The print ad appears in the magazine Urban Latino in Spanish, and for a product many readers may identify with their grandmother. But the attitude is one of youthful coolness.
"Not one more bite, Cesar Luis," a young blond woman in a sequined, strapless dress tells an attractive man as he lifts a pasta-laden fork to his mouth, "until you fix me that Bustelo."
The ad, a spoof on Spanish-language soaps, or telenovelas, is for Café Bustelo, a coffee brand that is familiar to many telenovela fans. But the target market in this case is English-dominant, American-born and urban - in other words, the kind of bilingual, acculturated Latino who would rather watch "The Simpsons" on Fox than the soaps that populate prime time on Univision or Telemundo.
It is a market that has to a large degree been neglected by advertisers, even though United States-born Latinos account for the fastest-growing segment of the Hispanic population. Most marketers that create campaigns for Hispanics generally run commercials in Spanish, aiming them at the traditional segment of the market. Yet it is estimated that nearly 70 percent of the overall Hispanic market is composed of people under 35, representing more than $300 billion in purchasing power - about half of all Hispanic spending.
"The way to reach these Latinos effectively can't be limited to Spanish only," said David Chitel, chief executive of LatCom Communications, a media and entertainment company in New York. "It's not about language. It's more about culture."
Mr. Chitel is part of an organization, the New Generation Latino Consortium, that was formed recently to help raise the profile of the demographic segment it calls "new generation Latinos": second- and older-generation Latinos, from teenagers into their 40's, who are bicultural but use mostly English-language media. The organization, on the Web at nglc.net, comprises 18 Latino professionals in media, advertising, entertainment, public relations and marketing who would like the new-generation Latinos to be viewed as a distinct media and marketing target.
"We recognized that we weren't really connecting with the audience" in Spanish, said Alan J. Sokol, who until recently was the chief operating officer for Telemundo. It switched its Mun2 cable network's programming to mostly English from mostly Spanish. "A large percentage of young Latinos live in an English-language world."
Some advertisers are already seeking the Hispanic who is comfortable speaking and reading English or Spanish, either by placing general-market ads in programs and publications aimed at the acculturated Latino or by creating campaigns that use a mix of English and Spanish, images of Latinos and cultural content that resonates with the intended audience.
For instance, a commercial for the Honda Civic shows a fleet of cars in different colors with customized features like chrome rims and tinted windows. "The ad speaks to the culture that's about customizing your car," a culture particularly popular with younger, urban Latinos, said Joe Bernard, sales director for Mun2.
Jorge E. Cano-Moreno, founder and publisher of Urban Latino, said his eight-year-old magazine has become an easier sell in the last two years for advertisers that now include Budweiser, Coca-Cola, HBO, Heineken, Pepsi-Cola, Toyota and Volkswagen.
He singled out a Budweiser print campaign as particularly ingenious. One ad shows actual young Latino consumers dancing at a club, holding beer bottles. The ad reads: "March 14, 12:31 a.m. Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA. Budweiser Asi Es," which translates to "It's like this."
One founder of the consortium, David J. Perez, president of the Lumina Americas agency in New York, conceded that media outlets for bicultural Latinos are still limited to a few magazines, cable networks, radio stations and television series like "George Lopez" on ABC. (Another, "Welcome to Tucson" on WB, is not returning for the 2003-4 season.)
"It's at the ground level," Mr. Perez said.
Another problem, Mr. Perez said, is that agencies that specialize in the Hispanic market have few incentives to recommend that clients advertise to English-dominant Latinos. Those that stress Spanish, he added, may risk losing assignments to mainstream agencies.
Aida Levitan, chairwoman and chief executive at Publicis Sanchez & Levitan in Miami, part of the Publicis Groupe, and president of the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies, said she agreed that advertisers use Hispanic agencies primarily for Spanish-only campaigns. But the main reason most ads aimed at Latinos are in Spanish, she added, is because "study after study demonstrate that Spanish is the most persuasive language" for the majority of the country's Hispanic population, which is nearly 40 million people.
"Definitely people use English, but does that mean they're abandoning Spanish?" Ms. Levitan asked. "Not necessarily."
Hispanic agencies are already using some English in campaigns when appropriate, she said, and marketing through events with crossover appeal to the different Latino markets, like concerts.
Some agency executives said they believed that marketers must be aggressively pushed to use English if they want sales for their products to grow among Latino consumers.
"We have to stop telling clients that they absolutely have to do it in Spanish," said Carl Kravetz, chief executive at Cruz/Kravetz:Ideas, an agency in Los Angeles specializing in the Hispanic market.
Just as 20 years ago Hispanic agencies were born by convincing advertisers of the need for Spanish-language ads, Mr. Kravetz said, they must now "continue to look forward and continue to keep our clients smart."
Posted on aef.com: May 27, 2003
Mireya Navarro, The New York Times. May 22, 2003
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