Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Department of Why is This News?

Cynthia Gorney (another Mexican Jewess!) writes a very entertaining and informative article in last week's NY Times magazine about the Hispanic ad agency Grupo Gallegos and through them, about Hispanic advertising in particular. I admire Grupo Gallegos, for it tries to do original and fresh creative work. But my beef is why this article sounds like news when Hispanic advertising agencies have been doing it for years.
Regardless of whether Hispanic ad agencies choose to do cheesy ads with abuelitas and piñatas or not, it is a frustrating reality of the Hispanic advertising world that people still react to it as if it was newly minted, or as if it is a remote and exotic thing they know nothing about.
Even though, the growth of Hispanic spending has mushroomed to hundreds of billions of dollars a year, as the article points out, the pace at which most American corporations are adapting to this trend is still glacial, and their budgets still puny. Hispanic agencies and production houses are used to performing miracles with budgets that would be considered laughable in the general market world.
Then there are the corporate clients. Some are relatively enlightened and respectful of the cultural differences, even if they find it difficult to understand them. No client wants to hear that their wonderful global campaign needs to be tailored, sometimes beyond recognition, to reach the Hispanics here. But many clients are ignorant and indifferent, and deeply resistant to spend on Hispanics, even if it means making more money for their brands.
Sometimes, some of the worst clients tend to be acculturated Hispanics themselves (I've had a couple of cases of this) who look down on the recent immigrants. They tend to underestimate the intelligence of the audience because of an ingrained prejudice that tells them that these people have to be talked to as if they were mentally incapacitated. There are those Hispanic executives that champion the market and fight to get their brands out there, but those are not in the majority.
Most of the time though, bridging the gap in Hispanic advertising between client and consumer feels like an endless limbo of incomprehension (you feel you are from Mars, because that is how they see you) and it takes enormous effort to educate clients (then your newly enlightened brand manager leaves to be replaced by another one who doesn't understand zero and you have to start from scratch). Some agencies, like Grupo Gallegos, do not believe in talking down to their audience, although I found it rather frightening that someone there would think that their audience doesn't know who Napoleon is. I once worked for a Hispanic chief creative officer who thought that Mexicans didn't know about the pyramids in Egypt or who Cleopatra was, but she wanted us to change the pyramids to the time of the Aztecs to sell a car. We had a screaming fight trying to convince her that Mexicans were not going to appreciate someone defacing their historical monuments with a pickup truck. This kind of patronizing, contemptuous attitude oftentimes comes from agency people themselves. And as is usually the case in immigrant communities, the worst culprits are those who feel ambivalence towards their immigrant origins, people who may have been seriously discriminated and disenfranchised when growing up here and who don't wish to be confused with the illegals still arriving today. The reality is that those of us who make commercials are college educated upper middle class people with all this entails in terms of Latin American class prejudice, which is plenty.
I have always felt that advertising should raise the bar, not lower it. And if some in the audience don't know who Cleopatra or Napoleon are, the commercial should encourage them to find out.

There are 11 million Hispanics in this country. There is Ugly Betty on TV. There is more Latino influence in the culture than ever before, but people choose to be oblivious, if not patronizing.
One would think that people would be a little bit more attuned to the brown people among them.
But don't get me started. At this point, this magazine article should not be so didactic. Hell, at this point it shouldn't even be news.

No comments:

Post a Comment