Monday, October 29, 2007

Essay 4638


Last August, Advertising Age launched The Big Tent, a blog featuring industry leaders’ perspectives on diversity in the advertising, marketing and media worlds. The viewpoints hit a range of topics, inspiring lively online chatter. Additionally, Ad Age has done a commendable job of spreading the efforts by running stuff in its weekly magazine—kudos to Ken Wheaton and his associates for their groundbreaking commitment.

Among the more spirited writers under The Big Tent is Laura Martinez, whose credits include founder and editor-in-chief for Marketing y Medios magazine, which was the premier source for news and opinions on Hispanic marketing before conglomerate VNU made the asinine decision to fold the publication. Then and now, Martinez has never hesitated to state her positions with insight, wit and the subtlety of a sledgehammer blow to the temple.

Martinez recently pondered why Hispanic TV programming isn’t as good as Hispanic advertising, prompting a flood of reactions. To read the original piece and comments, click on the essay title above.

The Martinez post irked the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies Board of Directors, who fired a nasty letter to Ad Age editor Scott Donaton. The letter appears below, followed by a MultiCultClassics response.

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Dear Scott:

Many of us on the AHAA Board of Directors and surely among our membership have read some of the opinions posted on Ad Age’s Big Tent blog with concern but have chosen not to comment until now. While clearly any blog represents the rightful opinions of individuals, we are deeply concerned over last week’s blog on Hispanic TV programming by Laura Martinez as Ms. Martinez is also an Ad Age reporter covering news and editorial material related to our Hispanic ad industry. In our view and considering the standards of ethical journalism, it is questionable whether Ms. Martinez can actually report objectively on Hispanic media matters when she has publicly stated such strong negative opinions about its content. This is especially more offensive when we consider that her opinions rely on two hours of morning daytime Hispanic TV viewing and web search. Hispanic audience’s preferences for Spanish language programming have been consistent over time and are reflected in the high ratings this programming enjoys as reported by AC Nielsen.

We will most certainly not argue the quality of the creative work produced by the AHAA agencies cited by Ms. Martinez but it should be understood that there are fundamental differences between the objectives and context of commercial advertising and content programming. The comparison made is superficial and shallow, clearly demonstrating a lack of understanding of our industry.

Media programming content is mostly based on successful formats and plots which are creatively adapted and sometimes replicated across many different parts of the world. This is how Reality shows have come to be a global phenomenon and how shows like “Deal or No Deal” (UK) and “El Gran Show de La Oca” (Spain) have been hugely successful in delivering media ratings and engaging consumers. Should we then argue that content programming in highly developed and sophisticated advertising and media markets like the UK and Spain are also garbage by the mere nature of their program format? Cinderella was written in 1697 by the Brothers Grimm and it is still the basic plot behind the “novella” format which by the way is also a globally successful format.

Television entertains and informs through stories, games, soft news and hard news, among other major formats. Advertising, on the other hand, aims to engage; persuade; sell; connect; create or support a brand image, among other communications criteria. Are the two comparable? I challenge, not.

In our view the unabashed public trashing of any sector of our industry is not conducive to the constructive understanding of our marketplace and the value it represents to marketers in the U.S. Statements like: “the target, apparently, are the legions of uneducated, Spanish dominant immigrants who presumably crossed the border by foot and now have to be punished with awful TV choices just because that is what they are used to” are irresponsible, feed misconceptions and lead to confusion about the viewing preferences among our Hispanic audiences. This rings especially true when the blogger expressing such opinion is also a news reporter on your publication.

Scott, in the spirit of AHAA’s partnership with Ad Age, we very respectfully offer the many members of our association as bonafide opinion leaders for your blog and urge you to consider publicizing their objective and professional opinions as a service to our industry and the advertising community in general.

Let us know your thoughts and we will quickly initiate a recruiting process among our membership.

Best regards.

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Um, somebody please forward the Spanish translation for “Chill out, dudes.” Pronto.

Way back in Essay Eleven (March 2005), MultiCultClassics observed the Hispanic marketing community was doing a far better job of promoting itself than other industry peers. Ironically, the Martinez-led Marketing y Medios was spotlighted as an example of how the segment hyped accomplishments in positive, professional and compelling styles.

So it’s disturbing to see the AHAA make editorial demands, as if hollering, “I don’t have to show you any stinkin’ press badges!”

First, the AHAA must review the objectives of The Big Tent. Ken Wheaton wrote, “In politics, the ‘big tent’ refers to a party in which diverse viewpoints are accepted, where the comfort of a unified ideology is exchanged for the clamor of many voices.” With all due respect to the AHAA, this ain’t your party—and Martinez is not your piƱata.

The AHAA argues a decent case for conflicts of interest with Martinez’s roles of blogger and reporter. Too bad it doesn’t hold up in today’s media landscape, where the borders have been crossed more often than, well, the U.S. borders. Ad Age reporters routinely author editorials and even rip the 4A’s and events like Advertising Week. Rival Adweek editors and writers cover the daily press releases and simultaneously insult DraftFCB on the AdFreak blog. Scribes like Martinez have successfully played on both sides of the fence, and they’ll undoubtedly continue their schizophrenic ways.

On another tip, while the AHAA has done a great job of establishing its honor and integrity, it’s a stretch for any adpeople to pontificate on ethical standards of journalism. Especially when most Hispanic publications contain advertisements from bizarre psychics. And what’s with offering an “objective” replacement blogger?

AHAA members constantly tell clients the Hispanic consumer market is not monolithic or homogeneous. Yet they’re howling because someone has demonstrated the notion with unconventional thinking. You can’t have your torta and eat it too.

The AHAA ought to peruse the thread ignited by the Martinez post. The majority of minorities welcomed the discussion. If the AHAA had opposing sentiments, why not join the online conference? There are real, legitimate issues warranting open examination versus ignoring problems and sweeping dirty secrets under the proverbial rug ala industry peers (whose businesses, incidentally, are crumbling like stale tortilla chips).

This was an opportunity for AHAA members to be inclusive pioneers. Instead, their actions mirrored those of old school gringo advertising executives.

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