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Metris Targets Hispanic Community Through MasterCard Spanish-Language Site

The Direct Merchants Bank MasterCard from Metris Cos. this month became the first card marketed on MasterCard's Spanish-language Web site, MasterCardenespanol.com, which targets Hispanic-American consumers.

The Direct Merchants card, which is one of Metris' core credit cards, has historically been marketed to English-speaking U.S. consumers earning $15,000 to $50,000 annually with little or no credit history.

“We cater to underserved markets. The largest emerging ethnic market is the Hispanic community,” said Joe Hoffman, executive vice president of marketing and operations at Metris Cos. Inc., Minneapolis.

Consumers can access information about the credit card through a link on MasterCardenespanol.com, which launched in November. The link provides basic details in Spanish about card features, outlines the company's privacy policy and allows consumers to apply online.

“The Hispanic community is typically a cash-based society,” said Petra Pasquina, director of Hispanic marketing at MasterCard International. “Also, a large number of Hispanics live in a multifamily household in which the head makes the payments and has credit, while no one else has built up credit history.”

Direct Merchants Bank earlier this month launched television advertisements on Univision, a national Spanish-language television network. The advertisement details the company's credit card offers and directs consumers to a toll-free phone number and the Web site to apply or request further information. Don Francisco, host of Sabado Gigante, a Hispanic variety show, endorses the credit card during the show.

“We decided to launch the campaign online because it is a relatively low-cost channel to test the market,” Hoffman said.

Metris does not have any sales goals associated with the campaign, he said, adding that the primary focus is to test and learn about Hispanic consumer response to online marketing.

The MasterCard site provides Hispanic consumers with customer service, credit education and the ability to place spending budgets into an online calculator. MasterCard is developing links to MasterCard Web sites in Latin American countries, Pasquina said, adding that it is too early to be specific.

MasterCard markets the Web site via banner ads on www.univision.com and espanol.yahoo.com. The company also advertises on Univision and Telemundo, a Spanish-language television network.

“We reach at least 90 percent of the Hispanic market through those television stations,” Pasquina said.

Capital One Financial Services, a competing credit card issuer, has been targeting the Hispanic community since 1998. The company markets to Hispanics through a Spanish-language Web site, www.capitaloneenespanol.com. It also offers its customers Spanish-language educational and marketing materials.

Capital One advertises its products to the Hispanic community through print ads in Spanish-language newspapers and magazines in regions of heavy Hispanic concentration such as Florida, California and Texas. Also, the company runs television ads on Spanish-language channels and banners on Spanish-language Web sites. The company would not disclose the number of Hispanic customers it serves.

Metris launched its first Hispanic marketing initiative early last year, when it began marketing a co-branded MasterCard with La Curacao, a West Coast retailer specializing in Hispanic consumers. In July, the company agreed to acquire the credit card program from Banco Popular, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

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