The Hispanic Advertising Industry is rapidly changing, and agencies must adapt in order to continue to thrive. That was the main theme at the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies (AHAA) conference in Miami last week, where Hispanic marketing executives gathered to discuss the state of the industry, evolving trends, changing demographics, new media, the potential for growth, and how to leverage their expertise to poise themselves for even greater success in the future. Linda Lane Gonzalez, President of The Viva Partnership and Board Member of AHAA, put it well during the conference opening statements: “It is about changes, forging relationships, and creating added value – this is not about a specific agency or group, but about the Hispanic Marketing Industry as a whole.”
The conference opened up with a fun and lively Q&A discussion with singer and songwriter Romeo Santos, former member of Bachata group Aventura, who has now gone solo with a new album launch. Jose Tillan from MTV3 engaged him in a discussion about the Millenial Generation (18-to-34-year-olds) which is truly the next generation of Latinos in the US. There are 14 million Hispanic Millenials, 28.3% of the US Hispanic population. Romeo represents this generation well as a Latino – he is bilingual, bicultural, has strong family ties, is technology driven, is authentic, is passionate about social causes – he is completely comfortable with both his Latino and American identity – and for this generation it’s more about culture than about language. Hispanic ad agencies and brands need to create strategies to reach this dominating demographic – speak their language, tap into their media, blend into their world.
The most compelling of the sessions for me was “Transformation of Agencies” presented by Robb High, CEO of Robb High Consultants. His frank discussion on the changing media landscape, the changes taking place in Corporate America, the shifts going on in general market agencies and the need for Hispanic agencies to quickly react was an eye opener. With corporate CMOs pulling budgets out of Multicultural marketing and general market agencies going after Hispanic business, there is little doubt that Hispanic agencies are feeling it where it most hurts. And with traditional media under siege, social media taking over the way brands are communicating and mobile being the tool of choice to gather information, it is vital for Hispanic agencies to stay on top of their game and integrate digital and social media into every aspect of their business. Changes are a bit slower to come to the Hispanic market, where radio listenership is still very high, and print readership has not declined as dramatically, but it is inevitable that it will soon trickle down.
High’s main recommendations to Hispanic agencies:
- Digital needs to become a general agency service. The ENTIRE agency should be skilled in social media and digital marketing. All client staff should be “Renaissance Advisors” who are able to advise clients across all disciplines, with an emphasis on social media. “Hispanic agencies need to put the pedal to the metal. With social media becoming the center of the universe, agencies need to become totally adept in the digital space.”
- Hispanic agencies should be going after general market business. General market agencies will continue to go after Hispanic business, so Hispanic agencies need to evolve and become full service general market agencies. This is not an easy transition, and a difficult change for Hispanic agencies that are rich in expertise and knowledge of the Hispanic market, and so incredibly strategic when it comes to connecting brands to the Hispanic consumer. But High feels that this is vital to survival, and recommends starting slowly perhaps with Hispanic centric brands looking to launch in the general market, or perhaps by acquiring new talent or even a small general market agency. I thought this was very interesting insight and not an easy thing to digest for the Hispanic marketing industry pioneers and thought leaders in the room. Watching the evolution of this industry during the next 10 years will no doubt be fascinating. I personally think that the expertise that a Hispanic agency brings to the table is priceless and that they should retain that while making themselves more competitive – a healthy medium perhaps. A general market agency branding themselves as experts in Hispanic marketing sometimes works if they have the right talent at the helm, but it is so often that a mainstream agency has little Hispanic expertise and really is just doing surface work, as they are often not nearly as well versed in this arena as what the vast experience of a Hispanic agency can bring to the table.
High did note the constants in a world of change:
- Quality of content will always create an audience, regardless of distribution channel.
- Creativity in commercial communication will continue to be critical to break through the clutter.
And his final advice to the agencies: “Change is hard…not changing is dangerous.”
In another powerful presentation, Carlos Santiago of Santiago ROI, revealed the results of AHAA’s latest report on Hispanic advertising spending. He emphasized that this is no longer an opportunity, but a requirement, as he directly correlated Hispanic advertising spend to overall corporate revenue. According to the study, a company allocating ¼ of its ad spend to Hispanic media over 5 years would generate annual revenue growth of 6.7%. Some of the Best-In-Class categories (consistent Hispanic allocation of marketing dollars of 14.2% or more) he recognized were Telecom, Restaurants, Retail, Beer and Auto Insurance. The message to corporate America was clear – as the economy continues to recover companies need to take a serious look at their corporate investment into Hispanic advertising to help maximize their growth. It is a simple business case tying into the bottom line.
The US Census numbers speak for themselves. This Hispanic market is not going anywhere, the numbers will continue to grow, and Hispanics will continue to be big spenders. Social media and mobile communications have taken on a huge role in contemporary communications. And agencies will dish it out for a piece of the Hispanic advertising dollars more and more every day.
The Hispanic marketing industry needs to adapt to the fast changes taking place in the demographics, in corporate spend and in the media landscape. Now the big question is, what’s next?
Margarita Hernandez is a bicultural & bilingual media and communications professional with more than 12 years of experience in working with corporate clients in helping strategize their Multicultural Marketing and Public Relations campaigns. She is currently a Senior Account Manager for PR Newswire’s Multicultural Division. Connect with her on Twitter, LinkedIn or via E-Mail