IN THE television series “Mad Men”, a 1960s adman makes a pitch to a television-maker whose sales are flat. “Among Negroes sales are actually growing,” he chirps. He proposes making “integrated” ads that appeal to both black and white consumers. His idea bombs. This being the era of segregation, one of his listeners wonders if mixed-race ads are even legal.
Such days are long gone. America’s minorities will eventually be a majority of the population: by 2045, according to the most recent census. Advertisers have noticed. Many now favour cross-cultural ads that emphasise what black, Hispanic and Asian-American consumers have in common. This approach is thought to work well with the young, who often listen to the same music, eat the same food and wear similar clothes regardless of their ethnic background.
Ogilvy & Mather, a big ad agency, formed OgilvyCulture in 2010 as a unit specialising in cross-cultural marketing. “The ethnic ad model has not changed since the 1960s,” says Jeffrey Bowman, head of OgilvyCulture. It was the census data that made Ogilvy change its model. In 2010 Burger King stopped employing ethnic agencies such as LatinWorks, which specialised in the Hispanic market, to address its consumers as a whole rather than taking a segmented approach
Yet some admen feel ethnicity remains relevant. “Every ten years we go through a rethink of targeted versus one voice,” says McGhee Williams Osse, co-chief executive of Burrell, a Chicago-based agency specialising in the African-American market. She argues that ethnic origin is the key to people’s identity, much more than education, income, religion, sex and sexual orientation. She would say that, of course.
Maurice Lévy, the boss of Publicis Groupe, the French ad giant that owns 49% of Burrell, says that ethnic advertising makes sense for advertisers that are very big (and so can afford multiple ad campaigns), or very specialised. A maker of cream for black skin, for example, will probably not bother marketing it to Asians.
Nestlé, a huge food firm, aims some ads at Hispanics, America’s largest minority. It recruited four Hispanic mothers to blog on a new bilingual website, El Mejor Nido(The Best Nest), offering tips about parenting and healthy eating. Hispanics are younger than other Americans, have more children and spend more on food, says Juan Motta, who heads the California-based unit running Nestlé’s Hispanic campaign in the United States, which promotes both the firm’s Latin American brands, such as La Lechera and Abuelita, and the rest of its larder.
McDonald’s has been a pioneer of ethnic advertising since the 1960s. Minorities represent about 40% of its customers in America. Neil Golden, the firm’s American chief marketing officer, argues that other Americans often follow trends set by ethnic minorities. So he watches minorities for insights he can use in ads aimed at the general market. In 2010 McDonald’s learned that African-Americans liked sweeter, weaker caramel mocha, so it started offering such blends everywhere, with great success. A similar thing happened with its mango and pineapple smoothies, a big hit with Hispanics. McDonald’s featured the drinks in restaurants nationwide and they quickly overtook strawberry banana, the traditional favourite.
David Burgos, co-author of a book on marketing to the “new majority”, says that in spite of the increasing importance of minority consumers, advertisers still put ethnic ads into a separate budget—which tends to be cut first when the economy goes sour. Only 7% of marketing dollars are spent on targeted ethnic campaigns, although nearly half of Americans belong to ethnic minorities. He thinks ad-agency staff need to be more diverse.
Getting the right ethnic perspective is tricky. Hispanics are a varied lot. An ad that delights Cuban-Americans may irritate migrants from Venezuela. Asians are hardly monolithic, either. Even the wittiest Korean catchphrases will provoke only bafflement in Chinatown.
Saul Gitlin of Kang & Lee, an agency specialising in selling to Asian-Americans, argues that recent Chinese and Korean immigrants are best reached with communications in their mother tongue. They are generally ignored by advertisers, however, with the exception of financial firms. This is a mistake, he reckons: the median household income of Asian-Americans is some $10,000 higher than that of non-Hispanic whites.
Many modern Mad Men think digital media will allow them to know their audiences better, and feed them more precisely-tailored messages. This can be costly (seeSchumpeter). But many consumers seem to like it. When Latinas disagree with something the four mommybloggers at El Mejor Nido have written, they can go to the El Mejor Nido Facebook page, and let loose.
Categories: NGLC Conference