By Brad Pomerance
Special to TelevisionWeek
The direct-response television industry is taking great notice of the voracious television viewing habits of Hispanic people in the United States.
Each week, an average of 26 million Hispanics are watching television in the United States, according to the Total TV Audience Monitor’s 2005 Study, “Understanding the Hispanic TV Audience.” Hispanic women watch close to four hours more television per week than women in other ethnic groups (32.44 hours versus 28.58 hours).
The direct-response industry has traditionally considered women its target customers, and in recent years Hispanic media ad spending growth rates in direct response have outpaced their English-language counterparts-by 7.2 percent during the 2002-03 TV season, 1 percent in 2003-04 and 3.8 percent in 2004-05.
While increasing their spending on the Hispanic viewing community, direct-response marketers have learned to target that group in ways that acknowledge the fact that Latinos living in the U.S. are not monolithic. There are at least five subgroups within the Hispanic community: U.S. Hispanic, South American, Central American, Caribbean and European.
As a result, direct marketers “must be sensitive when we do the creative so it crosses different dialects,” said Alex Agurcia, president of Omni Direct.
For example, many words used in a direct-marketing spot may come across “fine for a Mexican but highly offensive to a Puerto Rican,” said Sieglinde Friedman, VP, board and strategy, of the Electronic Retailing Association.
Not only must direct marketers be aware of distinct parlance but also of other differences in the lives and characteristics among people who consider themselves Hispanic, according to Yolanda Foster, VP of research for Latino Life Research & Consulting.
“Hispanic women on the West Coast have different bodies than Hispanic women on the East Coast,” Ms. Foster said.
One thing Hispanic viewers tend to have in common is their level of trust and dependence on TV. This makes them good candidates to act on direct marketers’ messages.
“The television station is more than entertainment to Latino viewers. It is news. It is information. They need this media. They trust what they watch on television. They cannot imagine a TV station would put on a product that is not valid,” Ms. Foster said.
Still, follow-through with Hispanic viewers, including beyond the point that they pick up the telephone in response to a TV message, is an important part of the equation.
“The Hispanic consumer wants to talk more with the call center. They want answers to more questions when compared to their English counterparts,” said Adriana Eiriz, managing director of Vivar Advertising. “Hispanics are more brand-loyal. They want to know more about the brand and the products. They are more inquisitive.”
It simply takes more finesse at the call-center level.
“The trust factor must be worked. Call centers need to understand that they may need more time to close the sale,” said Enrique Carrillo, VP of business development for Latino Life Research & Consulting.
At the same time, the intricacies of the Hispanic media market make reaching these growing numbers of Latino consumers complicated.
Univision, the highest-rated network among Latinos in the U.S., does not sell long-form infomercials as a network, Mr. Agurcia said: “Long-form is tight.”
“There are just not as many avails in the long-form, 30-minute infomercial,” Ms. Eiriz said. But thanks to the expansion of television stations in the Hispanic market, that limited availability may be easing. “We have seen more television station groups in Spanish that are opening up time periods for direct response,” Ms. Foster said.
To some degree, the products that sell best when targeted by direct marketers to the Hispanic market mirror those that sell best in the general English-language market, Ms. Foster said.
Health and beauty, weight loss and fitness are big categories in Hispanic direct response, Mr. Agurcia said.
Some up-and-coming categories are gaining traction as well. Religion, education, telecommunications and finance are newer categories that are starting to work in Hispanic direct response, Ms. Foster said.
A few categories have not seen as much success in the Spanish-language market. “Some of the business opportunity campaigns do not work,” Mr. Agurcia said. “Books and tapes that need to be translated do not work as well.”
The quandary of setting effective price points does not escape Hispanic direct marketers. Yet “Price points are pretty much the same as the English-language market,” Mr. Agurcia said.
There is one glaring exception: “Traditionally, higher-priced items have not been as successful on Spanish TV,” Ms. Foster said.
So the Hispanic direct marketer has adjusted. “The strategies are different for Hispanic DR for higher price points. Soft offers, where there is no price on the screen, work better than hard offers,” Ms. Eiriz said. “High price points are best for lead-generation campaigns,” added Mr. Agurcia.
While the general market employs both celebrities and noncelebrities to pitch products on television, “campaigns can work without celebrities” in the Hispanic market, Ms. Eiriz said. But “because Latinos watch more television, celebrities will help even more than in the English market,” Mr. Agurcia said. And one Latino star has been particularly effective in selling products to Hispanic consumers on television; Don Francisco (aka Mario Kreutzberger), the ubiquitous host of “S%E1;bado Gigante” on Univision, “has helped many DR campaigns,” Mr. Agurcia said.
The Hispanic DR industry’s success has not gone unnoticed; its general-market competitors are increasingly entering this marketplace.
“Guthy-Renker and Thane are creating infomercials in Spanish. Guthy is even running Proactiv in Spanish,” Mr. Agurcia noted.