Saying it in Spanish

Dinero: Advertising entrepreneur Bob Leffler is going after the Hispanic advertising market with Creativo Latino, a new business unit in his agency.

September 13, 2001|By June Arney | June Arney,SUN STAFF

When Bob Leffler won the Tampa Bay Buccaneers advertising account in 1995, he sought bilingual help on the rare occasions when he needed to run football ads in La Gaceta, the area's major Spanish language newspaper.

A few years later, when the Tampa Bay Devil Rays joined the Baltimore ad man's client roster, he'd grab nearly anyone he could find who spoke both Spanish and English to translate the radio commercials.

"Say it in Spanish," Leffler would tell them. "I've got a lot of tickets to sell. Please help me."

Leffler cringes now at the makeshift way that he got through those early encounters with Hispanic advertising. Now he has started a business unit, called Creativo Latino, to handle his Hispanic work.

Experts say Hispanic marketing is one of the hottest trends in advertising, catapulted by the 2000 census.

The Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies reports that nearly $2.4 billion was spent on media for Hispanic advertising in the past year.

Leffler hopes to parlay his new venture, with its saucy red and black logo, into annual billings of $2 million by 2003 in his Baltimore and Tampa offices. The shop he runs, the Leffler Agency, has $22 million in annual billings.

"Being an old history teacher, I know enough about trends, and this is the future," Leffler said. "Now I can go after business here. It's coming. Hopefully, I'll be ready for it."

The Hispanic population in Baltimore is 11,061, according to the 2000 U.S. Census Bureau statistics.

The fastest-growing group in America - the Hispanic population - went from 21.9 million to 35.3 million between 1990 and 2001, according to the census. Projections show that the Hispanic population will triple by 2050, making up 24 percent of the total U.S. population, according to statistics provided by the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies.

Leffler said his is the first exclusive business unit in Baltimore or Tampa dedicated to Latin American advertising that will focus on selling American products to Hispanics in their own language - not just translating existing campaigns. Heading up the effort is Joan L. Davila, account executive and director of Creativo Latino. Davila, who has been with the agency about seven months, took on her new assignment last month.

"I've gotten out and seen that there are a lot of people in the community who don't speak the language, and I'd like to let them know that we're trying to meet their needs and to let them know they can preserve their culture here, too," said Davila, whose father was born in Puerto Rico.

Hispanic marketing in other forms is not new to Baltimore. The Campbell Group Inc. has offered Hispanic advertising since 1992 for international clients. The agency has bilingual staffers and has built marketing in Latin America into about 20 percent of its business.

In May, Eisner Communications Inc. launched a division called Beverly & Eisner to tap into a combination of Latino, African-American, Asian and gay and lesbian markets, hoping to bring in $50 million in billings by 2005.

"Advertisers have finally realized that $1 spent on Hispanic advertising offers a higher rate of return than $1 spent on a general market consumer," said Tory Syvrud, the Dallas-based president of Publicis, Sanchez & Levitan, formed earlier this year by the American division of the Publicis Groupe to handle advertising aimed at Hispanic consumers. Publicis in the United States is the $1.4 billion U.S. division of the French Publicis Groupe S.A.

The higher return is because Hispanic consumers are not bombarded with as many advertisements in their language, so the messages stand out, Syvrud said. Media costs are lower because there is a narrower list of outlets for Hispanic consumers. For instance, there are just two main television networks.

"Every night's the Super Bowl in Spanish television," Syvrud said, quoting a popular saying in the industry. That's because on any given night, 20 percent of the market watches a single network, Univision, he said.

Baltimore is a logical place for Hispanic advertising to grow because of the influx of Cuban, Puerto Rican and Dominican populations here, Syvrud said.

"This is only going to continue to explode," he said.

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