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A New Take on Multicultural Advertising

January 1, 2011

Researchers to offer alternatives to the outdated “one-size-fits-all” approach.

As our society becomes increasingly diverse, multicultural advertising is more important than ever, says Kevin Brockenbrough, vice president/associate director of account planning at Burrell Advertising and the co-chair of the ARF’s Multicultural Advertising Council. But many firms miss out on the opportunities it can bring, he notes. “In the present economy, a lot of companies are cutting back on their marketing spending,” he says. “People treat multicultural marketing as a cost, not an investment. One of the problems is they don’t have the tools to measure the return on the investment.”

To help ARF members calculate – and improve ‑ the ROI on campaigns aimed at diverse audiences, the Multicultural Advertising Council has planned a meeting in Chicago on July 1 called “But aren’t they all the same? Smart approaches to marketing to different customer segments within each multicultural market.”  

As researchers are discovering, a campaign that appeals to Mexican-American consumers may not, for instance, speak those born in Cuba. Yet advertising hasn’t caught up, says council co-chair David Burgos, vice president of the multicultural practice at Millward Brown. “There is a common stereotype among many marketers,” he says. “They think all Hispanics are the same.” The same holds true in other multicultural markets, he adds. The upcoming meeting aims to help members create and measure campaigns that reach out to the diverse audiences within each culture.

The lineup of speakers will include some of the industry’s leading experts on multicultural advertising. Starcom Mediavest Group’s EVP/director of cultural identities Esther Franklin will offer insight into the African American Market. Sharmila Fowler, vice president of business development at Phoenix Multicultural, will look at the Asian American Market. And Carl Kravetz, chief executive of cruz/kravetz:IDEAS,  will offer an update on the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies’ Latino Identity Project . Starcom Mediavest Group’s executive vice president and global research director Kate Sirkin will also look at the ARF’s own Diversity Initiative. “We want to show some of the more cutting-edge segmentation research that’s happening right now,” says Kevin.” A lot of people may not even know about some of the best work because it may be proprietary.

More research needed

There’s still plenty of work to be done, agree Kevin and David.  “We need to have more of the types of segmentation studies people will see at our next meeting,” says Kevin. “When they do those types of segmentation studies, they need to be willing to oversample. A lot of times, people will limit their studies to the percentage of the population based on the U.S. census. You may not have enough people for me to go back to ask: How are African-American women different from African-American men?  Your sample size is just too small. We also have to develop research that shows the impact of the multicultural consumer on the total market.”

Corporations also need to make a formal commitment to multicultural advertising, say our council chairs. “What I’ve seen has been most successful has been when companies set up an internal champion,” says Kevin. “If you have someone at a director level or higher who becomes that internal champion and they have access to senior management and a research budget that allows them to actually test the result of their programs, they can sell it to other people within the company.” David says this approach has been successful within his own firm, where he often plays this role. “I’m the one reminding them of the opportunity,” he says.

The meeting will take place on July 1 at the Leo Burnett Building at 35 West Wacker Drive in Chicago in the Starbar Conference Room from 1:30 to 3:45 CDT.


To attend in person: email (Please include your name, title and company.)
To attend virtually: Register online at WebEx.

Read about other recent meetings of our Councils on advertising research:

Measuring the Power of Print

Engaging Consumers

Three Days of Back-to-Back Councils in the Windy City

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