By Tim Dougherty
Product endorsements by Hispanic celebrities continued apace this year as did the corporate stampede to cash in on the Hispanic consumer market.
All told, Hispanic advertising expenditures are up in every medium. Local TV spending increased the most, jumping 18 percent to a projected $391 million compared to $330.2 last year. Other notable increases include network/national TV expenditures, which are expected to climb to $700 million from $666.53 last year, and local radio spending, which will rise to $370 million from last year's $320 million.
Overall growth in Hispanic advertising expenditures slowed to 11 percent ($1.89 billion this year compared to $1.71 billion in 1998) after hitting 21 percent last year. However, the Top 50 Advertiser total soared to $545.97 million, up 30 percent from last year's $420.25 million.
Still, the bigger story in Hispanic advertising may be what likely lies just ahead - namely, a sea-change wrought by the Internet.
"The Internet and e-commerce are the future. As early as next year, agencies will have whole interactive divisions to serve clients," predicts Manny Flores, co-founder of LatinWorks Marketing Inc. of Austin, Texas.
In fact, his projection is already a reality. Earlier this year, Dieste & Partners of Dallas launched Somba, the Hispanic advertising industry's first interactive division. It already boasts big-name clients such as Procter & Gamble, Pepsi, and Tabasco after starting with an empty slate.
More broadly, industry creatives are beginning to embrace the Internet's interactive capabilities, according to Benito Martinez-Creel, president and CEO of Acento Advertising in Los Angeles. Acknowledging as much, this year's Se Habla Espaņol Hispanic Market and Media Expo featured six Internet workshops where before there were none.
Internet advertising revenue generally continues to surge. It more than doubled last year to $1.92 billion, surpassing the estimated $1.58 billion generated by outdoor advertising, according to a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers for the Internet Advertising Bureau. The figure is all the more staggering considering the Internet's age - just 4 years - as an advertising medium.
That trend, combined with rising Hispanic computer use and a relative scarcity of cable TV and other Hispanic-specific media offerings, likely will elevate the Internet as a Hispanic marketing vehicle, says Dieste & Partners President Tony Dieste.
Even so, he's not ready to declare the start of a golden Internet advertising age just yet. The Internet will change the Hispanic advertising landscape and already has had a significant impact, he says, but the process remains incomplete.
For one thing, the Internet's viability as an advertising medium isn't universally accepted. "We're still having to push the Internet; people aren't coming to us asking about it," says Mr. Dieste, an Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies (AHAA) board member.
In the short term, he believes the medium's value may lie in its ability to provide Hispanics from different backgrounds with a neutral forum to communicate, creating what he calls "communities of value."
On a practical level, setting up an interactive shop can be prohibitively expensive. There's investing in and updating equipment to consider, as well as attracting and retaining top-notch talent. For the time being, most firms will probably have to content themselves with freelance technical support while devoting in-house staff to creative work, according to Mr. Martinez-Creel.
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