10th anniversary: multicultural roundtable

Kimberly Maul a virtual roundtable in September where she spoke to multicultural experts about trends affecting the industry

Bill Imada, chairman and CEO of IW Group, Inc.
Roxana Lissa, CEO and founder of RL Public Relations
Stacie Bright, senior communications marketing manager for Unilever
Manny Ruiz, president of multicultural services and Hispanic PR Wire for PR Newswire
Jorge Ortega, president of The Jeffrey Group
Jeff McFarland, director of the multicultural center of excellence at Verizon

Maul (PRWeek): One thing that has definitely changed PR over the years is the Internet. Looking forward, how do you think the Internet will change multicultural PR and marketing?

Jorge Ortega (The Jeffrey Group): First of all this younger demographic is a lot more active online and communicates using the Internet, mobile more than ever. This gives us an opportunity to develop digital campaigns that come to life in other touch points and communications contacts.

Bill Imada (IW Group): It already has. More than 52% of all Internet users already get a large portion of their news online. And more than 11% are reading and participating in blogs. For the multicultural markets, especially Asian/Pacific Americans, blogs are big.

Roxana Lissa (RL Public Relations): The Internet will certainly transform the way multicultural audiences perceive products and brands. While in the Hispanic market, we haven't seen a big explosion yet, it's coming. And we are seeing Latin America playing a big role.

Jeff McFarland (Verizon): I believe more companies will see the value of communicating to the younger segments through this media, which will require a larger investment then today.

Ortega (The Jeffrey Group): Hispanics are online more than their general market consumers. They spend more time searching and communicating online.

Stacie Bright (Unilever): I agree with Jorge. Also Hispanics are the fastest growing online population so we believe that engaging them online and providing them with valuable information and tips is effective. We plan to continue to use online tools within our marketing mix in order to reach them via multiple touch points.

McFarland (Verizon): I believe this is true for most multicultural segments.

Imada (IW Group): There is also a figure out there that says African Americans spend twice as much time online than their mass-market counterparts.

Ortega (The Jeffrey Group): More and more, our clients are asking us for integrated communications that includes a dynamic digital component.

Lissa (RL Public Relations): Unfortunately we are not seeing a lot of US Hispanic-driven blogs, but it's interesting to see the big development in Latin America (particularly Mexico and Argentina) and how this might spill over the US Hispanic market (from content creation and creative).

Manny Ruiz (PR Newswire): Nearly all Hispanic PR and marketing firms I meet with today have someone intensely focused on harnessing the Internet for their clients. That's way different than just two years ago when PR and web marketing seemed like distant cousins.

Imada (IW Group): The Asian/Pacific American consumer market sees blogs as a way to express themselves when others aren't hearing them.

Ortega (The Jeffrey Group): We see a huge convergence in culture, community, content and communications across the hemisphere.

Maul (PRWeek): But, Roxana, you do believe this change will come in the Hispanic market?

Lissa (RL Public Relations): Absolutely. It has to and it will. Newspapers such as HOY will be launching a new integrated live interactive website shortly and it will be interesting to see how Hispanic consumers respond to it.

McFarland (Verizon): Here at Verizon, we have seen the value in our Hispanic online efforts, and have invested in Asian online efforts also. We now have web sites in Chinese and Korean.

Bright (Unilever): Online has becoming an increasingly valuable tool. With Hispanics and African-American communities growing in populations as well as disposable income, they have more access to the Internet. As this younger savvier audience seeks knowledge there, marketers need to be meeting them with content relevant material and resources.

Ruiz (PR Newswire): In terms of Hispanic media, there is a huge shift to online. Hispanic print and radio media are not immune to the shift in dollars to online and they are scrambling to make sure they have as strong a presence online as they do offline. It's a matter of survival, especially with only two or three years more before online overtakes Hispanic print.

Imada (IW Group): APIAs are already online in significant numbers. More that 90% of Asian adults are online in the US.

Ortega (The Jeffrey Group): If you look at the top sites in Spanish in the US, their traffic is growing rapidly, their add dollars are increasing and users are spending more time there searching, chatting, shopping, linking, etc.

Maul (PRWeek): With the constantly changing demographics, how do you think "general market" will change in the coming years? And will Hispanic continue to be the fastest-growing segment of the population?

Imada (IW Group)
: I don't even say general market any longer. WE are the general market. I use mass-market.

Ruiz (PR Newswire): Love it!

Lissa (RL Public Relations): Yes...

Ruiz (PR Newswire): We are the minority majority!

Maul (PRWeek): That's an interesting idea.

Bright (Unilever): There have been studies that show the general market as we know it today will become the minority.

McFarland (Verizon): We are soon to be the new mass market.

Ortega (The Jeffrey Group): As you all know, by the time our kids graduate from college (I'm 45 years-old) 25% of their class mates will be "Hispanic" whether they are in Miami (where that number is closer to 75%) or Kansas. I can tell you our kids are color blind.

McFarland (Verizon): Here is the question of the day: When we do become the true mass market, will the same investment be made to these segments as mass market today?

Ortega (The Jeffrey Group): I think this "general market" generation is rapidly becoming an "American market" and that means color everywhere.

Bright (Unilever): As the demographics blend it will be more important to understand the audience and what interest and drives them.

Imada (IW Group): More on the psychographics, less on the demographics.

Ruiz (PR Newswire): The thing you are seeing with all of these anti-immigrant laws is that a lot of "mainstream Americans" don't know what to do about the strength of our numbers. Many have not taken the time to see who we are, what we believe, and how we add to this country so xenophobic fears are driving these crazy things we're seeing. Xenophobia is behind Lou Dobbs crazy rants.

Maul (PRWeek): Do you think more marketing will be in-language, for Hispanic and Asian consumers?

McFarland (Verizon): Both.

Imada (IW Group): I would agree with both. This idea of retro-acculturation impacts many "Americans." People want to stay connected to their roots, which includes some aspects of their language. The future will focus not just on language but culture.

Ortega (The Jeffrey Group): I'm telling you guys that Jeffrey's son and my kids don't understand this "general" vs "Hispanic"; they grew up with Dora and Deigo. The multicultural picture of programming on TV is completely different. This generation thrives on diversity and on color.

McFarland (Verizon): Verizon will continue to market in-language, but will also do culturally relevant English versions.

Ruiz (PR Newswire): I agree. Equally important is the culture marketing angle because it's not only about marketing to Hispanics and Asians in language. Culture marketing is key.

Lissa (RL Public Relations): An expert in global advertising said something interesting: It's less about the audience and more about unifying these groups. He even said that consumers around the world want two things: to be loved and recognized and that has helped create global ad campaigns without worrying about the various demographic groups.

Ortega (The Jeffrey Group): Here are some stats for you number lovers: On average Hispanics spend 9.2 hours online at home per week while the general population spends 8.5 hours. At work Hispanics spend 11.5 hours per week online, while the general population spends 9.4 hours. Twelve million have Internet access at home, nearly 16 million from any location. Fourteen percent started going online at home within the last six months and only 37% have been online for more than 5 years. Broadband is the same as general (52% vs. 50%).

Bright (Unilever): Cultural and heritage are key to many people in the multicultural target - so there will be a need to still communicate in meaningful way.

Ortega (The Jeffrey Group): I agree with Stacie. Language is only one way to communicate. I think our culture connects with music, food, family, celebrations, and language helps. But today I can relate as much to a Brazilian as much as I do with a Mexican.

Maul (PRWeek): How can PR get prepared for this younger generation? Does that go back to online or can they reach out through other means?

Imada (IW Group): Being real; genuine. Less focus on color; more focus on the experience.

Ruiz (PR Newswire): You do what any savvy marketer like Verizon does. You reach out to Hispanic youth through all of the cultural touch points they have. Some are tech-driven (online advertising) and some of it has to be done through grassroots events.

McFarland (Verizon): The younger generation also likes word of mouth -- the underground network, this makes them feel special.

Ortega (The Jeffrey Group): It's about where they are, who they are with, and what they are doing. Less about language.

Ruiz (PR Newswire): Exactly.

McFarland (Verizon): Correct.

Imada (IW Group): Twitter, Facebook, YouTube.

Bright (Unilever): There are many ways that people get their information. I do not think there is one magic bullet. It is about understanding the audience and where that audience lives and breathes. If anything PR will need to be looking at the multicultural audience with more rigor and strategy, much like it applies to the general audience.

Lissa (RL Public Relations): We just helped Verizon Wireless with an amazing Quinceanera (teen) initiative and it was amazing—over 7 million votes online. These girls were so involved in the campaign and we had 6.5 million text messages and 500,000 online votes.

Ortega (The Jeffrey Group): We have developed some very culturally relevant events for Diageo and it is amazing how within three weeks the recall of the experience among other consumers (who did not attend) is very high. Not only do they remember the event, the talent, the venue, and the "rumors" that came out of it. Good rumors of course.

McFarland (Verizon): Good rumors hit the underground network, and everyone wants to know. I had a PR event this past Friday in DC for the African American segment. It included LL Cool J, and was free. It was invitation only. We were expecting 2,000 people, but had 5,800. Also, I was once at a meeting with a music promoter and had my daughter there, and she mentioned all these Web sites her friends used, that we had never heard of. We have to stay up to date with them, not them with us.

Maul (PRWeek): Do any of you work in the LGBT market at all? Or with people with disabilities? How will those segments change?

Lissa (RL Public Relations): We are actually working with The Braille Institute in creating awareness for a new campaign aimed at people with vision loss in the Hispanic market.

Ortega (The Jeffrey Group): We have done one assignment for LGBT.

Imada (IW Group): More marketers will include LGBT and people with disabilities in their ads. They will be in natural, regular settings, without fanfare, just as if they were a part of any community, neighborhood. Because they are. Companies such as Wal-mart Stores already includes people with disabilities and the greater LGBT communities as part of their larger diversity, inclusion, and engagement efforts.

Ortega (The Jeffrey Group): Honestly, I think there some serious advertising and promotional dollars against this segment (LGBT) but the PR is just starting. I want to go on the record saying that I would never advise (or accept) a client placing those token ads with one Hispanic, one Black, one Asian, and one person with disability. We see it all the time, even in Hispanic business magazines.

Imada (IW Group): No one likes the "color wheel" ads. One of each.

Ortega (The Jeffrey Group): I call it insulting advertising.

Ruiz (PR Newswire): I agree. The right way to do this multicultural thing is to target the segments separately.

McFarland (Verizon): These kinds of ads do not have anything culturally relevant in them and speak to no one most of the times. That's diversity advertising, not multicultural

We all know that diversity advertising is just about representation, it is not culturally relevant and does not speak to a specific segment.

Ortega (The Jeffrey Group): What we have decided to do as an agency is to focus on helping multinational companies target Latin audiences, which in our case, happen to reside throughout this hemisphere.

Bright (Unilever): The Unilever Skin Voice campaign has been very successful as it gets to the heart of what matters to the African-American community and reaches them in meaningful places. Vaseline tapped into the essence of the audience and brought that to life.

Ortega (The Jeffrey Group): We understand the culture, we have the content, we play in the community and we have the communications tools to do so.

Maul (PRWeek): Taking a look at budgets now, which I know are a big issue, as the economy continues to struggle, how do you think that will affect the budgets for multicultural PR?

Lissa (RL Public Relations): We have been pretty lucky. Most of our clients have kept the budgets for next year and some of them have increased it.

Imada (IW Group): Most of our clients have kept budgets at the same levels or have increased it for 2009.

McFarland (Verizon): We find here at Verizon, that once I can show my dollar investment is more efficient than mass market, I don't have problems getting additional investment.

Ortega (The Jeffrey Group): Our MD for US Hispanic wrote an Op-Ed about the competitive advantage of the US Hispanic market. Value media buys, concentrated geography, talented professionals to help.

Bright (Unilever): Of course these are tough economic times, but Unilever has made a strong commitment to our efforts.

Ruiz (PR Newswire): I'm seeing budgets stay flat but not down. As it stands, multicultural was not and is not getting the kind of marketing dollars that it justifiably deserves. From a business standpoint, multicultural dollars should be at least twice what they are now and smart companies know and do likewise.

McFarland (Verizon): We have to make our spend work harder then the mass market spend.

Ortega (The Jeffrey Group): This is the time to have companies see these market segments as a way to win share (market share or share of voice), to increase sales, or to improve penetration or distribution.

McFarland (Verizon): Back to my question earlier, will the spend go up as our marketshare goes up?

Ortega (The Jeffrey Group): We are under index in terms of spend so the opportunity is ours to gain.

Imada (IW Group): But why must we always have to end up working hard with our budgets than our mass-market counterparts?

Ortega (The Jeffrey Group): It should go up.

Lissa (RL Public Relations): And our opportunity to continue to excel in what we do so we gain the trust of our clients.

Ortega (The Jeffrey Group): You work harder with Hispanic and multicultural than you do with general market?

Lissa (RL Public Relations): Bill, you are right. We always have to work harder and prove ourselves more. Why?

Ortega (The Jeffrey Group): I want to understand if, as a marketer, you have to work harder to spend your "Hispanic" dollar than your general market dollar. I know why agencies have to. But why does the client?

McFarland (Verizon): For me on the client side, I get less funding, but have to deliver the same results.

Ortega (The Jeffrey Group): Hmm.

McFarland (Verizon): Therefore I need my agency partners to make my investment work harder.

Ortega (The Jeffrey Group): I see our Hispanic clients fighting internally.

Imada (IW Group): Because the demographics aren't enough for some people. And even if you, Jorge, Stacie, and Jeffrey outperform the mass-market figures, we still have to prove ourselves over and over again.

Ortega (The Jeffrey Group)
: Interesting. I see what you mean. I think we need to educate more. I think Anglo clients get scared. Some do not "get it."

Lissa (RL Public Relations): I think it's about the work and the results.

Imada (IW Group): I would agree with Jorge. People are scared of what they don't know or don't understand.

McFarland (Verizon): I do that a couple of ways, instead of shooting a spot in LA, I go south to Mexico or Argentina. It's much cheaper there to shoot a spot.

Maul (PRWeek): How do you think multicultural PR will change in the agency space? Will we see more small, niche shops or more multicultural divisions within larger agencies?

Ruiz (PR Newswire): Most of the people on this conversation stand to see tremendous growth because the market in our space can only go up and it will significantly go up. Wait until you see the 2010 Census. My forecast is that the number of smaller multicultural agencies will grow significantly but mostly as two- or three-person shops. The reality is that there are not enough Bill's, Roxana's, or Jorge's in PR right now or in the pipeline of PR in general. We don't have enough PR pros of diverse backgrounds to do all the work that is right around the corner.

Ortega (The Jeffrey Group): It's almost like there is this pre-discrimination where companies are so scared and do not have all the answers and they just do not want to go there.

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