Upstart Ruido hits pay dirt catering to the Hispanic youth market.
By Teresa Talerico
HISPANIC BUSINESS® magazine, Dec. 2001 The four founding partners of the Ruido Group understand the trend-setting power of Hispanic youth – an insight that has yielded both a succession of sleek new ad campaigns and a surprisingly strong market share for this young agency based in New York. Launched in December 2000, Ruido has already chalked up more than $1 million in billings developing campaigns for Coca-Cola, MTV, HBO Latino, the Office of National Drug Control Policy, and others. According to Ruido president Roberto Ramos, the agency's name reflects its founders' unique take on the Hispanic youth market: Ruido is Spanish for noise. "We were thinking of a name that conveyed the energy we felt about the market," says Mr. Ramos, whose fellow senior managers are creative director Susan Jaramillo, client services head Alejandro Toussier, and executive producer Maurice Gallegos. "When you're young and playing your music, your grandparents will tell you to 'turn that noise down.' What to them is noise, to us is the sound, the spirit, the energy of our generation. So that energy is what we wanted to convey." Ruido's office reflects that energy. Everyone there is under 30. Mr. Ramos says he shoots for a casual and "out-of-the-box" atmosphere, a playground for creative professionals. The attitude extends to the agency's ad campaigns. Ruido's recent spots for Coca-Cola feature young, hip-looking Hispanics with the slogan "Life Tastes Good." The agency also created a TV campaign for the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. Running on Univision, Telemundo, and English-language television, the ad features a collage of striking images. "The objective was to dissuade Hispanic teens from using drugs," Mr. Ramos says. "We played on the whole concept of perceptions: 'You think you look cool when you do drugs, but this is, in reality, how the world sees you.' We played up the whole factor of the family. We found in research that to Hispanic kids more than the general-market kids, familia is key. So we put in la abuela, who hits them in the head when she sees them smoking in the dream sequence." Eric Sherman, vice-president of digital television for MTV and VH1, says Ruido beat out about five other agencies for an MTV Español ad campaign. Ruido's youthful energy was one deciding factor. "The vibe that you get from Roberto and his team is they really have their finger on the pulse of the Latin youth market," says Mr. Sherman. "They just got it. I felt like I was sitting down with people who could not only talk about the numbers, but who would get Latin alternative music. I just got the feeling that they felt the passion for it more than anybody else." The MTV Español campaign includes radio, print, and consumer marketing materials. Between 1993 and 2001, the U.S. Hispanic teen population grew by 30 percent, compared to 8 percent among non-Hispanic teens, according to Nielsen Media Research. One in five American teens is of Hispanic descent. "They're trendsetters right now," says Mr. Ramos. "White kids want to be hip like the Latinos. You've got the whole J. Lo, Marc Anthony, Ricky Martin group of idols that's really propelling how this generation is seen." The anti-drug ad is a good example, he says. "It has a very strong Latin flavor in terms of the music, the colors, the physical appearance of the characters, the role of the grandmother," says Mr. Ramos. "The English-language spot has been received very enthusiastically by the general-market kids. They're very attracted to this culture, especially urban kids, including African Americans and Asians. Latin culture is a part of their life as well. In their neighborhoods, they hear salsa and merengue." Young U.S. Hispanics spend or influence spending of more than $100 billion a year, according to Cheskin Research. So while Mr. Ramos knows that Ruido's ads appeal to all teens, he never forgets Ruido's prime audience – and that it has more cultural pride than ever before. "The target audience is Latino youth, a generation that is changing the American landscape, that is culturally assertive, that is very proud of its heritage regardless of the level of assimilation," he says. "You can have a second- or third-generation Mexican American or Puerto Rican who might not necessarily speak a word of Spanish but feels very proud of his or her culture. That's one of the big shifts in dynamics we see in the Hispanic market. Ten or 15 years ago, the level of pride perhaps wasn't as strong. Now Hispanics see themselves in a whole different light." Moreover, Mr. Ramos says it would be a mistake to view the current popularity of Hispanic culture as a passing trend. "One thing we're asked about all the time is, 'Is this Latino thing a fad?' " he says. "Won't they eventually just assimilate? We like to look at it from the other perspective. We think America is assimilating to Latino culture. It's gaining force. There will always be new Latin energy. The Latino identity is stronger."
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