Was The 2010 Census Anti-climactic For The Hispanic Marketing Industry?


By Jose Villa (MediaPost Engage:  Hispanics)

Anyone who has been in the business of Hispanic marketing for 20+ years will tell you the 1990 and 2000 Census results were game-changers for the business. The final two Census results of the 20th century brought the industry to life, catalyzed a huge expansion in both the media and advertising sides of the business, and ushered in an unprecedented level of attention from corporate America on the need to address this “new” demographic and commercial opportunity.

The 2000 Census was particularly important, with tons of media attention from the cover of Time magazine to lead stories throughout most of the American media. Since the 2000 Census figures ushered in this new level of attention to the Hispanic market, there have been at least:

  • 45 new Hispanic ad agencies launched
  • 38 new Spanish-language newspapers put into circulation
  • 1,250 new Spanish-language and Hispanic-targeted television networks on air
  • 100+ new Hispanic-targeted Websites

Most importantly, there was a significant expansion in resources dedicated to the Hispanic market by corporate America, primarily in the form new marketing hires, new departments and groups focused on the Hispanic market, numerous acquisitions, and countless new product launches.

Naturally, there was much excitement and anticipation in our industry leading toward the unveiling of the 2010 Census results. I think it’s fair to say most in our industry were expecting the 2010 Hispanic population data to spur at least as much new activity as the 2000 and 1990 Census did. Many expected even more attention and business activity to be spurred by the 2010 Census in the year following the unveiling of the results.

It has been almost six months since the 2010 Census results were released, and everyone now knows the Hispanic market has topped 50 million. Now, tell me if I’m wrong, but there has been a big boom in the Hispanic market.

I have talked to industry colleagues in the last few months who corroborate my theory. No Time magazine cover stories. No new Hispanic agency reviews by companies that have yet to jump into the Hispanic market. There have been few, if any, new Hispanic ad agencies or Hispanic media companies.

While this lack of activity can surely be attributed to the ongoing economic issues facing the country and the fact that companies are hesitant to invest in new markets and programs, I think there is more going on here than just the economy. Here are my theories, in order of magnitude of affect:

1. Most of the low-hanging fruit has been picked. Most major marketers in the U.S. are already involved at some level in Hispanic advertising. There weren’t that many companies left on the sidelines as of April 2011.

2. The Census numbers revealed two Hispanic markets. According to the latest Census figures, a whopping 63% of U.S. Hispanics were born in the U.S. That one statistic led to a profound debate in the industry about whether Hispanics — particularly English-speaking, more acculturated Hispanics — are still a distinct segment, with distinct media consumption habits Hispanic-specific marketing programs can target.

3. The power of expectations. One can argue 2010 was the first Census when everyone had big expectations regarding the growth of the Hispanic population. I think many people were expecting big numbers, north of 50 million. No one was surprised by the eventual figure, and so it did not lead to new activity since everyone already planned for it. Put another way, the effects of the anticipated Census results were already baked into most company’s plans.

4. The trend toward general market consolidation is affecting the industry. Anyone who has ever read my blogs knows there has been an undeniable trend of marketers consolidating their Hispanic marketing and advertising programs with general market agencies. That, in my opinion, has reduced the prominence, role and budgets of many Hispanic marketing initiatives.

5. More Hispanics doesn’t mean more spending. As the economy has struggled, minority groups like Hispanics and African Americans have borne a bigger negative impact, as revealed by the unemployment figures in the Hispanic market, which are much higher than the overall national averages. So although the population has increased, many marketers are seeing a Hispanic consumer with less disposable income, and therefore are a potentially less attractive market than in the past.

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