a spinoff of Admerasia offering advertising and online marketing services. The letters stand for "Asian American A to Z agency."

Also, Sidney Yee, 37, joins Cyverasia as president from Summit Bank in Princeton, N.J., where he had been vice president for information technology solutions. And Peiwin Shih, who had been a reporter for the Chinese Television Network in Hong Kong, becomes general manager at aLanguage Bank, which provides translation services.

How does that fit into marketing? Well, Mr. Ng explained, "if someone makes a phone call" to a toll-free number he or she saw in a commercial that ran in Korean, Mandarin or Russian, "who's going to answer?" The expectation: someone who speaks that language.


Stuart Elliott, The New York Times. March 19, 2001

Copyright © 2001 New York Times Company. All rights reserved.