Marc Anthony & Gloria to sell products & services to Latinos?

26 Sep 2007|spalacios

Much comentary has appeared surrounding the recent PBS documentary, Brown is the New Green: George Lopez and the American Dream. As one of the Hispanic marketing executives featured on the documentary, I appreciate the discourse, and can attest to the fact that the documentarian, Phillip Rodriguez, has a skeptical, if not jaundiced view of the Hispanic marketing paradigm.

I agree with comments made by Gene Bryan, CEO of HispanicAd.com, that Mr. Rodriguez should have made a more interesting commentary on the nature, benefits, and yes, controversies that are all part of our industry (or any industry, for that matter). While the film does not treat this topic with appropriate depth and consideration, I am not sure that Brown is the New Green indicts contemporary Hispanic marketing in a serious manner. I believe this for a number of reasons.

First, George Lopez is a talented comedian/performer, not a marketer, and he is the main critic. Given the evolved state of the Hispanic marketing conversation in today’s corporate halls, there are not many companies that hold the rather unsophisticated views on marketing that Mr. Lopez asserts. In my interview, Phillip posited the following: “George Lopez thinks that market research is a waste of time”. My reaction? A more polite version of “What do I care what George Lopez thinks about market research”. It didn’t make the final edit.

Certainly, Lopez’s views touch some nerves around the role of English, the ability of general market agencies to effectively target segments of the market, and other issues that AHAA so clearly understands. We know what these issues are, and should have a more informed and nuanced perspective on them. Where we are vulnerable, let us improve. By the way, does anyone see the irony in trying to destroy cliches by propogating one? The notion in this documentary regarding George Lopez seems to be: “I am Hispanic, therefore I know what is proper for Hispanics regardless of my professional training”. Isn’t this myth #1, from the school of anedotes?

Secondly, there is not a clear set of conclusions in the documentary. It is a bit disjointed in its narrative, not presenting issues or information in either a chronological manner nor based on key themes. As such, my sense is the casual viewer will be left either confused or simply wanting to know more.

One way this could have been addressed might have been to parallel Mr. Lopez’s life as a Hispanic American with the evolution of the Hispanic market as a whole. Lopez’s personal evolution from being embarrassed and even intimidated by his ethnicity (rubbing lemons on his skin), to challenging conventions, to ultimately becoming successful in the mainstream in part because of his unique ethnic identity might have served as an interesting parallel to the way Hispanics were either invisible on TV (Brady Bunch and Partridge Family only) or negatively portrayed in the past (Frito Bandido and Bill Dana), then creating a place for ourselves through new institutions, to now influencing popular culture as a whole. In the course of that narrative, the good, bad and ugly of Hispanic marketing as it evolved could have been substantively debated. I would have liked to have seen, and contributed, to that discussion.

In its challenge to the Hispanic marketing industry’s approach, what the documentary was successful at portraying was the rapidly changing and extremely diverse nature of this market – and yes, it is a market… not just part of the larger American mainstream. Just as we do with any demographic or psychographic segment, we must understand and be sensitive to the nuances of these consumers. The point is not to assign US Hispanics a separate identity, but to be responsive and responsible to what makes this segment unique…to the dynamics of cultural influence and the flow of meme, trends and ideas within a target group.

The fact that PBS sponsored Brown is the New Green, and the hope that more national forums should come along to address our market, should be encouraging to us all. There are many deeply thoughtful marketing professionals who work in our industry (as evidenced by your quote from Tony Ruiz), who will have much to say in future forums, and much to be proud of. Without “outside” scrutiny, criticism (fair or not) or challenge, we face the threat of insularity. Lets hope we see a string of PBS Latino specials!

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