Marketers Target ‘Sophisticated’ Hispanic Viewers

Panelists at Sixth Annual Hispanic Summit discuss challenges of reaching value-focused Hispanic consumers

Hispanic consumers are more sophisticated—and less constrained by cultural and economic factors—than marketers often assume.

That was the message at a panel discussion Wednesday afternoon at the Sixth Annual Hispanic Television Summit. (For complete coverage, click here.)

Entitled “How to Market Digital Services to Hispanics,” the panel brought together marketing executives from Spanish-language network Azteca America, programmer Condista, cable operators Comcast and Time Warner Cable, and HBO.

Moderator Laura Martinez, a contributing editor for Multichannel News, began by asking the panelists what they know about their consumers now that they didn’t know five years ago.

Beyond noting the proliferation of Spanish-language TV networks and the country’s challenged economy, the panelists agreed that Hispanic consumers were less preoccupied with price points or Spanish-dominant content than previously thought.

“We used to think that ‘Hispanic’ equaled ‘Hispanic,’” said Michelle Rosen, director of national media and strategy at HBO. “Now we know that ‘Hispanic’ equals ‘value.’”

To illustrate that “value,” Rosen brandished a red boxing glove she said was signed by Mexican-American boxing superstar Oscar De La Hoya, and challenged attendees to guess what it was worth. The answer: “$626 million over the course of 18 events,” Rosen said, a figure that includes a record 2.4 million buys and $160 million in revenues for a single pay-per-view event. “That’s the definition of ‘value,’” she added.

However, Rosen said it was a mistake to assume that Hispanic boxing fans were only interested in De La Hoya or that they only watch with commentary in Spanish. And when she acknowledged later the challenge facing HBO Sports when De La Hoya eventually retires, it was clear that it won’t be only Hispanic viewership that will suffer.

Carolina Walters Espinoza, manager of Hispanic marketing for Comcast Cable Communications, echoed the “value” point, adding that “sophisticated consumers buy for quality” and emphasized the importance of talking about “value first” in phone pitches before getting around to price points.

Asked to name the No. 1 challenge in marketing to Hispanics, Azteca America Executive VP of Marketing Karen Davis noted the growth in multiplatform consumption among Hispanics, saying, “I need to be where they’re going to be.”

Javier Prelooker, head of business development at Condista, said many agencies simply “don’t know the space exists” because many Spanish-language TV networks are too small to be rated. The challenge, he said, is to sell to the Hispanic “universe…a demographic that spends $80 per month to watch television.”

Comcast’s Walters Espinoza noted the difficulty of educating and engaging consumers with limited budgets. But William Ortiz, senior director of corporate multicultural marketing at Time Warner Cable, offered a positive spin on budget constraints, saying that “because Hispanic media is cheaper, the cost is typically less” to get your message out.

Ortiz also lamented some of the persistent misconceptions about Hispanics. “I’ve heard lots of things, like ‘Do Hispanics own televisions?’” said Ortiz, adding that one “senior executive” once asked him, “When do Hispanics stop being Hispanics.”

Revealing that her digital-to-analog converter box coupon from the Commerce Dept. arrived a month after it expired, Multichannel News’ Martinez asked the panel to look ahead to the digital-television transition and the affect the analog shutoff in February 2009 could have on Spanish-language broadcasters and their viewers.

While Ortiz noted the opportunity for encouraging viewers to upgrade to digital cable, he predicted there will be “tremendous confusion” among viewers, many of whom will likely wait until the last moment to deal with the transition.

Azteca America’s Davis viewed the transition as an indication that “no broadcaster can only be a broadcaster anymore. We have to be across all mediums.”

With Joel Topcik