Hispanic Ad Production Leaving U.S.

Sep 8, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Just as film and television productions go outside the United States in search of lower production costs, Madison Avenue is shooting Hispanic TV commercials in Latin America. Though sending productions to foreign soil may cut costs, there hasn’t been a corresponding increase in dollars being spent to advertise to Hispanics. Agency MediaCom places such spending at $2.2 billion; Hispanic buying power amounts to $581 billion, according to the agency’s industry research figures.

“In the last few years the trend among multinational clients has been to produce commercials in Argentina, Uruguay, Colombia, Mexico and Spain using local actors, with the production companies traveling to where they are filming.

Post-production is usually done in New York or Miami,” said Jose Aybar, VP and managing director of media services for Hispanic marketing/communications firm Wing Latino Group. Wing Latino is partnered with MediaCom, the media planning/buying agency, in MediaCom Latino, which provides Hispanic media buying services. The two firms created the new entity in February.

A 30-second spot, depending on its sophistication and whether it’s filmed outdoors in the United States, can run to “hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Mr. Aybar said. “In Latin America, it costs around half of that.”“Hispanic networks want an original Spanish commercial done in Spanish for the Spanish culture,” said Maria Cueva, MediaCom’s VP, director, responsible for all Hispanic media buying for such clients as Panasonic, Slim-Fast, Warner Bros. Home Video and Dulcolex laxative.

People involved in creating Spanish spots must be sensitive to colloquialisms, since words have different meanings in different nations. “You have to be aware of word differences and not do something insulting to the Mexican or Colombian or Puerto Rican communities,” she said. The company has a built-in safeguard.

“We are a multicultural group of people who have lived the Latino experience firsthand, in our country of origin and in the U.S.,” explained Xabier Gainza, Wing Latino’s VP, creative services. The dynamics of living in a bicultural environment, he stressed, “differentiates the U.S. Hispanic consumer from nationals in Latin America.”

Depending on the target audience, a talent criteria is sent to talent or casting agents, with the emphasis on someone “representative of that market but generic enough to appeal to all nationalities,” Mr. Gainza said. “Music and sound must be considered at the same time the commercial is created. Music brings cultural ties and an emotional link with the consumer.”

Larry Harlow, one of New York’s leading Latin musicians, is among the composers writing for Hispanic commercials. “I do Tex-Mex music for the West Coast, salsa for the Northeast, charanga for the Southeast and Tejano for California.”

After he’s seen a storyboard and met with the account executive, “I usually have 48 hours to write and arrange the music for a 30-second or 60-second spot,” he said. “The copyist has overnight to copy the score, we record it the next morning, then mix and deliver the finished product in one day.”

He used from three to 25 musicians during the date in a New York recording studio. Mr. Harlow’s music has peppered Miller and Miller Lite, Lowenbrau, Campbell’s Soup, and Sony commercials for such agencies as BBDO, Backer & Speilvogel and Castor Fernandez.

Agency officials “still have to educate their clients about the potential of the Hispanic market,” admitted Maria Cuerva, MediaCom’s VP and director, who was in general-market advertising with several agencies, including J. Walter Thompson. The native of Ecuador has been in the United States almost 30 years. But, she said, attitudes are changing and dollars will flow into Hispanic media, especially for special TV events such as the Grammys, Latin Grammys, Miss Universe, Golden Globes, the Olympics and the Super Bowl. “Procter & Gamble running a first-time commercial for Crest in Spanish during the regular Grammys this year was unique,” she said.

For the New York market she buys a package of novellas on Univision. “The ratings are very high and they’re like a miniseries,” she said. She’s watching WPIX-TV’s Spanish version of its 10 p.m. newscast on the second audio program channel before she makes any buying decisions.

Mr. Aybar, who joined the Wing Latino Group in 1997 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, anticipates “seeing Spanish commercials running in general-market programming.”

Ms. Cuerva noted: “Buying the Super Bowl is a marketing decision, and the money comes from the general-market budget because you’re trying to reach Anglo and Hispanic consumers.”

Following NY1’s bow in late June, sales director Joanne Tombrakos shifted several of NY1 News’ sponsors and anticipates newcomers for the Spanish feed. “The response from the ad community echoes our belief this is a logical thing to do. Sleepy’s, a mattress manufacturer that sponsors the “In the Paper” segment on NY1 News will have a similar sponsorship with Hoy, the Spanish daily.

Noticias will also sell entitlements in which the advertiser’s name is in the segment title. Two entitlements on NY1 will also appear on Noticias: “The Community Calendar” by Verizon and “Traveler’s Weather” by General Motors.

Jean Pool, executive VP and director, North American Operations, at Universal McCann, is concerned about the growing number of Spanish outlets in New York and elsewhere. “I have mixed emotions,” she said. “English is the home language, and the power of the country is to assimilate diverse populations. I’d rather see people encouraged to learn English. Speaking a foreign language enables immigrants to never have to learn English.”

Universal McCann has by no means eschewed Hispanic media. It works with its in-house Casanova firm, which handles creative aspects for Spanish-language commercials “as well as other Hispanic companies that are aligned with our clients.” These Hispanic-targeting clients include GM, Kohl’s department stores, Ditech and Sony.

Ms. Pool said client ESPN is anticipating its ESPN Deportes debut later this year. “If more Hispanic-oriented sports are offered on ESPN Deportes, there’ll be a bigger push to bring Hispanic budgets in line with general-market budgets.”