Guest Commentary: Advertisers Continue to Overlook Hispanic Demos

Oct 12, 2008  •  Post A Comment

The U.S. Census Bureau, in an August 2008 report, projected that minorities will comprise more than 50% of the U.S. population by 2042. Hispanics—the nation’s fastest-growing minority group—will nearly triple, from almost 47 million to a projected 133 million, or 30% of the U.S. population, between 2008 and 2050. They will account for more than a third of the nation’s work force. And despite popular belief, immigration isn’t the sole denominator in the growth and changing composition of the U.S. population. According to Pew Research Center, Hispanic immigrants and their descendants will account for 82% of the projected population increase over the next 40 years.
While these projections may seem startling, they hardly represent the United States’ first major population shift. The makeup of our population has continually changed since the Pilgrims first landed at Plymouth Rock. If you were an advertiser of consumer goods back in the 1600s, for example, you would have targeted your message to America’s indigenous population, or Native Americans, rather than the British colonists, who were certainly in the minority. With each new wave of immigrants—Spanish, English, French, Irish, German, Italian, African and, more recently, Asian and Hispanic—the composition of our population has changed. And as the population changes, so too should the media and advertising messages that serve it.
Today, Hispanics comprise 15% of the total U.S. marketplace. Yet advertisers only spent $5.8 billion targeting this demographic out of a whopping U.S. total spend of $279 billion in 2007, according to Hispanic Market Weekly. This is a time when Spanish-language advertising sales in television grew by 4½%, Spanish-language magazine circulation increased by 14% and Internet traffic expanded by 25%. Not only do marketing and advertising strategies have to reflect the changing demographic profile of the U.S., they also have to reflect the abundance of media content services targeting these specific ethnic sectors.
Granted, there are cases when the advertising messages for products don’t need to be specifically targeted to ethnic groups. Take toothpaste; everyone, regardless of ethnic background, brushes their teeth. However, when you look at the differences among ethnic groups’ media consumption, you’ll find that while everyone may be a potential buyer of toothpaste, not all are receiving the advertising message that motivates them to select a particular brand.
The media, marketers and advertising agencies need to fully understand both the commonalities and the differences between ethnic groups and the general population. By identifying not only what interests your intended viewer/consumer, but also where you can find this audience, you can maximize the effectiveness of your advertising message. A Hispanic-targeted media plan merely utilizing Univision and Telemundo, for example, may miss the boat as well as a large sector of the intended audience. Marketers need to incorporate more thought and research into their media plans, and media platforms need to educate advertisers how to most efficiently and cost effectively reach their desired ethnic group.
A perfect example can be found with young Hispanics. Although this population segment actually over-indexes in its usage and acceptance of technology and mobile phones when compared with the majority of our population, few service providers in the U.S. offer content-rich services with specific appeal to young Hispanics. Such providers not only fail to meet the needs of proven customers, but also miss out on potentially lucrative revenue increases.
Another preconceived and erroneous notion about the Hispanic community is that its members all reside in magnet cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami and New York. That may have been true 15 or 20 years ago, but today thriving Hispanic communities can be found in Atlanta, Dallas, Nashville, Detroit, Charlotte and Yakima, as well as in hundreds of smaller communities across the U.S.
As descendants of immigrants, today’s American Hispanics are assimilating into U.S. society at a much faster rate than their parents and grandparents … speaking English in the community and Spanish at home, if at all. The one thing that hasn’t changed, however, is the strong familial and cultural ties that bond them to their ethnic homeland. Nevertheless, recent studies indicate that Hispanics have joined the U.S. military in greater numbers than other minority groups, which is a strong indicator of their solid bonds with both countries.
We have already recognized this with the Mexicanal Network, where our programming not only serves the entertainment and informational needs of the growing U.S. Hispanic community, but also provides the social connection that supports ethnic identity while contributing to the formation of a better, more informed citizenry both in the U.S. and in Mexico. By researching the needs of our target audience, and by finding a way to address Mexicans living in both the U.S. and Mexico, we’re able to bring news from Veracruz to a family in Boise, Idaho, and similarly, deliver news from Los Angeles to friends in Guanajuato.
We’re doing our part to help connect the nearly 140 million Mexicans living and working throughout the North American continent. We firmly believe the media, marketers and advertisers must analyze the implications of these demographic trends and, more significant, realize their full business potential. The clock is ticking.
Luis Torres-Bohl is president of Castalia Communications Corp., co-owner with Cablecom of Mexico-based Mexicanal Network.


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