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September 29, 09

NEWS / Online Advertising Targets Dynamic U.S. Hispanic Market

Advertising strategies capitalize on Hispanics’ family ties

By Eric Green
Special Correspondent

Washington — U.S. companies are fashioning online advertising strategies aimed at an American Hispanic population of 47 million people that is increasingly wired to the Internet and other technologies, several market analysts say.

Gisela Girard, chairman of the Virginia-based Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies (AHAA), said more than 50 percent of U.S. Hispanics are Internet users, and that share is projected to increase. Among race/ethnic groups, Hispanics rank second to the white population in Internet use.

According to Tamara Barber, a data analyst for Forrester Research Inc., in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Hispanics will come online faster than any other demographic group over the next five years. The Hispanic online market will grow twice as fast as the overall U.S. online population, she said.

Hispanics historically have been “trendsetters in defining media-consumption habits” in the United States, Girard said, and companies that advertise online “in a compelling and culturally relevant manner” will see results with Hispanic consumers.

Barber agrees that advertising on the Internet and via other technologies is a “viable and necessary way” to reach Hispanics. She said marketers should think “cross-culturally” and use English and Spanish in ads. U.S. Hispanics, she said, consume much online content in English, but many also switch between English and Spanish.


Among the biggest advertisers in the United States, spending on ads targeting Hispanics reached $4.5 billion in 2007, a 27 percent increase over Hispanic-targeted spending two years earlier. Hispanics, the largest U.S. minority, are a “dream segment” for advertisers, Barber said, because of their growing buying power, their “economic optimism,” and their loyalty to companies that woo them.

Many of the companies advertising to Hispanics hire ad agencies that specialize in reaching Hispanics. The AHAA counts about 150 such specialized firms, many of them created recently despite the lagging economy.

How are advertisers reaching the market? Advertising Age magazine reports that in 2008 companies spent 26 percent more on Internet ads directed at Hispanics than they did the year before. The rise outstrips the increase of Hispanic advertising in traditional media during that period.

Toyota was among the first auto manufacturers to reach out to Hispanic customers via the Internet, a move that the company credits with helping it achieve the top ranking for new vehicle sales to Hispanics. (Toyota also ran a bilingual ad on U.S. network television in 2006 that won critical acclaim for illustrating how the company’s hybrid cars switch between gas and electric power just as many U.S. Hispanics switch between English and Spanish.)

U.S. Hispanics are more active users of cell phones than other segments of the population and are eagerly adopting the mobile Web, which involves using a cell phone or other portable communication device to connect to the Internet. A U.S. Department of Labor survey on U.S. consumer expenditures says that in 2005 (the latest year surveyed) Hispanic households spent more on cellular phone services than all other U.S. race/ethnic groups, except African Americans. (Internet and cell phone users, like the Hispanic population, skew young. In the United States, the median age for Hispanics is 27.7 years versus 36.8 years for non-Hispanics.)

Analyst Barber’s report, “Hispanic Consumers Offer Opportunities in a Recession,” says smart advertisers recognize that Hispanics are “feeling the pinch” of the economic downturn and use ads “to build and maintain brand loyalty through relevance.” Barber said this is reflected, for example, in the MasterCard Worldwide credit card company’s Spanish-language campaign that advises Hispanics on ways to better manage their money.

Gary Meo, senior vice president of digital media services for Scarborough Research in New York, said U.S. Hispanics value keeping in touch with family members. “Cellular phones equipped with cameras and the Internet provide vehicles for Hispanics to do so easily,” he said.

If advertisers need advice on what platform to reach Hispanics through or what message to use, Bill Gato, co-founder of the Miami-based Hispanic Digital Network Inc., can sum it up. He said Hispanics are trendsetters in using technology, but that it is important to remember that the technology is used to stay in touch with their families and their cultural values.


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