L.A. Gear executives know that their zippy ads have played a big part in making the company one of the hottest brands on the jogging paths. But at the same time, they say they are baffled over how to advertise to some of their most important customers: Latinos.
"No one on the planet knows when or where is the best place to run a Spanish-language ad," said Sandy Saemann, executive vice president at L.A. Gear. After all, he said, some Latinos prefer to see commercials in English--while others are more comfortable with Spanish.
For several years, L.A. Gear has simply dubbed its commercials for Spanish-language TV, but that hasn't been very effective. So, now L.A. Gear wants to air original ads in Spanish. To help it understand the Latino market, the company--which creates its own ads--next week plans to hire a Los Angeles firm that specializes in making Latino ads.
Many companies share L.A. Gear's desire to reach Latinos--and confusion over how to do it. But help may be on the way. Beginning today, the first West Coast National Hispanic Market Trade Show is to take place in Los Angeles, the nation's biggest Latino market.
The trade show, called Se Habla Espanol, is sponsored by the Santa Barbara-based trade magazine Hispanic Business. The purpose of this unusual Latino market trade show, which continues through Thursday at the Century Plaza Hotel, is to bring together clients seeking to reach Latino customers and ad agencies or researchers who think they can help.
"The data that drives this market is overwhelming," said Jesus Chavarria, editor and publisher of Hispanic Business. "And it won't go away."
Nationally, the purchasing power of Latinos exceeds $141 billion annually, according to the U.S. Bureau of the Census. That is nearly three times the $52.9 billion that Latinos spent in 1980. What's more, one in five Latino households in Los Angeles County reports an annual income of more than $35,000, according to NSI Research Group, a Playa del Rey research firm that specializes in the Latino market.
During the past year, NSI Research has gotten far more difficult questions from its clients, said Carlos H. Arce, founder and president of the company. "Most people have accepted the fact that the Hispanic market is growing," he said. "But now they are asking much tougher questions. They recognize the fact that this market is not so homogeneous. It is a market with currents that are going in many directions."
Organizers of the conference say it will not only deal with these more complex issues but also be a starting point for those companies that are just beginning to consider marketing their products or services to Latinos.
"Our job is to educate people about the Hispanic market," said Gloria Peyrat, manager of special events at Hispanic Business. To do that, organizers have scheduled 66 different seminars on the Latino market. They will also stage a concurrent Latino exposition with more than 50 exhibitors, including Coca-Cola, Ford Motor Co. and AT&T. Awards will be presented to those judged to have created the best Spanish-language ads during the past year. Although there is no admission charge for the exposition, seminars cost $85 each.
When the show premiered in New York last year, it attracted fewer than 1,000 visitors. But with the expo in Los Angeles this year, Chavarria said he expects nearly twice as many people. "Los Angeles is the No. 1 market in terms of the economic clout of Hispanics," Chavarria explained.
One of the largest exhibitors, Ford, says it isn't just going along for the ride. "We're in the business of selling cars and trucks," said Jim McCraw, manager of special markets public affairs at Ford. "And we want to make certain that the advertising messages for our vehicles get to all of the people."
Latinos spent more than $5 billion last year buying new vehicles in the United States, McCraw said. Of that, he said, they spent more than $1 billion on Fords.
But besides just talking about Latino advertising at the trade show, Ford executives will also try to speak with individual Latinos about becoming Ford dealers and with Latino business leaders about considering Fords for their car fleets. "Like anyone else, we want Hispanics to be driving our cars and trucks--not the other guys'."
Seminar topics will vary from how to best reach Latinos who prefer to speak English to a special session on public relations for the Latino market.
A more pointed session will take a closer look at some of the real reasons that many large companies still ignore the Latino market. "The Dynamics of Hispanic Agency Budgets" will be moderated by John Power, a group vice president at one of the nation's largest independent media buying companies, Vitt Media International.