Move Over Traditional Hispanic Advertising! There is a new Jefe in Town and his Name is Total Market

By Liz Medina, Strategist

I’ve worked on multicultural pieces of business on and off throughout my entire career and I’m at the point where nothing surprises me anymore. I’ve sat in meetings (prior to Carrot) where clients have looked me square in the eye and announced Hispanics don’t go to college. Hello, I’m Hispanic… and so were my five other colleagues sitting right next to me presenting the work). Another gem was when a client announced that “Blacks LOVE The Post” because it was the only newspaper that was ever stolen from her stoop. One of my other favorites was when a client explained he was going to kill an idea because he ran it by his maid Maria and she didn’t like it.

Of all the backward opinions that run rampant in the industry, the one that personally annoys me most is one about language. Hearing marketers tick the Spanish-language checkbox to magically make their effort “Hispanic”” makes my eye twitch. I feel this way because it makes the following assumptions:

  • All Hispanics speak Spanish (and no English very good, right mister?)
  • Hispanics only consume Spanish content (apparently my friends and I have been imagining The Walking Dead and Game Of Thrones these past four years).
  • If brands speak to Hispanics in Spanish they will believe and love them (Yes, that translated commercial with the suburban Caucasian blonde housewife, with a Spanish voiceover really makes us Latinos feel all of the feelings).

I’m here to tell you this approach to connecting with the Hispanic consumer would only make sense if we were in the 1970s. We obviously are not, so this logic is vastly outdated and in a severe need of an overhaul. Here’s why….

  • Over 60% of US Hispanics are born here. In the US. Where the national language is in English. Which is what is taught in school. Which they DO go to.
  • Only 20% of Hispanics are predominantly Spanish speaking and those are the ones consuming Spanish content most of the time (not even ALL of the time!). The other 80%? English content, NOT novelas with Abuela. Well, maybe sometimes… but definitely not willingly or frequently.
  • An ad in Spanish doesn’t do much if a) it’s not genuinely good creative and b) it doesn’t emotionally connect or resonate with the intended audience, no matter what language it’s in.

I totally get that figuring out the best formula to advertise to the Hispanic market is not easy. In fact, it’s pretty damn complex and time consuming. It requires learning a new discipline. Sounds like a lot of work that most people didn’t sign up for just to properly address this minority market. Except, it’s not a minority market. In fact, this market is now the majority, or about to become the majority. In some of the largest DMAs, Hispanics account for $1.5 trillion in spending (at least), and it will continue to grow. Not to mention that it makes up roughly 20% of the very coveted Millennial segment.

The old way of capitalizing on this market depended on media distribution, under the assumption that all Hispanics consumed Spanish media. Developing ads that were in Spanish and distributing them within these Spanish language channels was the winning strategy. A similar formula was applied to African Americans. This approach seemed to assume that only Non-Minority Caucasians consumed mainstream networks like CBS, MTV, ABC, AMC, Glamour, Real Simple,…I guess anyone who was not Caucasian who turned to these content options, would get a polite “No Hispanics or Blacks allowed. Please turn to Telemundo or BET”, right? Because there is no way anyone who was ethnic would be consuming any other content that wasn’t designated to them…


It surprises me to still find people that understand the “General Market” to be exclusive of almost 40% of the population that are minorities. And it’s even more surprising to find marketers still developing creative campaigns assuming the same. To make it clear as to why this doesn’t jive: Hispanics, African Americans, Caucasians, Asians, and err’body consumes content that is traditionally understood to live in “General Market” English channels. EVERYONE. This means they READ, SEE, and HEAR the ad campaigns we distribute within these channels. Yet, when it comes to developing insights, strategies, and ideas that drive these ads, most creative agencies don’t stop to consider them in the thinking. The best they do is slap together a Spanish translation of the final creative assets and cast a couple “ethnically ambiguous” or African American actors/models.

This is not enough. And Marketers who are ahead of the curve have caught on to this and are giving rise to a new approach: Total Market. At its simplest, this approach recognizes that there is a new General Market — a mix of Hispanic, African American, Caucasian, Asian, and other diversities. And as the new General Market, everything we do to reach and connect with our consumers should take what were once considered minorities into account from the onset… not as an afterthought as traditional General Market English-Spanish adaptations do. Or as siloed efforts which is how Multicultural strategies tend to operate.

The issue most marketers have when attempting to navigate this “Brave New Advertising World” is trying to find a foolproof way to implement a process that works for them under the Total Market umbrella. To save people some time, I should mention that there is no playbook. All brand problems are different and all opportunities are unique so having a one size-fits-all process wouldn’t be beneficial. But there are guidelines to abide by….

Start with multicultural-led insights. In other words, those that are universally inclusive — these tends to be based on mindset or life stage.

A good example of this is Wells Fargo “Daddy’s Day Out With Baby” ads. They have the exact same insight, holistic idea and consistent communications across both Spanish and English channels.

Don’t start with language. Good creative and cultural relevance should lead. Language at BEST can be leveraged as a cultural wink that can make the message relatable when creating more nuanced ideas. It shouldn’t be the default or lead.

Examples of advertisers who have led with good creative and cultural relevance rather than Spanish language are Kmart and Target. Both advertisers distributed their campaigns within English channels and both were inclusive of minority markets. Kmart chose to win over the Hispanic consumer through an all-English execution while Target used Spanish as a small cultural wink, while also leveraging English.

Add nuance to the creative at the execution level to enhance cultural relevance, if necessary. This can help our message generate a stronger emotional response, which positively impacts the bottom line.

Campbell’s did a great job at maintaining a unifying insight, strategy and idea, while artfully crafting the creative executions to emotionally resonate with Millennials, Caucasians, and Hispanics.

Diversity in agency teams will help greatly when it comes to developing strategies and ideas that resonate with our new diverse consumers.

This is not the first time we’ve heard this. A diverse team will greatly elevate the work for the simple fact that a team of different individuals brings to the table a whole new set of experiences, schools of thought, perspectives, thinking and ideas. While this is true in general, it is even more so when it comes to exploring a Total Market Approach. Cultural and ethnic intricacies can definitely be taught and learned, but it sure makes it smoother when these are intuitive to individual team members.

TEST an implemented Total Market approach. Once upon a time we paved the way for other forms of communication that have now become standard. Spanish language commercials, experiential, digital, and mobile, to name a few. Dabbling in these all had to start somewhere and test & learn processes were sure a part of it.

The way I see it, we have two choices. We can sit still and wait for other competitive brands to continue leading the way in exploring a Total Market approach, and in the process develop a relationship with multicultural audiences that we will later have to fight hard to gain for our brands. Or we can be part of those who pave the way by testing, learning, and optimizing our approach and begin connecting with a consumer that is hungry to be recognized as the new General Market.

This advertising movement is still in its infancy, so it’s easy for us to toss it into the “trend” bucket and not take it seriously. Don’t. This is a Brave New World and how we do business needs to adapt to it. If these new General Market consumers have the power to lead trends and culture, swing elections, elect world leaders and change the course of history, they have the power to make or break our brands. Don’t get left behind, start paying attention and stop making assumptions.