The gist of the “Multi y Mono: A Cultural Advertising Battle” panel at South By Southwest Interactive Saturday morning is that ad agencies, marketers and brands themselves are going to have to completely alter the way they perceive of their audiences in order to continue to prosper. This is due largely because of the growth and mainstreaming of Latinos and African-Americans, according to panelists.
“The concept of ‘general market’ needs to be questioned,” said Sergio Alcocer, chief creative officer of Austin-based LatinWorks agency. “The ad industry is going through a very strong transformation, as ‘multicultural’ becomes truly a source of business.”
Alcocer went on to say that, previously, the ad industry considered “diversity” to be hiring a Latino or African-American person to dedicate themselves to the Hispanic or African-American marketing of that agency. Nowadays, the mindset is more important, and minorities need to participate from the very start of messaging to be effective — not just be an afterthought and “Hispanicize” an ad that’s already been created.
This idea of changing content with changing demographics carries over into the ways in which the ad industry has previously conceived of “Hispanic marketing,” and changes to those ideas. For example, he said the “traditional segmentation model” for Latinos was based on language: not acculturated (Spanish speakers), bicultural (some Spanish) and acculturated (no Spanish). However, Alcocer said recent research from his agency shows that language does not necessarily translate into behavior — which has turned this model on its head.
“There are Hispanics who don’t want to acculturate,” he said, noting that there are mainstream Latinos who speak Spanish at home. Thus, it’s incumbent upon brands and agencies to move away from hiring a “Hispanic guy” and move towards incorporate Latinos and Latino marketers into branding from the very beginning.
Another topic of discussion amongst panelists was not only how agencies are tying in the idea of diversity, but how they are recruiting people of color to work for them. It seemed to be that mainstream ad agencies are whiter than in previous years while multicultural agencies were described as being like the “UN.”
Leslie Wingo of Sanders/Wingo said one solution to the pipeline issue of “we just can’t find any good minority talent” is to look outside of the industry to talented people in other fields, such as lawyers or anthropologists. “We need writers, we need people who understand cultures, who speak Spanish, Chinese, who come from different backgrounds,” she said. “It’s about understanding the people that you are trying to communicate with, not at.”
Kelli Coleman is the Executive VP at GlobalHue concurred, noting that the idea is to find people who varied backgrounds who understand cultural nuances. You may not find this waiting for it to come out of the “traditional” pipeline, you may have to get creative about it if you want to find it, which you must if you want to be successful in the future.