The Walt Disney Co. is trying to boost boxoffice among Hispanics, blacks and Asians by putting new emphasis on specialized marketing programs aimed at those markets.

Studios regularly advertise to ethnic minorities, but usually when a film has an obvious hook with those groups. The difference here is that Disney is attempting to make ethnic marketing an integral part of its overall strategy for all films, with or without an ethnic theme.

Disney has developed Spanish-language radio commercials to promote its Feb. 1 release, “Run.” The spots were taped in three different Spanish dialects designed to appeal to Mexicans, Puerto Ricans and Cubans.

“We will speak to the audience directly,” said newly named v.p. of special markets Alan B. Dinwiddie, a veteran of two advertising agencies that specialize in ethnic marketing. “It will provide a special invitation to Hispanics… It will no longer be an afterthought.”

Hinges on audience potential

That does not mean every Disney, Touchstone or Hollywood Pictures film will use an ethnic marketing component. Special marketing efforts aimed at those groups will be undertaken if research shows there is further audience potential there.

In May, the studio will try a specialized marketing effort aimed at blacks for “True Identity.” The film is helmed by a black director, Charles Lane.

Marketers of packaged goods and other major national advertisers have been using such specialized marketing efforts for years, but the motion picture industry has been slow to adopt the practice.

Since his arrival in September, Dinwiddie has developed Hispanic-market campaigns for “The Rescuers Down Under” and “Three Men And A Little Lady.” Dinwiddie said Disney also is hoping to develop regional marketing campaigns tied to these ethnic groups.

According to Strategy Research Corp. of Miami, Hispanics had $171 billion in purchasing power in 1989 and were the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population. Dinwiddie said Hispanics frequent films 30% to 40% more often than the general population.

Blacks, who make up 12.6% of the total U.S. population, represented a $265 billion market in 1989.

Dinwiddie said he will concentrate initially on developing opportunities in the black and Hispanic markets because of their size and accessibility. He said he is trying to formulate a program toward the Asian market but is finding it less successful.

While associated with Uniworld Group, a New York-based ad agency, Dinwiddie managed Eastman Kodak’s participation in the release of Tri-Star’s “Glory,” a Civil War epic of particular interest to black audiences.

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