Austin-based ad agency LatinWorks tries to stay at forefront of shifting culture

 

By Brian Gaar (Statesman Newspaper)

Over the past several years, perhaps no Austin advertising agency has been more decorated than LatinWorks.

The Hispanic agency has won all manner of national and international recognition for its work ranging from a Starburst-chewing llama to a Bud Light Super Bowl commercial featuring comedian Carlos Mencia in 2007.

More recently, trade publication Adweek named the firm its Hispanic Agency of the Year for 2011, weeks after rival publication Advertising Age named LatinWorks its Multicultural Agency of the Year.

LatinWorks executives regularly praise the quality of their staff, but they also point to the importance of staying on top of the changing demographics of the United States, something that promises to work in their favor as the U.S. becomes an increasingly diverse country.

Sergio Alcocer, LatinWorks’ president and chief operating officer, recently talked with the American-Statesman about the ongoing changes in the industry and what makes his agency stand out.

American-Statesman: Over the past few years, LatinWorks has had a string of successful campaigns, both in terms of industry awards and popular reception. What do you attribute this success to?

Alcocer: We are very passionate. We work harder than most, and we are very aware that we are as good as our next campaign. As a multicultural agency, we belong to a new breed, and being part of this social phenomenon gives us a lot of energy. There’s an enormous satisfaction to seeing our work help clients grow, become part of popular culture and win awards. When you can achieve those three things, advertising becomes more than ads; it turns into something that is cool and important.

As a city, Austin has a reputation as being a creative destination. Has that helped you thrive as an agency?

There is so much of the spirit of Austin at LatinWorks that it would be hard to imagine our agency anywhere else. It is not a coincidence we are here. The creative community of Austin is the perfect environment for a creative company. Good creativity does not come from a vacuum. Creative ideas come from music, movies, literature, art, culture, what happens on the streets, the news, a good conversation at a bar or a café. Austin is a great place to live, and life feeds creativity. And it is also a place where young people want to live. We are competing with New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco to attract talent, and Austin is an easy sell.

We hear about the changing demographics of the United States a lot, but your agency is really on the front lines of this shift. Have you seen an increased demand for your services? And how does this shift benefit LatinWorks?

The fabric of society is changing, and the future is bright. In May, the Census Bureau announced that from June 2010 to June 2011, there were more Hispanic, black and Asian kids born in America than nonethnic Anglos. The country is becoming more diverse, and only good things will come out of this. Many people describe what’s happening in the U.S. as multiculturalism, but we prefer the term “transcultural.”

Multicultural implies different cultures that coexist peacefully in the same space, but transcultural is where the cultures merge and influence each other creating something new. That’s where real richness will come from: Not ethnic groups living independently of each other but merging to create the future of America — a future that is full of promise. We are the voice of this change in corporate America; aside from just creating advertising, we open doors for the new generations.

It seems that audiences have become more sophisticated in the age of social media and possibly more resistant to traditional forms of advertising, especially online. Is this something you notice? How has social media and the Web changed what you do?

People are becoming resistant to bad advertising, the one that screams at you, that treats you as if you were dumb, one that is fake or false or self-serving. If you are a dishonest brand, you will be called out immediately. Social media is giving a voice to people that used to be considered passive “consumers.” In the past, you talked to them, and they didn’t talk back. Now you establish a dialogue. Real communication. Social media is the best thing that has happened to advertising since TV, and we are just touching the surface. The changes to our industry will be huge, which makes what we do very exciting.

Your industry is one of the most rapidly changing fields I can think of. What do you see on the horizon for LatinWorks?

Part of our mission is to help define the voice of this new Hispanic generation. For years, Hispanic marketing was all about talking in Spanish to Spanish speakers. Today we also need to talk to the Hispanic-American, those Latinos born in the U.S. that are the face of the new generation. They are young, bicultural and they can live perfectly well moving back and forth through both worlds. It’s not only that our work needs to be true to their reality, but our team needs to live that reality. Our team is a true reflection of today’s society: Young, energetic and even split in gender, 65 percent U.S. born and the majority of those Hispanic Americans. We live what we preach. That’s our competitive advantage.

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Categories: NGL News

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