Industry NewsInsights



By David A. Chitel


Once upon a time, the U.S. Hispanic marketing model was a single-minded thing of beauty — a perfect, irrefutable story that went something like this.

“Unless and until advertisers marketed to U.S. Hispanics in Spanish, they were missing out on tens of millions of under-served customers with over a trillion U.S. dollars to spend, who were more brand loyal and more efficient to target than their non-Hispanic counterparts (i.e., – everyone else who spoke English).”

The story was told by the pioneers of our industry who created the bedrock upon which the U.S. Hispanic marketing world was built. It’s worth taking a moment to recognize how brilliant and effective this story has been for the better part of the last 50 years. It’s also worth mentioning that without these pioneers and the story they told, there would be no U.S. Hispanic advertising and marketing industry – a simple fact that needs to be honored, recognized and built upon today more than ever, but more on that later.

After the 2000 U.S. Census reported that the majority of Hispanics in America (62%) were natively born here, and lived largely “ambi-cultural” lives, I started an organization called the New Generation Latino Consortium (NGLC), in an effort to make sense of this “new U.S. Hispanic majority.” Speaking candidly, the NGLC was initially met with a fair amount of resistance. It was considered unpopular to talk about the rest of the U.S. Hispanic market, when our Spanish-dominant story was still yielding less than 3% of total U.S. ad dollars and there was ample room for growth to get to our fair share (i.e., – U.S. Hispanic’s percentage of U.S. population) that hovered around 12% in those days.

However, to me that fair share gap was the reason why an organization like the NGLC was so important. How could we ever get anywhere close to our “fair share” of the total U.S. ad spend if we (ie. – those working in U.S. Hispanic advertising and marketing) didn’t take control of the narrative that was already shaping the future of our industry?   If 62% of the U.S. Hispanics were U.S.-born in 2000, and Latinos were having larger families, driving population growth up and our median age down (a good thing), where better to source more of our fair share than from NGLs? In the ensuing years, I hosted no fewer than 10 conferences dedicated to this very subject, and wrote multiple pieces about it including ‘Acting On Today’s Latino Zeitgeist’ and ‘New Generation Latinos – It’s All About The Numbers’ to reference just a few. The NGLC also twice fielded a massive quantitative and qualitative NGL study in conjunction with Motivo Insights called ‘The Maximo Report’.

NGL’s mission has always been about educating the marketplace in order to grow the U.S. Hispanic fair share, while shining a positive light on New Generation Latinos across media, marketing and entertainment. All of this is to say, when it comes to marketing to U.S. Hispanics, NGL has consistently been on the side of Spanish AND English as necessary tactics.

Let there be no doubt, Spanish, was and always will be the most efficient way for advertisers to reach and engage U.S. Hispanics. The Spanish-dominant and bilingual audience and Spanish-language media isn’t “going away.” Not even close. To those on the largely misconstrued “Total Market” bandwagon who say otherwise (you know who you are), please continue reading and allow me to further expound.

Before I get into any further specifics, it’s important to understand the pervasive feeling of angst that many in the U.S. Hispanic marketing and advertising world are feeling. With so much “noise,” it is no surprise that many advertisers are shaking their heads and going the aforementioned one-size-fits-all “Total Market” route. They know they need to do “something,” and “Total Market” offers an easy way to “check the box,” by simply checking everything at once. Here are just a few of the things that, in my opinion, are clouding the thinking of many.

Declining Broadcast TV Ratings: Although the declines in Spanish-language TV ratings have been far slower and less pronounced than in the General Market, the health of the U.S. Hispanic media space is still largely dictated by that of TV.

Decline In Immigration: Per above, U.S.-born Hispanics have been the majority for decades, but a slow-down in immigration coupled with declining broadcast TV ratings has created a negative perception.

Rise Of Digital: Digital is a distant second to TV in the U.S. Hispanic space. Outside of Google and Facebook (i.e., – the digital equivalent of Univision and Telemundo), options are many, but advertisers are being bombarded by big data solutions that often take the place of strategic thinking. It’s got to be a combination of both (data and strategy), leveraging both Spanish and English solutions, given the paid, owned and earned media options available at scale in both languages.

Multicultural Lead De-Centralization: Over the past decade years, many Fortune 500 companies have de-centralized their multicultural marketing initiatives, and assigned the responsibility to brand managers who may or may not be experts in our space (there are certainly exceptions to this rule). Moreover, brand managers are frequently rotated, which has led to a lot of inconsistency and one-size–fits-all “Total Market” type of thinking as a default.

Uncertainty At The Top: Not to knock on Univision, but it’s clear that they’re still trying very hard to figure out their own “Total Market” positioning. Coupled with declining ratings, it has left the market with a feeling of unease given that they’re the biggest U.S. Hispanic player.

The “Trump Effect”: I hate to even mention this, but unfortunately when you pile the President’s nonsensical rhetoric on top of the factors above, it adds to the confusion and misconceptions about the U.S. Hispanic market. It has even gone so far as to affect Hispanics’ shopping patterns in certain sectors.

To be clear, the U.S. Hispanic market is not immune to the changes going on in the media landscape at large. However, it is equally prudent to note the massive growth opportunity that the U.S. Hispanic market still represents for advertisers to drive their businesses. Here are just a few points to support this case in fact.

Exponential Growth: U.S. Hispanics currently number 57 million people with a birth to death ratio of 8 to 1 (vs. 1 to 1 for non-Hispanics), representing 18% of the total U.S. population and growing (likely topping 20% by the time the 2020 Census results are revealed). All of these numbers are continuing up and to the right. Need I say more?

Millennials & Gen-Z: Hispanics are the youngest major racial or ethnic group in the U.S. according to the Pew Hispanic Center. Altogether nearly 6 in 10 U.S. Hispanics are Millennials or younger. Gen-Z will be the last non-White majority generation, largely because of U.S. Hispanic population growth. In other words, Hispanics are driving the growth of the most coveted target demographic groups in the U.S. (and therefore, the world). If any doubt still remains in your mind about Hispanics’ contribution to the Millennial demographic, please also reference the ‘Hispanic Millennial Project,’ and a recent study published by Viant entitled ‘The Marketer’s Guide To Hispanic Millennials.’

U.S. Economy GDP Contribution: According to a recent study fielded by the Latino Donor Collaborative, the U.S. Hispanic Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is projected to account for 24.4% of total U.S. GDP growth by 2020, growing 70% faster than the country’s non-Latino GDP. Of the top 10 economies in the world, the U.S. Hispanic GDP as a stand-alone entity is the third fastest growing, representing more than $2 trillion in spending power (ie. – larger than the GDP of India, to name just one).

Spanish Media Is Still King: Yes, I realize the irony around the person who coined the term “NGL” saying (17 years later) that “Spanish Media Is Still King,” but it’s true when it comes to ease of execution, ease of measurement and ease of in-language and in-culture connection at scale. Frankly, Spanish remains an easier sell to CMO’s who are hard-pressed to refute the very same story told by our industry founders that I’ll paraphrase again here in the present tense.

“Unless and until advertisers market to U.S. Hispanics in Spanish, they are missing out on tens of millions of under-served customers with over a trillion U.S. dollars to spend.”

At the very least, it’s got to start with Spanish.

Now, when it comes to marketing to Latinos in English, or “in-culture,” it becomes a trickier proposition, however, but not an insurmountable one. The early days of this approach started in the late 80’s and early 90’s where a handful of advertisers and the agencies that represented them were bold enough to run English-language Latino creative on major broadcast networks. These initiatives, however, were largely one-offs geared towards major TV events or programs. Then came the NGL TV networks such as mun2, SiTV, MTV-Tr3s and LATV to name a few. The in-culture marketing strategies and programming they pioneered were critical to the NGL movement. However, rather than an exercise in growth, NGL TV networks found themselves competing for “Hispanic TV dollars” with the more highly rated Spanish-language broadcast networks, versus driving incremental marketplace revenue. Given the difficulty of finding an NGL audience at scale within the disparate cable universe, many of these TV networks have gone away or evolved into new entities. This is not a reflection of the terrific jobs done by my industry peers who put everything they had into them, but rather a confluence of factors over which they had little to no control. It’s worth mentioning that LATV referenced above just celebrated its 10th anniversary and is still going strong, in addition to El Rey and Fusion who also cater to NGLs. Unfortunately, many advertisers still view the closing of other NGL TV networks as an indication that a so-called “Total Market” approach is the only way left to reach NGLs. However, if not done with great care and attention to nuance, a “Total Market” approach typically ends up being “Total Bullshit,” as many in our industry agree.

To be sure, the issues surrounding “Total Market” are plentiful and complex. A few years ago I even started hosting a Google+ Video Hangout show called #TotalMarketTalk, to dig in to them with industry experts on all sides of the equation. The conversations were both fascinating and insightful. One such conversation with Jose Villa CEO & Founder of Sensis Agency, helped to further define “Total Market” and other approaches in simple terms that are worth paraphrasing again here.

General: Marketing usually aimed at a predominantly white audience.

Multicultural:   Marketing divided by and applied separately by multicultural segment.

Total: Marketing that applies ethnic insights to the general market across all segments, including multicultural ones.

Cross Cultural: Marketing that applies cross-cultural to all segments, including the general market (in other words, leading with cultural insights and multicultural consumers).

If not well versed, it’s easy to see how marketers can quickly become overwhelmed by these nuances and revert back to the erroneous “Total Market” perception that “anything in English effectively resonates across English-speaking U.S. Hispanics just the same,”regardless of any cultural or emotional connection.

How did we get to this point? I’m confounded by it daily, and it’s one of the reasons I felt compelled to write this piece.

To be fair, however, advertisers and the agencies that serve them have more pressure than ever to deliver a greater ROI with more efficiency and more accountability than ever before. The agency model is clearly changing to adapt to these new market conditions. We in the media space are doing everything we can to ourselves adapt, and support the agencies we serve. The evolution of the media world over these past few years alone, has been nothing short of remarkable.

In an increasingly programmatic world fueled by big data and one to one communications, how do advertisers navigate the ambiguous “Multicultural,” “Total Market” and “Cross Cultural” chasm? It’s a fair question, and one that I’ll tackle exclusively from a U.S. Hispanic perspective since it’s the biggest and most lucrative piece of the multicultural pie. To me, “Total Market” has always meant marketing to the “Total U.S. Hispanic Market” in-language (Spanish creative & media), in-culture (English creative, but with a clear Latino focus) and in-context (English, but with a Latino media target). Let’s break this concept down on a more granular level, lest there be any further confusion.

For starters, I’ve heard advertisers make the case that “my marketing plan doesn’t require Latino targeting in English because my product is universally known and understood.” OK, maybe if you’re selling Chia Pets or pencil sharpeners, I’ll give that to you. However, in truth what you’re really saying is one of two things or both.

1.) You don’t have the budget to slice and dice your target audience, so you’re sticking with “Total Market,” and/or

2.) You don’t understand NGLs enough to make the investment.

To the first point I’d counter that marketers need to be more creative to tweak their plans to at least “wink” and English-speaking Latinos (see below) as part of their overall strategy. To the second point I’ll paraphrase a famous quote that goes something like, “those who fear change should be much more fearful of irrelevance if they don’t evolve.”

Simply put, if you don’t understand NGLs (ie. – Latino Millennials and Gen-Zer’s), and how to connect with them, then at the very least you’re doing your brand a disservice. At the very worst, you’re posturing your brand for disaster as your competitors inevitably wake up to the NGL opportunity. Whatever your reasoning may be for not targeting Latinos in English, I’m happy to provide some free advice for those who are open and willing to listen.

NGL Creative:

The Wink: I’ll shout out my friend Maria Lopez-Knowles who utilized this term at one of the NGL conferences a few years ago. It’s exactly what it sounds like. A “wink” is a gesture made to NGL’s through English-language creative that indicates you (the brand) understand exactly who they are and what they’re all about.

It can be as simple as integrating a cultural cue that NGLs will get, but the rest of your audience will still appreciate. It’s not about “us or them,” or putting NGLs into a proverbial “Latino box,” which they hate.

It’s also definitely not about doing a “translation” of a “General Market” spot. On the contrary, it’s all about acknowledging Latino cultural nuances in new and progressive ways without perpetuating stereotypes. This isn’t to say that every single one of your creative executions (TV or otherwise) has to be exclusively NGL, but a “wink” towards this audience will go a long way towards them making a cultural and emotional connection with your brand.

The Cast: If for some reason you’re not ready to fully “wink” at NGLs, for the love of God, please at least utilize a diverse cast that is representative of the “New Mainstream” as it’s been coined. Remember, that 43% of Millennials in the U.S. are multicultural as are nearly 50% of Gen-Zer’s. The generation after that will be over 50%. Time to wake up and smell the cafécito.

If you’re able to go one step further and feature an NGL celebrity (and/or a multicultural celebrity) popular amongst NGLs, even better. Maybe even mix them together with non-Latino celebs in new and interesting ways. Despacito (written by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee, featuring Justin Bieber), anyone?

In 2017, there’s simply no excuse for brands not executing one or both of these creative strategies. There’s plenty of U.S. Hispanic and multicultural agencies out there that can help you creatively navigate this space. If you haven’t already, go ahead and hire one of them. They know what they’re doing, and are living and breathing this space, regardless of whether it’s in Spanish, English or both.

NGL Media Planning & Buying:

In-Language: When people refer to connecting with U.S. Hispanics “in language,” they mean Spanish. Although it’s clear that U.S.-born Latinos prefer to consume media in English, bilingual NGL consumption of Spanish-language media remains high. Upwards of 40% of U.S. Hispanic Millennial 18-34 year olds are actually foreign-born, and therefore, bilingual or Spanish-dominant. My point here is that Spanish-language media remains a critical component of reaching and engaging NGLs. Yes, NGLs toggle back and forth between English and Spanish, but imagine how connected they’ll be to your brand if they feel you’re relevantly speaking to them in both languages? If you don’t believe me, then believe the Facebook IQ study in which 82% of bilingual and 60% of English-dominant Hispanics surveyed thought brands should reach out to consumers in both English and Spanish.

Here’s a great Forbe’s article by Alma’s Isaac Mizrahi that further expounds upon the importance and effectiveness of Spanish. Here’s another one from the NY Times stating, “the United States now has by some accounts (a greater number of Spanish speakers than Spain).” Bottom line. Spanish still matters when targeting NGLs, and there are many terrific options available to do so, but know that it is simply one tactic to be used in addition to (not in place of) English.

In-Culture: When people refer to connecting with Latinos “in-culture” they mean to say that Spanish is a possible tactic, but English is the more likely choice. For media buyers and planners, there are so many ways to connect with NGLs in-culture.

I’m referring to taking your “winking” creative, or perhaps creative that speaks even more directly to NGLs, and placing it in heavily skewed NGL media environments. This could mean NGL TV networks (or TV shows like American Latino), but it should also definitely include NGL social platforms like Being Latino, bilingual/urban (and even Spanish) radio stations, NGL social influencer programs, NGL branded content programs, NGL musical artist/celebrity associations and beyond.

A company that I co-founded with actor, John Leguizamo, called NGL Media, specializes in reaching and engaging NGLs through video marketing solutions across paid, owned and earned media. We happen to know a thing or two about the NGL space as well.

In-Context: There’s a saying amongst NGL enthusiasts when it comes to speaking to this audience in-context, and that is “culture (often) begets cultures.” It’s to say that New Generation Latinos don’t live every minute of every day of their lives in a Latino bubble. There are many facets of their lives that have nothing to do with being Latino, and everything to do with just being Millennials and Gen-Zer’s. This experience often mixes with other cultures, albeit with significant Hispanic skews. For example, anecdotally I can tell you that BET (Black Entertainment Television) tends to garner a high percentage of Hispanic viewers, as does Court TV, late night sports shows and countless others. Who knew? It’s as simple as doing a Nielsen and/or Rentrak run against bilingual and English-dominant Hispanics to create a schedule against which to run your aforementioned NGL creative. For digital it can be as easy as checking a Hispanic box on Google or Facebook buying platforms and running an A-B test. The same can be done for any other digital platform (directly or programmatically) if you have the right team managing and optimizing your campaign. It doesn’t have to be a Latino-endemic environment to effectively target bilingual and English-speaking NGLs. It’s about finding where they are by using the plethora of data and media tools that buyers and planners have at their fingertips, and being forward-thinking with your targeting strategies and measurement.

In spite of the rhetoric as of late, NGLs are Americans who are speaking English, consuming any and all mainstream media available, and driving trends that non-Latinos are devouring across all facets of pop culture. It’s not hard to find NGLs. They’re everywhere! And we can expect to see a lot more of them on network TV than ever before, thanks to new diversity pacts being made for better representation both in front of and behind the camera. My business partner, John Leguizamo, has been very outspoken on this subject as well. The main take-away here is that NGLs are not a “niche target” regardless of the platform or medium. Depending on the DMA and/or marketing category they are the target audience in many cases. Speak to them directly and without fear of “alienating your base customers.” The increase in your market share will far outweigh any complaint emails from outliers who aren’t worth addressing in the first place.

However, none of anything I’ve said up to this point matters unless and until business results can be shown. To be clear, supporting the “Total U.S. Hispanic Market” has never been about some sort of do-good diversity initiative. It’s about one thing and one thing only — doing good business.

I’ve already cited many examples as to why NGLs are a critical investment now, and even more so in the future. Still, NGLs are viewed by some to be an elusive un-measureable target, and therefore too much of a risky investment.

With that in mind, this last section is intended to eradicate any further doubt from the equation when it comes to marketing to NGLs. Be it upper or lower end of the funnel, NGLs moving the business needle are fully capable of being measured. Rather than reinventing the wheel, I’ll focus on some of the most basic measurement tenets and relate them back to NGLs.

NGL Measurement:

Quantitative & Qualitative Studies: Every good marketing initiative starts with a clear understanding of whom your target audience is and what makes them tick. To do so, the utilization of good old-fashioned quantitative and qualitative research, still holds true today whether it be pre, during and/or post campaign. Nielsen now offers something called the Nielsen-Culturati Hispanic Panel Segmentation to dig deeper into NGLs beyond language and basic demographic data. Outside of this premium off-the-shelf product, however, basic quantitative and qualitative research has always been at the heart of any responsible marketer’s plan, right? However, if for any reason you can’t afford either, when all else fails, Google it. I mean it. Query your product or service’s top selling markets and their population break-outs, and if they include any of the major metropolitan cities across the U.S., then rest assured NGLs are critical to your success in some way, shape or form. 

Scanner: Similar to the way TV viewership numbers can be sliced and diced across Hispanic sub-segments (Spanish-dominant, bilingual and English-dominant), so can the scanner data that measures your product’s actual sales. Both Nielsen and IRI offer such tools that go beyond high index Hispanic zip code-driven data, and delve deeper into language stratifications. It’s true that the panels providing these metrics are not 100% perfect, but neither is “General Market” scanner data that absolutely includes “Multicultural” sales as well. After all, we’re talking about English-speaking U.S. citizens from all walks of life living in neighborhoods across all socio-economic levels. U.S.-born and educated NGLs in particular continue to impact the demographic and psychographic profile of what it means to be a U.S. Hispanic today. As previously mentioned, the more we stop thinking of NGLs as a “niche,” and instead as the “new and rising mainstream,” the better off marketing results will be.

On-Site: For marketers who track their own sales such as QSR, retail, telecom, automotive and others, understanding and measuring NGLs via 1st party data has clearly proven to be even more invaluable. Direct communication with those on site who are interacting with customers and closing sales daily provides a continuous flow of quantitative and qualitative information to marketing teams. Therefore, it is no surprise that many advertisers in these key categories tend to go more granular when communicating to U.S. Hispanics, and NGLs in particular. Advertisers like Target, Verizon, McDonald’s and Ford Motor Company to name just a few have done a great job in leading with NGL-driven insights and building English and/or bilingual communications programs around them. Important lessons can be learned from these case studies, which are clearly driving results given the on-going commitment to the NGL space by these and other top advertisers.

Digital: As the most measurable medium of all, digital is also in many ways the most complex across the upper and lower ends of the marketing funnel. On one end there are branded content initiatives intended to drive awareness and engagement, while on the other end customer acquisition programs are exclusively intended to drive sales. Targeting and measuring NGLs through English and bilingual programs are critical on both ends of the marketing spectrum, and there are definitely noteworthy nuances for both.

The beauty of measuring NGL social and influencer programs is that the key metrics are there in plain sight, and they don’t lie. Be it likes, views, shares, trending hashtags, comments, etc. it’s all there to see in real time. Having done quite a few of these programs, of course, reporting gets even more granular and varies by platform. However, by and large, marketers have a fairly clear picture of whether their NGL programs are working simply by accessing the data themselves. There’s so much more I can say about the NGL social and influencer space, but for brevity’s sake I’ll leave it at this. NGLs are extreme social media users be it in-language, in-culture and/or in-context, and all of the tools to measure a social media program’s success are just a click away. Targeting NGLs through social and influencer programs is an absolute no brainer, and there’s simply no reason not to do it.

When it comes to targeting NGLs through more traditional desktop and mobile marketing tactics, at NGL Media we take a language agnostic approach. We can just as easily run a Spanish language ad on an English language site, as we can the reverse. It all comes down to advertiser preference, and a willingness to let the numbers do the talking as we optimize against KPIs like completion rate, CTR, etc. Sometimes advertisers will run both Spanish and English and A-B test to see which ad performs the best. In a digital world, where optimizations can be made in real time, it often makes sense to test and learn as you go. Re-targeting English-speaking Latinos in non-Hispanic endemic environments using 1st and 3rd party data has also become a regular practice industry-wide. Coupled with brand lift studies testing messaging effectiveness in real time, digital provides a lower stakes environment for NGL advertisers to be super creative yet super vigilant when it comes to accountability.

OK, so if you’ve read this far, I know you’re still with me and I appreciate you taking the time of your busy day to indulge me in this on-going discussion. It’s been a few years since I wrote one of these, and I’m not sure when I’ll feel compelled to write the next one. Having said this, I’m planning to bring back #TotalMarketTalk as either a Google+ Video Hangout show and/or as a podcast given the level of interest and controversy that remains around this “Total Market” subject. It’s incumbent upon everyone who works in the U.S. Hispanic marketing industry to educate others, and be fearless in making sure they’re cognizant of the entire market regardless of language. After all, if we in this industry don’t control the “Total Market” narrative, then who will? On that note, if you’ve got an idea to pitch and would like to be on the show, please e-mail me directly any time at

One Final Thought:

In case you’re still feeling un-easy about how to un-do the one-size-fits all “Total Market” story that we’re all gagging on, I’ll leave you with this thought provoking example to share as you wish. A recent Adweek article entitled ‘5 Ways Historically Male Brands Are Now Reaching Out To Women’ really caught my attention as it just as easily could have been about NGLs. I’ll start by saying that this is in no way a knock on the historically male brands referenced in the piece. In fact, I applaud their boldness in targeting women, and only hope the same can be applied across the “Total U.S. Hispanic Market” for these product categories and others. The point I’m trying to make is that you can easily replace the word “women” with “NGLs” in the piece, and it perfectly articulates everything that’s taken me over 5,000 words to get across. It culminates with 5 key tenets for male brands to follow when marketing to women. I’ll go ahead and replace the word “women” with “NGL’s” just so you can see what I’m talking about.

1.) Putting More (NGLs) In Ads

2.) Buying Media Where (NGLs) Will See It

3.) Creating Products For (NGLs)

4.) Hosting Events And Fostering Online Communities For (NGLs)

5.) Finding The Right Voice (for NGLs)

If big brands such as these can do complete 180-degree switches and change their core target from male to female, how much of a stretch is it to do a far less drastic move to target NGLs? This is especially true of brands whose core target is Millennials 18-34, which is pretty much all of them. They’ve got nothing to lose, and everything to gain.

I’ll end with a direct quote from the piece to drive this point home even further.

“For years, there was the old adage that if you advertised to men, the women would come—but if you advertised to women, the men would stay away. That doesn’t hold true anymore. Men are more comfortable with women being part of the brand tribe.”

Now here’s the same quote re-worked with an NGL message.

“For years, there was the old adage that if you advertised to the (Total Market), the (NGLs) would come—but if you advertised to (NGLs), the (General Market) would stay away. That doesn’t hold true anymore. The (General Market) are more comfortable with (NGLs) being part of the brand tribe.”

In many cases NGLs are the brand tribe.

Time to wake up and smell the cafécito.