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Making the Most of the Multicultural Mix

Feb 28, 2007  •  Post A Comment

With a Cuban father and a Mexican mother, Halim Trujillo grew up in a multicultural atmosphere. As a child, he broadened his outlook by spending time with his cousins in the Bronx, said Mr. Trujillo, who joined MindShare North America in December as head of the agency’s expanded multicultural planning department.
Mr. Trujillo also came into the agency business after learning the language of the client. The Mexico City native originally wanted to go into finance when he finished college, but banks and brokers were looking for more experienced applicants. So he decided to look for a financial post with a consumer packaged-goods firm.
His first job was working for Nestle as a controller, reviewing the marketing expenses of one of its product divisions, where he soon found himself getting more involved in the marketing side. “This is more interesting,” he found. “It’s not just numbers. It’s beyond that.”
An opportunity quickly presented itself, and at the ripe old age of 22 he was put in charge of the media department.
At the time, Nestle worked with five major agencies. “I learned a lot about the media, about the numbers and how you deal with the vendors,” he recalled. “I was negotiating corporate rates for Nestle, the third biggest advertiser in Mexico. Obviously that gives you a certain leverage.”
Upon meeting Mr. Trujillo for the first time, some of his business contacts were shocked by his youth. They would say, “We thought you were older,” he said. “I was even shocked.”
Mr. Trujillo moved on to jobs at Kellogg, Parmalat and Domino’s Pizza before deciding to move to the U.S. to try the agency side.
“I think agencies in the U.S. have more flexibility when it comes to making decisions, though obviously the client will always make the last call,” he said. “I think this is a great transition for me, because I will continue to do things my way, and obviously it’s another side of the industry that I want to learn from.”
Mr. Trujillo’s first agency was Cultura in Dallas, a multicultural agency 49 percent owned by Omnicom.
“At Cultura, my knowledge of the dynamics of the multicultural arena increased. I’ve really had a good feel of how to reach the different segments of the multicultural marketplace,” he said.
That’s very different from marketing in Mexico’s almost entirely Hispanic market. Reaching Hispanics in the U.S. requires finer targeting to avoid waste, he said.
And while the Spanish language unites it, “The Hispanic market is a combination of different variables that all come into play,” Trujillo said. “Country of origin, language preference, their level of acculturation, their level of retro-acculturation.”
As generations of Hispanics mature in the U.S., they are more likely to be English-dominant, he said. But at a certain point, some Hispanics grow to miss the foods, customs and even TV shows from their homeland, and that leads to retro-acculturation, he explained. “That’s one of the great things about the Hispanic market: how diverse it is and how you have to be very knowledgeable if you want to be good about approaching it.”
He’s bringing that experience now to MindShare. “MindShare acknowledged that minorities are very important in the U.S., and that’s a reason why they wanted to bring the multicultural team to a higher level,” he said. While the unit does most of its work in the Hispanic market, it has expertise in the African American market and is looking to build up its Asian business as well.
Mr. Trujillo also got engaged in November and is planning to marry fiancee Jamie Rehberg in August. He describes her as a Texas blond and a very smart girl from Fort Worth who works for Microsoft.
In his spare time, Mr. Trujillo paints, which is something he’s been doing since he was 15. He’s getting some of his works ready for display in an art show being held by the Latin Arts Association in Fort Worth. “I paint pretty much modern abstract stuff,” he said.
Who Knew: Mr. Trujillo says when he retires, he wants to become a chef and own his own restaurant. “I love cooking,” he said. He’s into a fusion eclectic cuisine, mixing flavors from different countries and putting them together. He also likes to watch cooking on TV and said his favorite shows include “Iron Chef” and “Top Chef.”

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