Late last year, on the same day Univision
Communications and Mexico’s
Grupo Televisa stunned the Hispanic media
world with the announcement of a renewed
partnership and the end of a long,
costly battle in the U.S. courts, Mon ica
Gadsby picked up the phone and called
David Lawenda, Univision’s president of
advertising sales and marketing.
Brimming with enthusiasm at the
prospect of cross-border advertising
opportunities, Gadsby, CEO, U.S. Multicultural
and Latin America, Starcom
MediaVest Group, didn’t want to waste
any time. Here was an opportunity she
and the media agency had been waiting
for: to finally offer multinational clients
an opportunity to cater to Hispanic consumers
on both sides of the border.
The conversation soon paid off . Gadsby,
Lawenda and a few executives from their
respective teams in Chicago and New
York traveled to Mexico City in the spring
of this year and sat down for 48 hours
in a full immersion session with the top
brass at Grupo Televisa. The team began
to drum up ways for multinational brands
present in both countries to integrate
themselves into reality shows, telenovelas
and other television properties as they
travel between Mexico and the U.S.
ON A MISSION
“Monica is a true pioneer,” Lawenda,
who has worked closely with Gadsby
pretty much since he joined Univision in
September of 2007, said. The pair met for
lunch in Chicago at Catch 35, a swanky
seafood restaurant. There, Lawenda
quickly realized that he and Gadsby share
the same mission: To evangelize clients
and help grow the market for Hispanics,
the largest and most dynamic minority
It’s a market Gadsby knows well. Having
worked in advertising since the age
of 22, Gadsby is one of the nation’s most
respected Hispanic media experts. Under
her leadership, the two multicultural units
of Starcom Mediavest — Tapestry and
MV42 — have placed millions of advertising
dollars in the Hispanic TV marketplace,
handling an estimated $1 billion in
media buys and working with blue chip
companies, including Procter & Gamble,
The Coca-Cola Co., Wal-Mart, Kraft,
Disney and Burger King, among others.
Her expertise has taken her clients to
places they never dreamed of, to millions
of boxes of cereal and nightly primetime
dramas; to mobile devices and desktop
The multilingual Gadsby, 46, is the
recipient of this year’s Achievement in
Hispanic Television, awarded by Multichannel
News and Broadcasting & Cable.
She’ll receive this honor at the magazines’
9th annual Hispanic Television Summit
on Tuesday, Sept. 20, at the Marriott Marquis
It’s the first time this accolade goes to a
media-agency executive. Past receipients
include Sábado Gigante host Don Francisco;
sportscaster Andrés Cantor; María
Celeste Arrarás, host of Al Rojo Vivo; and
journalist and anchorman Jorge Ramos.
“Monica is our superstar. She is the
woman behind all the advertising energy
that has been able to take the industry
to the next level,” Jacqueline Hernández,
chief operating officer of Telemundo, said.
Hernández worked alongside Gadsby in
breaking barriers and putting forward
some of the most ground-breaking research
on the Hispanic consumer to date.
Monica Gadsby truly fits the definition of
multicultural. Born in Brazil, she moved
with her family to Brussels, Belgium, at
age 11. She attended college in Austin,
Texas, where she perfected her English
and was immersed in Spanish thanks to
her Mexican roomates.
She now lives in Chicago with her British
husband and three kids, and moves
comfortably speaking the several languages
she has mastered: English, Spanish,
Portuguese and French.
“What is really great about Monica is
that she is a global citizen … She speaks
Spanish, English, French, Portuguese, but
more than anything she speaks the human
connection,” Hernández said.
While Gadsby’s contact with different
languages and cultures was ultimately
what helped shape her multicultural
mind, it was not always a smooth ride.
“It was actually a very traumatic experience,”
Gadsby said of moving to a small
Belgian town from Brazil at age 11. “People
knew nothing of my culture; all people
knew of Brazil was Carnival, soccer
and the jungle.”
Forced to adapt to a small-town school
in a totally different environment — and
trying to learn a new language — Gadsby
didn’t know then that such a shock
would be crucial in her future endeavor of
breaking cultural barriers.
Moving to Belgium seemed to affect
the young Gadsby in two major ways: it forced her, from an early age, to sort out
the idea of acceptance and tolerance; and
it provided an opportunity to share her
culture with others — and prove any stereotypical
notions of her native country
The oldest of five children — and the
only girl — Gadsby had successfully
adapted to a European adolescence
when her father was called away, again,
this time to the equally alien environs of
In addition to moving to a country
she’d never set foot in before, Gadsby
was forced to navigate the complex process
of picking a U.S. college. She ultimately
enrolled at the University of
Texas at Austin. As a Houston-to-Austin
commute wasn’t practical, she quickly
realized she’d need to live away from
Th us started Gadsby’s second round
of adapting to a new culture and a new
language. Th is time, however, she was
ready: “I was a bit older and a bit more
equipped. I had my killer spirits, so I
knew I’d be OK.”
It was those killer spirits that made Gadsby
realized she had to find something
for a career other than reading the classics
and devouring English literature. She
also knew she did not want to be a college
professor and began to look for a more
practical career path.
She discovered marketing and advertising
while still in college and it quickly
became her passion. In addition to earning
a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts, she
earned a bachelor of science in advertising
In 1987, the same year she graduated
and at just 22, Gadsby was recruited
as a media planner by Chicago-based
Leo Burnett. She soon moved there and
became a founding member of the Leo
Burnett Hispanic unit.
“My boss figured I spoke Spanish, so
why not?” she said.
She has lived in Chicago ever since.
While Gadsby has always worked for
the same holding company, Publicis, her
career has been anything but boring.
Soon after landing in Chicago, she
quickly pioneered the world of
multicultural marketing; first as
CEO of Tapestry, the multicultural
agency launched in 2001, and as
recently as two years ago charged
with overseeing the Americas,
in addition to her job as head of
SMG’s multicultural operations in
Under her leadership, Gadsby’s
team has worked on big productintegration
deals with the major
broadcast and cable networks,
using popular telenovelas and
sports properties to showcase her
clients, or forging relations with
smaller players in the cable and
digital worlds to explore cross-border opportunities.
In one recent example, Gadsby’s team
worked with the production company behind
El Diez, ESPN Deportes’ first original
scripted series, which chronicles the
life of a professional soccer player who arrives
in Mexico City in search of glory. El
Diez, which premiered Sept. 4 on ESPN
Deportes in Mexico, features integrations
from Burger King and General Motors,
two of SMG’s clients that also have a
strong presence throughout Latin America.
The series is scheduled to premiere in
the U.S. on Oct. 30.
A similar project is currently in the works
with Yahoo! en Español, where Yahoo de
Moda, a Procter & Gamble-sponsored
beauty and fashion site, is ready to travel
south. De Moda features news, photos
and webisodes about trends and styles,
and caters to the growing number of
Latinas online, both in the U.S. and in
SMG’s efforts in the online space are
also part of Gadsby’s push to debunk the
myth that Hispanics are not big consumers
of digital media. In fact, programs
developed in the past for clients P&G, Allstate
and Walgreens demonstrated that
Hispanics were avid respondents to online
and mobile promotions.
Behind most programs undertaken by
SMG’s multicultural divisions is a solid
foundation on research, an area where
Gadsby and her team have taken the lead.
“Monica and her team have put out
some the best research tools ever,” Telemundo’s
Hernández said. One of these
was Beyond Demographics, an in-depth
Latino identity study done in partnership
with Telemundo to help marketers
develop content relevant to this demographic.
The study, which first launched
in 2009, sought to go beyond language
and acculturation, and aimed to tackle
the complexity of the Hispanic market,
touching on the passions and interests of
Whether embedding a car’s brand into a
primetime telenovela; driving consumers to
vote for their popular artist on their handheld
devices; or posting the face of a famous
Hispanic actor on millions of cereal boxes
(see sidebar), Gadsby said every new project
is a step in which she and her team get
the opportunity to learn something along
Gadsby’s job becomes more complex
and challenging as Hispanic media
evolves, she said.
Asked how she goes about the controversy
about language when targeting U.S.
Hispanics, she said: “The challenge is to go
beyond language. The discussion needs to
evolve into good content — content that
can cross borders and that can ultimately
be in any language,” she said.
Taking a Cereal to the Next Level
When Post Foods and Starcom MediaVest’s MV42 began to brainstorm about doing a program targeting U.S. Hispanics to
gain some traction against bigger, stronger rivals Kellogg’s and General Mills, marketer and agency found Jencarlos Canela.
The telenovela star, singer and composer had risen to fame as the star of Telemundo’s nightly drama Más sabe el diablo
and was about to embark on a concert tour. A young face brimming with positivity was the piece Post was looking
for to finally make its mark in the growing U.S. Hispanic market, raise brand awareness and increase purchase intent in
the crowded — and competitive — cereal segment.
“Pensemos positivo” (Think Positive), a 360-degree multiplatform marketing initiative featuring Canela, was launched in
early 2011 across all Telemundo and mun2 platforms. The program also included the creation of a three-minute branded
music video, a dedicated website (telemundo.com/piensapositivo), and a sweepstakes offering contestants the chance
to win a trip to Miami for a private performance.
The sweepstakes was promoted on air, online, out of home, over the radio and on 4 million Honey Bunches of Oats
cereal boxes. It was the fi rst time a celebrity was featured on a Honey Bunches of Oats cereal box.
The result? According to Post Foods, the campaign more than delivered on its return-on-investment promise, with Jencarlos’
photo on the cereal boxes outselling the competition. “The ‘Pensemos positivo’ campaign enabled Honey Bunches
of Oats to close the gap and become parity with the #1 cereal trademark in the Hispanic Market for the first time in the
brand’s history,” Mike Foley, senior ABM of Hispanic/WIC, Post Foods, said.
— Laura Martínez