Expertise Needed in Hispanic Market

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DRTV marketing to the Hispanic market does not always translate well into Hispanic marketing expertise.


Just because you speak a little Spanish, don't believe you know enough to get 30 million Hispanics to beat a path to your door. If you believe that, you will be beating a path to the door of the poorhouse.


As with the mainstream marketplace, DRTV directed toward Hispanics can be a tremendously powerful selling tool. But that is where the similarity ends. To do the job right, it is important to know the differences in the two cultural markets.


In the early days of television in the 1950s, if you wanted to watch English-language TV you had only three options - NBC, CBS and ABC, the broadcasting networks, which are still on the air today. DRTV commercials were nonexistent -- audiences were too big and time too scarce and expensive. Supply and demand changed when cable came to town, and that's when DRTV entered the game.


The Spanish-language TV of 1998 is much like the English language TV of the 1950s. Dominating the field is Univision, which has an enormous advantage stemming from its partial ownership by Televisa, the programming and distribution powerhouse from Mexico. Univision counts on Mexican immigrants' nostalgia for Mexican programming. So far this has worked very well.


Univision can sell most of its time whenever it wants to. It has no interest in DRTV. Its air-time rates have increased 300 to 400 percent in the last three years, to the point where it is not a bargain even for advertising of image and awareness-type packaged goods.


Telemundo, the other Spanish-language broadcast network, was cobbled together a few years ago. It has acted as a "me-too" Univision -- airing Hispanic fare with a distinctly "South of the Border" flavor and attracting a limited audience.


Cable has not developed in the Hispanic market the way it has in the Anglo market for the simple reason that cable does not offer many additional channels in Spanish. The main cable-feed serving this market is Galavision -- a division of Univision.


The implication is that Spanish-language TV is geared mainly toward new immigrants. Consequently, even if you strike an air-time deal, you will be affected by the different cultural consumer behaviors of this group.


First, the nature of their response is different. Often, when an Anglo sees a DRTV commercial, he makes up his mind to buy from the information provided in the ad, and then calls to place an order. Often, when a Hispanic sees a DRTV commercial, he will call to talk about it, get more information, gain reassurance, etc. No matter how much information is given in the commercial, this will still happen. So the effective strategy is to run shorter, less-expensive commercials centered on getting out the 800-number and generating a call.


Second, the way of paying for merchandise differs with Hispanics. Most come from cash societies and prefer COD payment. Thus, payment specifics should be given not in the commercial but in the phone call; this requires close interface between marketing and operations, close control of fulfillment mechanics and some additional profit margin to cover slippage.


If your product or service is of mass appeal, you will need to work with Telemundo, Galavision or individual stations, whether aligned with a network or not. If you have been successful with short-form in English, try it in Spanish. But cut the length of your commercial and get yourself a good in-bound telemarketing firm that knows this specialized business.


Infomercials can be effective, too. However, it's more difficult to modify English creative with dubbing and voice-overs than it is to remake the infomercial. Try one with a decidedly more emotional approach, perhaps modeled on novellas, the very popular Spanish-language soap operas.


Consider integrating fiestas and other events with television, as these can be a valuable source of leads. Keep in mind that direct response to Hispanics is inherently a lead and conversion business.


Finally, if what your produce would appeal to a more acculturated Hispanic audience, consider advertising in English. Many second- and subsequent-generation Hispanics speak and understand English as their native language. And 75 percent of the growth of the Hispanic market will be to this group. Galavision, as well as many other innovators in Spanish media, are exploring what can be done with Hispanic subject matter treated in English.


Roberto Torres is public relations director for State of the Art, The Hispanic Call Center in Los Angeles. Marvin H. Shaub is president of Teletienda Inc., a Hispanic market consulting and venture firm in Princeton, NJ.
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