IRVINE — It was a somber scene in a room at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach.
A young Latino patient lies in bed. His wife and 8-year-old son comfort him as he coughs intermittently. Each coughing attack sparks a scene from his past. One flashback catches him smoking his second pack of cigarettes in a smoke-filled living room as his son encourages him to quit smoking.
An announcer tells viewers that the man is suffering from emphysema and other smoking-related illnesses. A doctor appears, and in an authoritative but compassionate voice, he says: "\o7 Su salud es su vida\f7 ," which in English means "Your health is your life."
So ends another Avance Communications commercial for CigArrest, a stop-smoking program that uses pills and audiotapes.
The message is clear: a fragile, young family could disintegrate when a working parent dies, said Maria Rubalcava, vice president and co-owner of Avance.
"The family issue is something very close and dear to many immigrants. I felt this is an effective way to reach Hispanic smokers," she said.
\o7 Avance\f7 is Spanish for \o7 advance\f7 , \o7 attack\f7 or \o7 assault\f7 , but Rubalcava said she prefers the first meaning.
"It's a milder term . . . we feel that the name implies that we will advance a company's goal to reach the Hispanic market," she said.
Rubalcava operates Avance with partner, Michael B. Ewing, the company's president. Rubalcava, 42, provides vital information based on personal experience and market studies done by research firms on the Latino market, and Ewing, 33, is the technical coordinator who translates those ideas to film.
Ewing was programming manager at Comcast Cablevision in Santa Ana four years ago when he met Rubalcava, who was then an aide to Supervisor Gaddi H. Vasquez. Ewing was producing a segment with Vasquez on the issue of the homeless, while she was coaching Vasquez on how best to express himself in Spanish before the camera.
Rubalcava, who like Ewing had won several local awards for cable programming, had worked in the mid-1980s as a news director for the Spanish television channel Telemundo and the Univision network in Los Angeles. She was interested in starting her own telecommunications business.
Coincidentally, Ewing was also looking to start a business that involved video production. "I loved my job, but I've been in cable long enough (seven years). I had achieved all that I wanted in local television programming," he said.
Ewing needed a Spanish-speaking producer to help him launch a new cable channel in Orange County, called KBUENAvision, the only locally produced Spanish-language television channel. He said he admired Rubalcava's professionalism and knowledge of the Latino market and hired her as the programming chief when KBUENAvision was launched in September, 1989.
But the experimental channel didn't catch on with local Latino viewers. Ewing blamed the failure on the cable industry's weak marketing efforts to increase the number of Latino cable subscribers. By the time KBUENAvision ceased operation 14 months later, Rubalcava and Ewing learned enough about the Latino community to realize a need for an advertising agency to help bridge the gap between U.S. companies and the growing Latino market.
Ewing resigned his post at Comcast, joined Rubalcava and in January, 1991, began Avance Communications--a full-service advertising agency in Irvine, that specializes in Spanish television and radio.
"I'd like to see Avance grow and become a power in producing advertising and programming to the Hispanic market," Ewing said. They plan to develop Spanish-language programming, such as situation comedies, to sell to stations in South and Central America. Most programming for Spanish-language television channels in this country is imported from Mexico and Venezuela, Ewing said.
"The other area of importance is targeting the other immigrants that make up the fabric of American society: the Vietnamese, Korean and Middle Eastern people, who represent a significant market for quality television programming," he said.