Are We Crazy to Run a Hispanic Agency?
March 24, 2022 – Nine years ago, my partner and I opened the doors of d2H Partners with two burning questions. The first was a bit visceral – “Are we crazy to open a Hispanic advertising agency?” The second more existential – “If we decide to start a Hispanic advertising agency, how do we add value from a best practices perspective operating as a niche within a niche?” We had already decided that we would stay within our practice expertise as marketers to the Hispanic Consumer Market (HCM). But we would now be taking on multi-billion-dollar agencies in the direct response and hybrid brand/D2C space.
As I look back, I can now share what we would consider the seven pillars of our success. Which is to say, the seven ways we add value to any company’s path to profit in the Hispanic advertising ecosystem.
Authenticity and Best Practices – Let us start with what is at once the most obvious yet most subjective of premises. How do we convince advertisers that authenticity is absolutely not just about language and skin-tone? Messaging and media best practices have less to do with reach and frequency than with fluency and comprehension. Reaching a Spanish-dominant, or even a Spanish-preferring, customer is less about the language of their media than about in-cultural insights. By this we mean insights about the cultural cues required to get them to watch, the inhibitors that get in the way, the motivators that incite them to action and the values that grant them permission to respond. None of this can be translated.
Parallel Planning – I mention reach and frequency because the now traditional model defended by the large holding company agencies is to blend consumer segments into “total markets” with the most common denominators of messages dumbed down to allow for “coverage” of all segments in any given market. We add value by illustrating that the total market approach is not as effective as a whole market approach. Meaning that advertisers should focus on reaching all segments equally, as opposed to trying to reach them all efficiently. Account planning for the HCM should start with a blank screen and offer strategic, not convenient, solutions to parallel media plans and creative platforms.
Closing the “Per Capita” Spending Gap – Total market planning comes with short and long-term opportunity costs. The end result is an unbelievable gap in per-capita spending by segment. How can an advertiser expect the same ROI on any given campaign when they spend 7x as much in the general market as the HCM?
Truth to Power – Spending is one axis of the English/Spanish-Language media quadrant. The other is messaging. Speaking truth to power requires that we communicate micro-aggressions, flaws in authenticity and other obvious cultural faux pas in their current advertising regimen. No doubt, this has cost us a lot of business. But it has also earned us the trust of those advertisers with thick enough skin to listen.
Strategic vs Tactical Decision-Making – Why is this? Multi-cultural planning goes way beyond the short-term tactical band-aids. The decision to enter any multi-cultural segment ought to be a strategic one. It is about planning, not buying. It is more about insights than “profiles”. Focusing on the common denominators between customer segments ignores a hyper-tactical path to the least resistant tactical approach. It may be efficient in the C-Suite but in most cases, it ignores the cultural nuances that make multicultural marketing most effective when done right.
Staking a Claim – I have written before that ultimately our job is to convince prospect clients to stop the insanity of hyper-spending on the consumers you already have and start to invest in the customers that will most definitely drive your growth in the future. There is a difference between a professional Hispanic and a Hispanic professional. The former focus on the lowest hanging fruit. The latter (read d2H) on lifetime value, word-of-mouth and multigenerational brand loyalty. Our biggest challenge here is to convince advertisers to unbundle their Hispanic marcom needs from their general market agencies and holding companies.
Selling our Raison d’Etre – HCM advertising success demands specialization, not whitewashing. Culture matters. In-culture planning matters. The words and images that we use to convey cultural relevance and authenticity shine like a Bat-Signal invitation to consider and buy our clients’ products and services.
We like to say that we build brands one sale at a time. This translates to winning over one Spanish-Speaking customer at a time. Building a successful advertising agency is tough under any circumstances. Add culture to the mix and it feels more like a gauntlet. Yet here we are. Cultural competency should be reason enough to hire a multicultural advertising partner. The rest is just noise.
Marcelino Miyares, Jr – Managing Partner – D2H Partners, LLC – 2022
About d2H Partners – Los Angeles based full-service Hispanic Advertising Agency focused on D2C and B2B Spanish language campaigns targeting immigrant, first-generation and “billenial” Hispanics. d2H specializes in creating, adapting, and delivering targeted messages to Latinos to profitably enculturate your message, media and metrics.