News Column

Market Slump or Long-Term Trend?

December 2005, HISPANIC BUSINESS Magazine

Scott Williams

Media Markets

The Hispanic marketing industry swirls with pressing developments this year. As outlined in the stories comprising this year's Media Markets Report: • Total Hispanic ad spending continues to grow, but at a much slower pace than in the past – in the face of record growth in Hispanic purchasing power. •The 10 largest Hispanic cities report slow-growth ad spending, but smaller markets expand. •Meanwhile, revenues at publicly traded Hispanic broad-casters have increased, but their stock prices have slumped. •And, notably, ad spending to capture what new studies depict as a significant, fast-growing U.S. Hispanic Internet market – largely dominated by second- and third-generation Web users – has increased tenfold, to an estimated $100 million-plus over the past three years, with further spending escalation projected.

Behind these developments lies what Felipe Korzenny of Florida State University calls "a schizophrenic communication environment" for U.S. Hispanics. According to his book Hispanic Marketing: A Cultural Perspective, co-authored by his wife Betty Ann, Hispanics "seem to wish for role models and portrayals that are culturally relevant, although they do not necessarily need to be in Spanish. … What seems to be missing are media programming strategies that provide Hispanic consumers with opportunities to see their life in its richness and current 'reality.'"

For brand marketers, the first step on the approach to reality is language: •Spanish connects with the first-generation immigrant segment of the market. •English fits the reality of second and subsequent generations of acculturated Hispanics. This is perhaps most dramatically exemplified in the U.S. Hispanic Web space (see article "Surfing in Two Worlds").

"For now, the Hispanic market remains a bifurcated market, with foreign-born and third-generation Hispanics at the poles and much of the market moving between them," states a report by Hispanic Business Inc.'s research arm, HispanTelligence®, "The U.S. Hispanic Economy in Transition: Facts, Figures & Trends " (www.hispanic business.com/research/).

Currently, the players in the Hispanic market – networks, publishers, agencies, researchers, and corporate executives – must make the Spanish-or-English decision. Spanish has reigned for the past quarter century, despite a significant and fast-growing bilingual Hispanic population. Most recently, competitors of many stripes have been pursuing positions in previously untapped minor-market Spanish newspaper and radio niches serving the first-generation market segment.

A Different Future: Wall Street Eyes the Demographics Demographic trends tend toward a different future. Now, "English-dominant Hispanic households control nearly 60 percent of all Hispanic disposable income," according to the HispanTelligence report "U.S. Hispanic Media Markets, 2000-2007" (www.hispanicbusiness.com/research/).

Language usage and purchasing power studies indicate strong future growth of this English-speaking Hispanic market. This means that, increasingly, "for marketers, acculturated Hispanics represent the prime market – sophisticated consumers with considerable income who differentiate themselves by maintaining their Hispanic heritage" along with facility in English, according to "The U.S. Hispanic Economy in Transition: Facts, Figures, and Trends." Even as early as 1998, a market analysis in The McKinsey Quarterly, "Marketing to the Hispanic Consumer," advised that "The acculturated segment represents the most attractive growth opportunity for most marketers. Not only does it represent the largest portion of the Hispanic market … accounting for 57 percent of the Hispanic market and on course to take 67 percent by 2010 … but it is also growing the fastest."

Nobody tracks long-term culture trends better than Wall Street. "In 2009, an important inflection will occur when the population growth of [the] second generation will surpass the growth of first-generation immigrants. That is important because during [the decade 2000 to 2010] Hispanic media that use Spanish rather than bilingual will capture the lion's share of advertising dollars flowing toward the Latino consumer," said Leland Westerfield, a leading analyst at investment bank Nesbitt Harris, as quoted by The Wall Street Transcript. However, as "bilingualism takes hold more and more," he continues, "we will probably see a proliferation of cable networks and Internet media tailored to a more fragmented Latino population, fragmented by culture and linguistic differences among generations."

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