Spanish Ads Impact
America's Popular Culture
By George McDaniel
the profound changes brought by immigration, Latino advertising
in the United States has mushroomed.
"Today 50% of all bookings at Radio City Music Hall are
Hispanic artists. Salsa outsells ketchup in the Midwest. Nachos
beat hot-dogs at movies. What's happening? Simple: A cultural
and marketing phenomenon known as the U.S. Hispanic market,"
says a media kit issued by the large Latino advertising agency,
Bromley Aguilar Associates.
One ad agency director summed it up with the eerie announcement:
"There are more Hispanics in the United States than there
are Canadians in Canada." Another ad executive argues
that only Hispanics can pitch to Hispanics:
"What we still have to convey to our clients
is that only a Hispanic can really understand our culture,
our way of being and feelings, to produce a truly compelling
and relevant campaign. It is not a professional that a client
gets when they hire us, but a Hispanic advertising professional."
According to Forbes magazine, Hispanic buying power
in the United States was $356 billion in 1998, and growing.
Marketing professionals believe Hispanics are especially attractive
potential customers because they are said to better maintain
brand-loyalty and have larger families than other groups.
That translates into a bigger bang for every advertising buck.
Analysts at DRI/McGraw-Hill say that Hispanics' buying power
should reach $938 billion by 2010. Not surprisingly, big corporate
advertisers such as Procter & Gamble, Sears, AT&T,
General Motors and MCI WorldCom and others have zeroed in.
"Finding a critical mass of any demographic is what marketers
look for," says Bishop Cheen, media analyst at First
Union Capital Markets. "Hispanics have a ready-made critical
mass in the U.S."
Studies-often funded by Spanish-language media-claim that
Spanish advertising works better than English with Latinos.
A 1998 report from Doublebase Mediamark Research, Inc., reveals
that nine in ten Latinos list the Spanish language as the
part of their culture they most want to preserve. Ninety-four
percent of them learn to speak Spanish before they learn English,
if at all. Eighty percent of Latino adults speak Spanish at
home, and one-third of all Latinos treat English as their
According to the Securities Industry Association, "Spanish
is expected to continue to be the U.S. Hispanic market's language
of choice for several reasons, including the geographic clustering
of the market, which makes it easier to interact without having
to speak English, continued immigration as a source of Hispanic
population growth, and the proliferation of Spanish-language
Hence, Spanish-language use is likely to increase in the U.S.
precisely because Latino resistance to assimilation is encouraged
by both Hispanic media and American corporate advertisers
hungry for profits.
The country got a dose of Latino-oriented advertising during
the 2002 Super Bowl, long a venue for advertisers to showcase
their latest work. In an ad created for Levi's Jeans by TBWA/Chiat/Day
in San Francisco, Latino actor Johnny Cervin is filmed walking-and
dancing-across a crowded street in downtown Mexico City. The
actor is dressed in a teeshirt, Levi's "Flyweight"
jeans and Walkman-style headphones. While walking, he suddenly
breaks into a style of dance known as "popping,"
which features loosey-goosey movements of the legs while the
arms are relatively stationary, all done to a Spanish song,
Other examples abound. Pepsi uses an English-Spanish mix called
"Spanglish" in a Mountain Dew commercial featuring
Chilean rock group La Ley. "Toma this" (Drink this)
goes the refrain. Coca-Cola has used the image of murdered
Tejano singer Selena in Spanish-language ads on both sides
of the border for several years. Fast-food eatery Jack-in-the-Box
boasts a Spanish-language commercial featuring the corporate
representatives Jack and Jack, Jr., getting a Tarot card reading
at a carnival. Benihana, the chain of Japanese steak houses,
now runs Spanish-language ads in the Miami and Los Angeles
markets. The Miami version features a Caribbean musical backdrop,
while the Los Angeles version uses Mexican music.
That kind of attention is used by ethnic leaders to leverage
cultural and political influence. In 2000, Rev. Al Sharpton
organized the "Invitational Summit on Multicultural Markets
and Media" in New York City in an effort to compel the
advertising industry and their clients to spend even more
money and time pitching to the Latino (and black) communities.
The group went so far as to announce discovery of a new "Right
to Equal Advertising" and demanded that the advertising
community direct more dollars into the coffers of ethnic media
But in reality, the demands are unnecessary. For as long as
America continues to import 1.3 million foreign-speaking immigrants
each year, the corporate drive to sell to the new ethnic markets
helps push the U.S. into the multicultural and multilingual
society that today's ethnic leaders are working so hard to
(Excerpted from Metamorphosis: The Impact
of Third-World Immigration on American Culture, available
soon from Representative Government Press.)