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Advertisers Learning It Pays to Speak in Spanish

September 14, 1989|BRUCE HOROVITZ | Times Staff Writer

Nordstrom executives had never really thought much about advertising to Latinos.

But Nordstrom stakes its reputation on customer service. And recently the Seattle-based retailer began to receive requests from its Latino customers to start advertising in Spanish. It seems that some customers--who said they listen mostly to Spanish-language radio--were missing out on news of Nordstrom sales.

"We're aware of the fact that the Hispanic community is a growing part of our customer base in Southern California," said Linda Toschi, director of advertising at Nordstrom. "It only makes sense to advertise to them in Spanish." So, earlier this summer, Nordstrom began its first Spanish-language radio ad campaign.

Nordstrom is one of a growing number of major Southern California advertisers who are discovering that it can pay to market directly to Latinos. Earlier this year, for example, See's Candies introduced its first Spanish-language ad campaign. Clearly, the Latino market is being taken more seriously by advertisers in Southern California. And with this new interest in mind, a three-day conference on how to market specifically to Latinos is being held this week at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles.

The Sept. 12-14 conference, "Se Habla Espanol"--The National Hispanic Market Trade Show and Media Expo--is being sponsored by the Santa Barbara-based trade magazine Hispanic Business. The show premiered in New York last year and attracted nearly 1,000 visitors. But organizers say they expect that attendance will double to more than 2,000 at the Los Angeles event.

"Los Angeles is the No. 1 market in terms of the economic clout of Hispanics," said Jesus Chavarria, editor and publisher of Hispanic Business. That's why last year advertisers spent more than $115 million to reach Latinos in the Los Angeles area--far more than was spent in New York or Miami.

Nationally, the purchasing power of Latinos now exceeds $141 billion annually, according to the U.S. Bureau of Census. And the bureau projects that, by the turn of the century, Latino purchasing power nationally will surpass that of every other American ethnic minority group, including blacks.

Despite these statistics, however, many advertisers are still ignoring Latinos. And that is one reason for this conference. It is sort of a "how to" conference for those advertisers who are just beginning to think about tapping the Latino market.

"The reality is you still have to sell this market very hard," said Chavarria. "The purpose of the conference is to try to sell the market as an industry."

The conference--which is open to the public--will feature seminars on Latino marketing, including one seminar on how advertisers can immediately improve public relations with the Latino community by sponsoring community events. Although the exposition is free, there is a charge of $80 for each of the 66 seminars that will be offered.

A number of major advertisers, including Coca-Cola, AT&T and General Motors, had reserved exhibit space at the event. And so were a number of research firms and public relations firms with expertise in Latino marketing. Awards also will be presented to the best Latino ads created last year.

Still, Chavarria says, it may be several years before many major advertisers pay much attention to shows like this--and the Latino market in general.

"You see all these articles in Newsweek and Time about the Hispanic market exploding," said Chavarria. "But people are not falling over each other to invest in reaching Hispanic consumers." In a recent survey, for example, 42% of the nation's leading advertisers said that Latinos still do not warrant much consideration in their marketing strategies.

"Hispanics are more brand loyal than other racial or ethnic groups," said Hal Katz, executive vice president of Vitt Media, one of the nation's largest independent media buying companies. "This explains why Hispanics are viewed as less responsive to advertising than blacks," Katz said.

This is not to say that some big advertisers aren't taking the Latino market seriously. Procter & Gamble spent more than $20 million advertising to Latinos last year. And Philip Morris spent more than $13 million. But such major companies as RJR Nabisco and K mart Corp. spent only $1 million each, estimates Hispanic Business.

Meanwhile, some advertisers in Southern California continue to discover the Latino market. When See's decided to advertise directly to Latinos, the candy company picked the 2-year-old Hispanic Group as its Latino ad agency. And the agency also creates the Spanish-language radio ads for Nordstrom.

"A lot of companies are afraid of being left out," said Anita Santiago, president and creative director of the Hispanic Group. "When they see a competitor advertising to Hispanics, they're much more likely to do the same."

LATINO MARKETS / MERCADOS LATINOS Here are the nation's largest Latino markets. They are ranked by population in each metropolitanregion. The percentage shown is for Latinos in that region.

AREA LATINOS % 1. Los Angeles 3,733,881 27.7 2. New York 2,437,998 13.1 3. San Antonio 856,476 52.0 4. Miami 834,381 27.1 5. San Francisco 813,705 14.2 6. Chicago 750,715 8.8 7. Houston, Tex. 714,105 17.8 8. McAllen-Brownsville, Tex. 594,012 87.4 9. Albuquerque, N.M. 493,791 38.3 10. El Paso, Tex. 480,967 66.3 11. Fresno-Visalia, Calif. 415,494 33.1 12. Dallas-Ft. Worth 409,702 9.2 13. San Diego 400,468 17.3 14. Phoenix, Ariz. 370,780 15.1 15. Sacramento-Stockton 359,173 13.8

Source/Fuente: ADI, 1988-89. Standard Rate Data Service.

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