The recent controversy about Vidal Partnership, losing the Home Depot Hispanic account
to Richards/Lerma (who also beat out other prominent Hispanic ad shops), needs to serve as a wake up call to the Hispanic marketing industry.
While organizations like AHAA
continue to probe into the reasons for the win, their main claim is that Home Depot is undermining the Hispanic market for cost-savings and consolidation reasons, irregardless of the reason (s) the industry in general needs to take this as a wake-up call.
With the shrinking ad dollars in the general market and the pending U.S. Census numbers that many predict will give a clearer perspective on the growth of the Hispanic market, there will be more non-traditional players in the game; not less. Competition is good, and shouldn't be viewed as solely a threat.
However, the challenge lies in the fact that many of us in the Hispanic marketing industry are often our own worst enemy. I've always said that if we allow the discussion about Hispanic marketing to center on language rather than culture we are DOA. Specialized shops will always lose that argument as translations and voice overs of general market creative will always be cheaper and faster to get out to the market. Especially when the argument is being made to many marketers in the general market who don't know any better and all ready believe that Spanish = marketing to Hispanics.
I was very disappointed driving back from Pennsylvania last week as I switched between Mega 97.5, X96.3 and LA Fiesta 98.5 and heard so many radio commercials that were simply translated and voiced-over spots. I mean, not to pick on them specifically, but when I hear a Spanish-language Taco Bell commercial and the tag line "Think Outside the Bun" is simply said with a Spanish accent, I think to myself that we can do better. I heard spots from national companies as well as regional and local ones that were exactly the same as the ones I heard in English on other NYC-area radio stations.
We (agencies as well as our friends in the Spanish-language media who will happily translate an ad for free to have it run as quickly as possible and earn a commission) often are willing agents in our downfall. We are getting too cliche, too stereotypical and too accommodating for the sake of short-term financial gains. We are getting to the point that all a general market agency has to do is say to use "abuelita" in a spot or "focus on the family" and poof they are now "experts."
Specialization is tough work and it requires discipline, training and credibility. Think of any other kind of specialist in any other kind of industry. They survive by demonstrating the value of their specialty, which often comes at a higher price. They don't survive by dumbing down their specialty area to the point that others can mimic it and pawn it off as their own.
Sure, let's find out why this decision was made. But, let's also stop whining and stop looking for the Hispanic Jesse Jackson to fight our fight at some point. Let's step up our game and prove our value.