In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, RPA hosted a panel discussion about Latinos in advertising. I was able to participate in the panel along with a few distinguished people in the community. There was resounding agreement among the panelists that while the industry, marketers and advertisers have taken notice of Latinos as being a very viable source of sales and have recognized our buying power, they still need to be reminded of how to reach out to us, speak to us in ways that are culturally relevant, and not support Latino advertising only when it’s convenient.

Here are several key takeaways from our panelists: Denisse Cobian, Director of Brand Partnerships, West at mitu; Sylvia Franson, SVP at NBCU Hispanic (Telemundo); Todd Glavinskas, Multicultural Lead at Facebook; Christina Igaraividez, Associate Media Director at RPA; and Yendy Rojo, Social Media Account Lead at Orcí.

Who are Latinos?

One of the biggest obstacles facing Latinos in our industry today is the preconceived notion of what being Latino means. Brands don’t always expect Latinos to have the spending power and education, even though, according to 2016 Polk data, 27% of all car sales came from multicultural people. Continuing to educate brands and marketers is key, especially where there isn’t a dedicated lead to specifically manage multicultural initiatives.

Reaching Latinos

Though the industry is making great strides, perceptions still play a large part in the advertising decisions. There are 57 million Latinos out there who are buying more products, going to movies more often and have bigger spending power. We hear all the time that Latinos are very important and they are being targeted, but through general-market media. That isn’t to say that Latinos don’t consume mass media, but they also seek out content that speaks to their own experiences, which is where advertisers need to continue to engage and fill the gaps.

Typecasting

The portrayal of Hispanic characters continues to be stereotypes, such as drug lords, or the poor guy who meets the rich girl. Some advertisers have made strides to change that narrative by elevating Latinos, like making their characters the boss. There’s movement away from telenovelas and toward creating scripted series, but there is still a long way to go. There’s a significant opportunity to change stereotypes into insights that honor the culture and lifestyle in a way that doesn’t come off as cookie cutter but rather as art.

Preferences

Latino and millennial audiences have more choices than ever before in the type of content they consume and the brands they choose. They are being more conscious about their choices and by default they exercise their own form of activism wherever possible — this includes the brands they choose to support. Latinos are looking at what brands are doing for them and their community and are thinking, “How is this dollar going to help me or my family live a better life or change the life of others or even make the world better?” It is up to brands to tell their truest and most authentic story first, and sell later. If the story doesn’t align with the Latino perspective, do not force-fit a brand story to try to appeal to everyone.

Next Steps

It’s on us to push ourselves and to challenge industry perceptions of multicultural audiences. How are we all going to be agents of change and move beyond thinking of Latinos as a secondary audience? It’s our responsibility to keep reinforcing that our multiculturalism is a plus. The way we see and move about in the world influences the masses. Our stories are many, and when we see ourselves reflected in positive, inspirational and real ways, we are more likely to engage. As an industry, multiculturalism must be seen as an asset to brand marketing, and marketers need to make an effort to authentically reach diverse audiences in relatable ways.