I recently returned from visiting my father in Mexico City, the place where I was born and lived for most of my life. As it happens often during these trips, I quickly became aware of how different Mexico is from the U.S., and it’s not because I can't find my favorite products at the local stores or watch my favorite TV shows while I’m there. I can.
Mexico City is, by all standards, a modern metropolis. One where all the global brands are nicely established and people eat McDonald's, drink Coca-Cola, drive American and European cars, watch ESPN and CNN (available in both Spanish and English), diaper their babies with Huggies and brush their teeth with Colgate. There are even "health-conscious" taco standsthat bridge the language barrier with names like "The Fresh Taco" and "Healthy Heaven Gorditas."
But Mexico is also a struggling country -- a country where opportunities are not guaranteed for those who work hard. There is no "American dream" here. The violence and lack of resources are pervasive, and gruesome crimes are graphically exposed on the front pages of magazines and newspapers almost on a daily basis.
However, the differences don't just apply to our Latin countries. When it comes to advertising, it is common knowledge that there is a disparity between budgets for production in general market versus Spanish language. Why do I make a distinction by saying Spanish language advertising instead of Hispanic advertising? Well, as we all know, most bilingual and English-dominant Hispanics are filed under the category of "multicultural" advertising, with budgets similar to the general market.
But Hispanics are a large group, and their diversity is not just based on whether some speak Spanish or English. Some of us have trudged on foot across the desert, while others have written this article 39,000 feet in the sky while crossing the same border. But we all share the same qualities as some of the people who came into this land in the 16th century, also escaping oppression and in search of freedom and opportunity (who, by the way didn't have a visa extended by the Native American people). And like them, we have also contributed to the fabric of this nation.
Shouldn't this be a motivating factor for brands to recognize that the efforts they put into reaching their Hispanic audience shouldn't be cheaper than the general market ones? In Hispanic advertising, creativity is not second-tier, nor are the execution and production standards that vendors and agencies deliver to the brands.
Hispanics like myself work for clients in general market, multicultural and Hispanic campaigns. Yet we constantly hear from agencies that the budgets for Hispanic advertising aren't the same as their general market counterparts. As a result, we have to adjust our rates if we want to work with them. Do brands simply assume that the agencies, production and post-production companies should work with smaller budgets just because the finished pieces are meant for the Hispanic market? Why? Previously, it was excused because it was "a smaller market," but the census tells us that today’s Hispanic population is one of the largest and fastest growing in the United States, with tremendous economic potential as consumers.
I believe what builds loyalty in any relationship is a balance of understanding, respect and empathy. If brands are looking to have a good ROI with the Hispanic market, they need to understand that there can't be double standards.
So it is about respect and appreciation for, not just Hispanic, but any labor. It is about respect for a fellow human being. It is the realization that authenticity is key when trying to win someone’s trust and loyalty, and that goes far beyond slogans and a celebratory “National Hispanic Heritage Month.” Is it about sending a message the right way, consistently, 365 days a year.
Perhaps I have brought back with me on the plane some of the spirit and pride I experienced south of the border, where people ask why things are the way they are ... and hope that their voice makes a difference and provokes a reaction.