Hispanic TV Summit: Spanish-Language Marketing Is Sensitive

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Cable-operator and satellite-TV marketers shared stories about targeting Hispanics -- whether to go Spanish only or bilingual in messages, how to stretch niche-marketing dollars in a down economy -- at a Hispanic Television Summit session yesterday that even put a Time Warner Cable executive on the spot over the company's choice to hire a non-Hispanic marketing agency to promote its El Paquetazo package.

David Gray, TWC's regional vice president of marketing and sales in New York City, where the 138-channel, $35 El Paquetazo launched in June, said the cable operator expected "it was going to be a little controversial" when TWC opted to run bilingual commercials to promote the big mix of English and Spanish-language programming.

David Gray of TWC

Broadcasters were expected to resist running such ads, he said, but TWC ended up getting "much more pushback" from Spanish-language programmers. So the company had to develop a Spanish-only campaign for those networks.

Gray said TWC was dealing from strength when it decided to deploy El Paquetazo, having had strong penetration of its DTV en Espanol offering.  "The thinking was we could do better in serving this constituency," he said.

Moderator Laura Martinez, a Multichannel News contributing editor, observed on the panel that some Hispanic-focused media agencies in Miami, were unhappy that TWC opted for Gotham Inc., instead of a Hispanic-specializing agency, to roll out the El Paquetazo message (which launched first in Los Angeles). "I hadn't heard that," Gray said in deadpan fashion. But later he was asked about that choice by an audience member who said "we are all Hispanic marketers and we all want to learn" how to win that business.

Gray essentially replied tjat the company decided in advance on a bilingual approach and Gotham was ultimately selected after several agencies were reviewed.

Philip Polk, director of segmentation marketing at Cox Communications, said Cox targets Hispanics in TV commercials in Spanish -- but sends printed material to the home in both Spanish and English. Some customers don't like being targeted in English and others don't like being marketed in Spanish, he said. "You can't win," he said. But as demographics and language usage evolves within U.S. Hispanic homes, marketing pitches must evolve. So does the programming mix: Cox first launched a Hispanic tier about five years ago with an all-Spanish lineup, and later added English language channels, Polk said.

John de Armas, vice president of WorldDirect (international-language channels) at DirecTV, said for "clarity" DirecTV prefers to do its marketing to Hispanics all in Spanish. "I'm Hispanic and selling to a Hispanic audience, I like to use Hispanic media and speak Spanish to them," he said.

"The language for us is a very sensitive issue," Jorge Moya, chief creative officer at agency MGSCOMM,said. When the agency does a general-market print ad that has a spelling mistake, readers tend to shrug it off.  "When we make a spelling mistake in Spanish we get letters from all kinds of groups that we should be careful with the language, we should protect the language, we should really take it to heart," Moya said.

Because the Hispanic market is only a segment of the overall market, Polk said that when marketing budgets tighten up, Hispanic marketing budgets really tighten up. To stretch dollars further, he adds bilingual messages and casts Hispanics in general-market advertising.

"What we have been able to prove is when you create these [bilingual] spots properly, you will not alienate the general audience but you will bring on many more Hispanics than you would have," Polk said.

It's also vital that customer service agents and field installers also understand the package, and the language, he said.

As with all marketing, the more relevant the message, the better. Christine Clavijo-Kish, senior vice president of multicultural markets for PR Newswire, gave ESPN Deportes high marks for packaging baseball content (including a Major League Baseball game and a documentary about Cuban pitcher Luis Tiant) in a bilingual way that appealed to Caribbean Hispanics.

"ESPN really knows how to hone in on what Hispanics they want to talk to," Clavijo-Kish said.

She also credited History en Espanol for messages that touch on Hispanics' desire for their children to achieve more than their parents (the theme of "aspiration"). "It ties the brand back to a consumer insight," she said.

The summit, an annual event sponsored by Multichannel News and Broadcasting & Cable, concluded Thursday at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Times Square.

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