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An Analysis of Hispanic Advertising in the U.S.


In advertising campaigns, minority groups are less represented and less specifically targeted. As a fast-growing population, the Hispanic community has opened a remarkable minority market and gained an important status in American advertising industry. The paper aims at analyzing how Hispanic advertising, the communication conducted by Hispanic and Latino Americans, came into being and exploring its influence on both Hispanic groups and American culture.

Based on previous research on the history of Hispanic immigrants, culture and the development of the advertising industry, this paper will examine the growth and features of Hispanic advertising in America, and their impacts to the advertising industry as well as American culture.

A. The background of Hispanic advertising

An overview of Hispanic immigration

The immigration to the U.S. has several different phases. In the 1960s, the major immigration source countries are mainly located in Europe, Latin America and Asia. Among the total immigration population, Hispanics take up the largest share of all the new arrivals. Nearly half of the foreign-born people currently living in the U.S. came from Mexico, Central America, South America and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean countries (Bodvarsson and Berg 317).

The rapid growth of Hispanic immigration to the U.S. increased the overall Hispanic population in the U.S. From 1990 to 2000, the U.S. Hispanics population increased by 58%. The population growth of Hispanics accounts for almost half of the annual U.S. population growth. However, in recent years, the rapid growth is largely through U.S. birth rates instead of immigration (montano 12-13). In 2002, Hispanics took the place of African Americans to become the largest minority ethnic group in the U.S. (Bodvarsson and Berg 316)

Today, Hispanics are considered as the largest subculture or ethnic group in the U.S., taking up 17.8% of the population. The population is projected to reach 119 million by 2060, taking up 28.6% of the nation's population by the date (US Census Bureau).

An overview of Hispanic culture

Samuel Huntington once showed his concerns about Hispanic immigration in his controversial book, Who are we? The Challenges to American's Identity. He argued that Hispanic immigrants were less likely to assimilate, learn English, and reach income parity with Native-born Americans than previous immigrants (Bodvarsson and Berg 317). Although the authenticity of Huntington's argument remains to be proven, it does indicate the strong ethnic identity among Hispanics.

In April 1972, the first national, monthly magazine that targeted Hispanics, La Luz, was published in the U.S. (Sommers 32) In addition, a powerful media network was built up due to the symbolic feature of Hispanic language. Through the million-dollar networks such as SIN(Spanish International Network), the Spanish-speaking audience was accessible to the television programs originated in Mexico, Latin America and South America. The markets expanded rapidly and created huge profits for the media companies (Sommers 37). In general, Hispanic language along with the culture, shapes the unique ethnic identification of Hispanic Americans.

B.  The development of Hispanic advertising

The history of Hispanic advertising

The beginning of Hispanic advertising industry was highly related to the migration of Cubans and Puerto Ricans to New York City during the 1950s. The massive unemployment caused by the development and modernization project in Puerto Rico caused sizable Spanish-speaking immigrants in New York and thus boosted the development of Hispanic advertising agencies (Dávila 17).

In 1950s, the Hispanic advertising agency was highly dependent on direct promotions. The Hispanic advertising agencies in New York City was mainly centered on local radio station and made direct promotions through bodegas, Puerto Rican-owned markets. In 1960s, the clients of Hispanic agencies were mostly from local New York market or Latin America (Dávila 12).

In 1950s and 1960s, Hispanic advertising agencies were limited in local markets. However, as the prevalence of network television, Hispanic advertising was transformed from local to national business.

In terms of the market share, Hispanic market was relatively smaller than the general market. Although the business of Hispanic advertising agencies began in 1950s, the U.S. Hispanic market only became significant and important in adverting industry until the late 1970s and early 1980s (Dávila 19). At this moment, since Hispanic agencies were considered to have a more perceived understanding of the Hispanic market, the presence of Hispanic agencies became important to the companies that target Hispanic consumers.

Cuban executives played an important role in accelerating the development of Hispanic agencies. They had extensive contacts and connections in Latin America, which provided them additional knowledge and understanding about the different Latin American countries and thus support them to establish a pan-Latina identity in the U.S.  (Dávila 18).

What's more, the origins of Hispanic advertising agencies became more diverse and not just limit in the Hispanic immigrants. There are agencies found by U.S.-born Hispanics, such as Sosa and Associates, founded by Texas-born Loinel Sosa. However, inside the agency, they tended to hire most of the creatives from Latin America instead of in the U.S.(Dávila 19)

In terms of the commercial presence of Hispanics, Hispanics were overall underrepresented in 1960s to 1980s. The commercials with Hispanics had more people than those without Hispanics, and they were more likely to be the background roles(Wilkes 25). And from this perspective, we can see Hispanics market didn't gain much attention on the general advertising industry. Hispanics were underrepresent in the commercials and were not in the realm of target audience.

Hispanic advertising today

Nowadays, Hispanic market has become one of the most prominent markets in the advertising industry. The market share grows 6 times faster than the overall market and is considered as one of the fastest-growing segments in the multicultural American marketplace (Tsai, Tsui and Li 305-306).

In 2009, a total of US$5.4 billion was spent on Spanish language media, with a steady growth rate outperforming the general market (Tsai, Tsui and Li 306). Big companies spend generous budget on Hispanic market. Procter & Gamble Co, ranking first in the 50 largest spenders in Hispanic media, spent $368.3 million in 2017, up from $303.1 million in the previous year. AT&T, ranking third in the largest spenders in Hispanic media, spent $128.7 million in 2017 (Wentz).

The Hispanic agencies also made a remarkable performance in advertising industry. Alma, one of the 50 largest Hispanic agencies, under the branch of Omnicom Group, won 2017 multicultural agency of the year (Wentz). The agency gained a success in promoting Netflix's heated drama “Narcos.” Alma released digital campaign “Spanish Lessons,” making the lead actors teach their most-used Spanish expressions. The campaign drew 12 million views on social media and was named as the best campaign in the network at DDB's internal awards (Wentz).

Moreover, Hispanic agencies are expanding their boundaries, reaching out to the audience group larger than Hispanics and making nationwide campaigns for global companies. Lopez Negrete Communications, which is the biggest independent Hispanic agency in the U.S., became one of seven agencies certificated to handle local advertising for McDonald's cooperative groups (Wentz).

Besides, brands are also using the element of Hispanic culture to target not only Hispanic consumers but also global audience. Jeep took advantage of U.S. Hispanic soccer expertise in their “Battlefield” campaign to present the brand's spirit of relentlessness and the passion of the Fiat Chrysler-sponsored Italian soccer team. The campaign targeted 300 million global fans of the soccer team (Wentz).

C. The influence of Hispanic advertising

The influence on Hispanic American-consumers

The Hispanic advertising has different influence in terms of different Hispanic audience and different types of advertisements.

Based on the Neilson research, Hispanic consumers have different reactions and preference based on different cultural background. The research classifies the Hispanic consumers into two categories: one is integrated Hispanic, the other is assimilated Hispanics. Integrated Hispanics constitute the largest Hispanic segment, taking up 53% of the total Hispanic population (Tsai, Tsui and Li 317). They show more recognition to Hispanic language and culture, while assimilated Hispanics show more recognition to American mainstream culture.

The research found that bicultural commercials were the most favorable ad and drove highest purchase intension from integrated Hispanic consumers. As for assimilated Hispanics, they were more likely to favor the Caucasian-targeted commercials (Tsai, Tsui and Li 321).

Since integrated Hispanics are familiar with both Hispanic and American culture, they could easily understand and thus appreciate the bicultural approach in the ads. Besides, they are also identified with the mainstream culture, so either Hispanic-targeted or Caucasian-targeted ads would appeal to them. However, assimilated Hispanics are relatively unfamiliar with the bicultural approach, in this way they are more aware of the Caucasian-targeted advertising and find less identified in the Hispanic-targeted advertising (Tsai, Tsui and Li 321).

In a steady growing rate, the Hispanic market is expanding with a influx of immigrants and a rapid growing American-born second generation. The market experiences different degrees of acculturation and present different preferences for multicultural advertising. Consequently, their ethnic identification with both the mainstream culture and Hispanic heritage influences their respondence to culturally oriented advertising (Tsai, Tsui and Li 306).

The influence on advertising industry

Apart from the growingly significant influence of Hispanic market to the overall advertising industry, the Hispanic agencies also make a massive impact on the industry.

The development of Hispanic agencies leads the trends of multicultural marketing in the advertising industry. They present more insights and understanding of Hispanic consumer than general agencies and they are more focused on Hispanic audience as well.

To better develop Hispanic advertising, Hispanic advertisers founded an organization called CMC, The Culture Market Council. The organization is previously known as the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies. It is the only national trade organization representing the entire Hispanic marketing, communications and media industry. Through leadership initiatives and groundbreaking research, CMC helps organizations and agencies gain more market share and better target Hispanic consumers. Moreover, the organization does not limit in target Hispanic audience, but also aims at “infusing cultural inspiration and innovation to every marketing campaign in the U.S. via Expertise and Cultural Fluency.” (Culture Marketing Council)  

In addition, due to the outspoken performance of ethnic markets, global companies see the importance of multicultural advertising and develop their own channels speaking to the ethnic groups. Brands like Allstate, Western Union and Sprint established specific divisions for their marketing department to develop ethnic targeted strategies to develop a more efficient communication with ethnic groups (Torres and Briggs 150).

The influence on American culture

As the multicultural trend develop over the decades, the days when mainstream culture dominated by “classic” Anglo-Saxon features are gone, the culture that celebrates the diversity and multiculturalism has taken the place. Since 1991, salsa has outsold ketchup as the top-ranking condiment of choice in the U.S.(Halter 9) People embrace the ethnic mainstream and appear in diverse consuming behaviors. They enjoy Panda Express, Chipotle and celebrate Saint Patrick's Day. They may not feel identified with different ethnic cultures, but they are lighten up and cheer for those cultures.

As the Hispanic agencies are expanding their influence to a wider range of audience, the Hispanic campaigns are also influencing American mainstream culture, infusing with a more diverse and ethnic insight.

D. Conclusion

Advertising is described as a “cultural system” that rich in information. Consumers can gain the essential information about who is important, what kind of objects are relevant and what are appropriate practices and behaviors through the process of advertising (Chávez 321). The rise and development of Hispanic advertising not only indicates the growing buying power of Hispanic market, but also presents the growing ethnic identification of the ethnicity group.  Additionally, as Hispanic advertising is expanding its influence, more and more people beyond Hispanic Americans are accessible to the ethnic communication and be a part of the diversity and multicultural trend.


1. Montano, Jesse Raúl. Characteristics of US hispanic advertising: A comparison of award-winning and non-award-winning commercials. Diss. University of Florida, 2004, pp. 10–13.

2. Dávila, Arlene, and Arlene Dvila. Latinos, Inc. : The Marketing and Making of a People, University of California Press, 2012, pp.12-19, ProQuest Ebook Central,

3. Wilkes, Robert E., and Humberto Valencia. “Hispanics and Blacks in Television Commercials.” Journal of Advertising, vol. 18, no. 1, 1989, pp. 19–25. JSTOR, JSTOR,

4. Sunny Tsai, Wan-Hsiu, and Cong Li. “Bicultural Advertising and Hispanic Acculturation.” Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, vol. 34, no. 2, May 2012, pp. 305–322, doi:10.1177/0739986311435224.

5. Chávez, Christopher. "Hispanic agencies and profits of distinction: An examination of the advertising industry as a field of cultural production." Consumption Markets & Culture 15.3 (2012): 307-325.

6. Halter, Marilyn. Shopping for identity: The marketing of ethnicity. Schocken, 2007, pp. 3–12.

7. Bodvarsson, Örn B., and Hendrik Van den Berg. "Hispanic immigration to the United States." The economics of immigration. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg, 2009. 315-341.

8. Torres, Ivonne M., and Elten Briggs. "Does Hispanic-targeted advertising work for services?." Journal of Services Marketing 19.3 (2005): 150-156.

9. Sommers, Laurie Kay. "Inventing Latinismo: The Creation of" Hispanic" Panethnicity in the United States." Journal of American Folklore (1991): 32-53.

10. US Census Bureau. Census Bureau QuickFacts, United States Census Bureau, 3 Aug. 2018,

11. Wentz, Laurel. “Ad Age's 2017 Hispanic Fact Pack Is Out Now.” Ad Age, 28 Aug. 2017,

12. Wentz, Laurel. “Alma Is Ad Age's 2017 Multicultural Agency of the Year.” Ad Age, 23 Jan. 2017,

13. Culture Marketing Council. “About.” Culture Marketing Council: The Voice of Hispanic Marketing, '

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