Ad Industry Learns to Say It in Spanish

Times Staff Writer

Madison Avenue, which has been lauded and criticized for contributing such memorable phrases as "Ring Around the Collar" and "Where's the Beef?" to the English language, is about to congratulate itself for its creative efforts in another language: Spanish.

Next week, Clio statuettes--the advertising industry's equivalent of Oscar awards for motion pictures--for the first time will be presented for U.S. Spanish-language advertising.

The move, which came partly in response to the urgings of a Southern California Latino advertising agency executive, symbolizes how important Spanish-language advertising has grown in recent years.

"When I first approached them with the idea 2 1/2 years ago they didn't think the time was right," said Juan F. Waelder, a vice president and creative director of Los Angeles-based Ferrer Ad America Inc. But today, he said, Spanish-language advertising "has arrived."

Integral Part of Base

Indeed the president of Philip Morris Cos., the nation's second leading Latino market advertiser behind Procter & Gamble Co., told a gathering of Latino business executives in Denver last fall year that: "Hispanics represent an integral part of our consumer base.

"Simply put," said John Morris at the annual meeting of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Denver, "Philip Morris wouldn't be one of the world's largest consumer products companies without the 20 million Hispanics."

Ironically, the first-time Clio recognition comes at a time when the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 threatens to slow the number of Latin Americans migrating illegally to the United States and could thereby stifle the growth of the Latino market.

"Immigration reform could indeed slow down the rate of immigration from Latin American countries," said Felipe Korzenny, professor of communications at San Francisco State University and a marketing consultant. "If people become more acculturated to the Anglo society, we could see a decline in Spanish language and media."

But for now, Spanish-language advertising is booming.

Hispanic Business magazine, a trade magazine published in Santa Barbara, estimates that annual spending on Spanish-language advertising has more than doubled from less than $170 million a year in 1982 to nearly $400 million in 1986.

Philip Morris alone spent about $7.5 million in 1986, just behind Proctor & Gamble with $8 million, the magazine estimates.

Already 20 million strong and growing six times the rate of the national population average, Latinos in the United States make up a $134.1-billion-a-year consumer market, according to a recently completed study by Miami-based Strategy Research Corp. Yet they share characteristics more commercially significant than the language and culture that distinguish them from Anglo consumers.

Latino consumers are very brand-loyal according to a 1984 study by the New York-based consumer research firm Yankelovich, Skelly & White. That same study also found that Latinos are more receptive to new products than the general market and that because of their generally larger family size, they spend more per family on food, beverages and clothing that non-Latino households.

But Latinos are starting at a lower income base relative to the rest of the nation, experts point out. Still, their growing clout is attracting wider notice.

Latinos no longer are simply being looked at as packaged goods consumers--people who only have headaches and eat, advertising experts say. A more diverse group of companies are now clamoring for their attention.

"We are finally getting more than just the packaged goods advertisers on our network," said John Pero, director of sales for Univision/Spanish International Network in New York. "We are looking for a 35% increase in sales this year. We're starting to get to the aftermarket automobile parts people . . . insurance companies."

Programming Improved

When asked about the reasons for the growing interest in the Latino market, Pero said: 'It's not just population growth (in the Latino community) alone. Programming has improved, our audiences have improved and advertisers realize they get more for their dollar" by advertising in Spanish to Latino audiences.

As a result, Latinos are are transforming the way Madison Avenue communicates as no other consumer group has.

Not only are the creators of advertising campaigns using Spanish instead of English, but in many cases, the creators themselves often are Latinos. Many major advertising firms, such as J. Walter Thompson in New York, have specialty divisions staffed by Latinos to develop Spanish-language campaigns. Other agencies turn to minority-owned or -operated companies to undertake the work.

Overall, the number of Latino advertising agencies billing more than $3 million annually has almost doubled in the last seven years, to about 25, experts say.

Although Clio officials were fearful that the Spanish-language category would not generate enough entries, 26 radio commercials and 53 television commercials were submitted for judging.

The 10 television finalists and six radio finalists include a McDonald's commercial that confronts the varied musical styles of Latin America by featuring music from Mexico, Argentina and the Caribbean, to a Ford Taurus commercial that emphasizes "pride" rather than the nostalgic rock 'n' roll music of other Taurus commercials.

Conill Advertising of New York and Bermudez Associates of Los Angeles led the list of agency finalists, with four nominations each.

The entries are fraction of the Spanish-language advertising that is seen and heard in the United States--mostly on the 400 television stations that carry Univision, the Spanish International Network and on independent Spanish Language radio, television, newspapers and billboards.

But the entries are instructive about how much Spanish-language differs from its English language counterpart and why.

Alfredo Jarrin, creative director of the Hispania advertising agency in New York, said most Ford Taurus commercials, featuring middle class baby boomers and scored with the rock 'n' roll music of the 1960s, wouldn't be effective with Latino audiences.

Differences Evident

Instead, Jarrin created a Taurus commercial in Spanish that emphasizes pride and tradition rather than focus on style and performance as most U.S. automobile ads do.

The commercial shows an encounter between a young lawyer with a new Taurus and his elderly father, who is giving the finishing touches to a piece of furniture. When the son arrives to show off his new car, the older man examines the vehicle as carefully as he had been working on the furniture and, afterwards, nods his approval. Then as the music swells the announcers says in Spanish: "Ford Taurus . . . is a name to be proud of."

"Hispanics care more about a strong loyal family and traditional values," explained Jarrin. "To take a regular ad and translate it--well, people would just feel insulted."

Yet according to many Latino advertising executives, that's just what many companies did until recently.

Andres Sullivan, senior vice president and creative director at one of the nation's largest Latino ad agencies, Mendoza, Dillion y Asociados in Newport Beach, said five years ago the typical Spanish language advertising budget was only about $10,000, compared to $80,000 for an English commercial because companies would only pay for a simple translation of an existing English commercial.

Budgets Increased

But today, he said "marketers are becoming more sophisticated about selling to the Hispanic community." Budgets for Spanish-language ads have risen to about $85,000, compared to $120,000 for regular advertising, he said.

Latino advertising executives say the recognition by Clio can only help Spanish-language advertising gain more recognition, particularly for small agencies trying to establish a foothold in the burgeoning industry.

But some worry that the special Clio awards may lead Latino agencies to the same pitfall that seems to plague some mainline agencies: they become more interested in chasing awards than making ads that are effective in selling products.

"Our job is to move products," said Sullivan, whose agency was nominated in the television category for a Spanish-language Wendy's commercial. "We are not paid to win awards."

TOP SPANISH-LANGUAGE ADVERTISERS Ranked by advertising expenditures in 1986, in millions of dollars

1. Procter & Gamble $8.0 2. Philip Morris $7.5 3. Anheuser-Busch $6.5 4. McDonald's $6.3 5. Adolph Coors 4.0 6. Johnson & Johnson $3.5 7. Colgate-Palmolive $3.0 8. Ford Motor Co. $3.0 9. Goya Foods $3.0 10. Sears, Roebuck $3.0 11. RJR/Nabisco $2.5 12. American Telephone & Telegraph $2.5 13. Dart & Kraft $2.5 14. General Motors $2.2 15. Metropolitan Life $2.0 16. Coca-Cola $2.0 17. Wendy's International $2.0 18. Sedano's Supermarkets $2.0 19. U.S. Army $1.9 20. Sterling Drug $1.8

Reprinted with permission of Hispanic Business magazine.

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