Serving from the melting pot

For advertisers who think they can continue to aim their messages exclusively at the mainstream and bypass the minority marketplace, Leila Winick, president of WIMC’s Western Multicultural Group, offers some sobering statistics:

* From 1990 to the year 2000, the African-American population in the United States is expected to grow 18%, Latinos will grow by 40% and Asian-and Pacific-Americans will grow by 65%.

* Together the three groups have discretionary income of more than $549 billion per year, consumer spending that in many cases bypasses the mainstream media for its direction.

“The media is totally different for these groups,” Winick says. “The media content tends to be more internationally skewed for Hispanic and Asian markets and the African- American market seeks issues relevant to their culture.”

Recognizing the growing importance of targeting minority groups, Western set up the group under Winick in 1993 to collectively coordinate its minority media planning and buying services for the abovementioned groups. Over the previous decade, services had been planned independently for each individual group.

Beyond the response to niche market demands, the creation of the group also reflected the personal experience of WIM chief executive Dennis Holt’s background – he grew up in South-Central Los Angeles.

“I have always understood the necessity to market to (minorities) not only because it’s good business but because of respect,” Holt says. “I used to say, ‘ Eighteen percent of your stores are in Hispanic neighborhoods so put 18% of the money there,’ and they’d laugh at you. I think most people now understand the importance of doing that.”

The Multicultural Group’s efforts have been rewarded with media billings that the company projects to double from $20 million in 1994 to $40 million in 1995, about 1.5% of Western’s estimated total billings for the latter period.

“Their biggest advantage is their buying clout and the savings they realize for the general market can also be true for ethnic advertisers,” says David Chen, managing partner at Muse Cordero Chen Inc., a minority advertising firm based in Los Angeles. “Leila is doing an excellent job. Whenever we need service or research data or something from her, she jumps on it and never fails to give us the information we need, even though we’re a small fish that’s not buying millions and millions of dollars.”

Winick’s division is composed of 25 individuals, most of whom are multilingual and average 10 years of experience.

“I need to have experienced professionals who listen to, watch and read multicultural media,” says Winick, who speaks Spanish, Portuguese, French and German, in addition to English. “This is not just based on ratings points. Often we work with media partners to develop programs for television.”

WMG’s Asian Pacific Media group is particularly diverse, with specialized service to all 15 Asian-Pacific groups listed on the U.S. Census, including Filipino, Indian, Korean and Vietnamese, among many others. Ethnic buying is conducted in all of Western’s 37 offices.

Many aspects of minority campaigns are comprised of the same planning considerations that go with the general buying public, such as price point, competition and brand development, but also include examinations of what is taking place in individual markets, “such as whether or not an Army base has shut down,” Winick says.

Sometimes unconventional methods of measuring reach must be used, such as talking directly to retailers to keep abreast of changes in the local marketplace.

“There’s a myth that ethnic purchases are impossible to measure,” she says. “If you want to run a Hispanic program to isolate a community, you can generate a list of Hispanic stores in the area.”

Winick, who earlier served as general manager of Ad Americas and senior vice president/management supervisor at Conill Advertising, a subsidiary of Saatchi & Saatchi Communications, says that minority media choices and research are rapidly becoming more sophisticated.

There are now two Latino networks, Telemundo and Univision, and Nielsen Media Research is rolling out a new Latino media service for large cities that more accurately measures the television viewing habits of Latinos. Such evolution is melting previous stereo-types about minority consumer behavior. New research has discovered, for instance, that a higher proportion of Latino households uses Spanish as its language of preference than previously had been thought.

“There is a big misconception that the length of residency determines the preference of language at home,” Winick says. “There are people who have been here 20 years and still prefer to use Spanish. Many advertisers are dividing up their campaigns between Spanish-language dominant and English-language dominant in response.”

She says that the continuing evolution of cable research, a medium particularly adept at targeting smaller groups, may yield more information about minority buying habits and how best to target viewers in the near future.

And new interactive media services targeting minorities are also opening up, such as the Net Noir Afrocentric service on America Online. Retailers, automobile companies and packaged goods have been the most aggressive in seeking out minority media planning and buying services, Winick says. In some cases, those efforts reflect federally mandated demands that companies reach out to minorities, such as the Community Reinvestment Act, which requires financial institutions insured with federal funds to reflect the needs of the communities in which they are based.

On the other hand, categories such as travel and tourism, with some exceptions, continue to lag, she says.

Winick says that insufficient or carelessly conducted minority campaigns by well-meaning advertisers can be worse than no campaign at all.

“You can’t just look at reaching out to Hispanics as sponsoring a Cinco de Mayo parade. That’s not giving them respect and consideration,” she says.

“If you want to sponsor a parade, fine. But make sure, after the parade, that you have distribution of your product in Hispanic neighborhoods.”

It also becomes readily apparent to minority members if they are receiving leftover ad dollars or if English-language campaigns are adapted to them with little sensitivity, she adds.

Since 1994, the Multicultural Group has provided international service by providing buying and planning services for clients active in Mexico and Latin American countries.

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