Anita Santiago, President and Creative Director of Santa Monica's Anita Santiago Advertising, has been making ads for the Spanish-language Hispanic market for the past 15 years. She began her work in an environment where the idea of targeting Hispanic Americans seemed strange at best. Today, as advertisers realize that the Hispanic community is 31 million, with $350 billion (and counting) in annual buying power, more and more advertisers realize they need to reach out. Santiago talked to one about the subtle nuances of the community she is reaching, and how those themes play out in her work.

Goodby, whose 'Got Milk?' campaign is known the world over, is the California Milk Processor Board's agency of record for the general market; you are the agency of record for the Hispanic market. For a variety of reasons, a direct translation of the 'Got Milk?' campaign wouldn't work. Instead, you adapted it. Can you tell me the campaign's story?

We started working with Goodby 10 years ago. 'Got Milk?' was still in story-board stage, so nobody knew the impact it was going to have. We were asked what we thought of it as a campaign directed to Hispanics. My response was manifold. First, the campaign is based on a deprivation strategy. Being deprived of milk in the Hispanic community is not funny, it's too sad a reality. Milk holds a very special place in the Hispanic household. It's something your children must grow up with. To be deprived even for a day is a poor reflection on the Latina housewife. So aside from the problem with the actual words, 'Got Milk?' which translate literally to a meaning that could be interpreted as: 'Are you lactating?', I thought it might offend in this market. I would be missing an important opportunity if I didn?t do a campaign that reflected the role that milk already has in the household. How many times do you come across a product that plays such an important role?

We recognized that through the generation campaign, a book of recipes handed down through many generations. Those that we all know, the flans, the milk jell-o, rice pudding, licuados. The general market 'Got Milk?' campaign was about drinking milk. We're more about cooking with milk. And the combination of the food that the general market campaign was using was not relevant to the Hispanic market. For example, milk and a peanut butter sandwich. Peanut butter sandwiches are not very common in the Hispanic market. Chocolate chip cookies. It wasn't relevant. We positioned milk as a way family expressed love. We did use an interpretation of the 'Got Milk?' slogan, which read: 'And you, have you given them enough milk today?' We already knew the Hispanic community consumed milk. However, it was not a matter of: Do you have it at all, but have you given them enough?

You've said before that the Hispanic community responds well to family and family values. Are you ever concerned with keeping ads from losing their edge? I'm not sure we can generalize and say it's just family values. There are themes other than family values that resonate. Our work for Wells Fargo is an example. The tagline is 'Abriendo Caminos,' which literally means, 'Opening Roads,' forging ahead. It's a poetic concept in our culture. Bettering yourself, finding new opportunities, and it positions Wells Fargo as a service to guide and help you.

As far as edgy, we take risks with dramatic situations as opposed to humorous ones. We did a spot regarding AIDS prevention. It showed a snake, wrapping itself around the legs of a man. The snake eventually heads toward a baby, but just before it reaches the baby, a hand comes up to stop it. We created a metaphor, and that's what I mean when I say we take it far in terms of drama. We stay away from what you're calling edgy humor because that can be misinterpreted. It's a risk you don't want to take. Unless it's the kind of humor that we know will not offend or upset anyone. We do Foster Farms Chicken, and that?s a funny campaign, originally created by Goodby. They created these renegade chickens that are desperate to become Foster Farms chickens. It's pretty innocent humor, and we've been able to adapt that. The Hispanic community is a humor-driven society, don?t get me wrong, but in advertising I see it as a different matter.

Hispanics are very brand loyal. You may have inherited a brand from your mom. It happens in most families, but it is a very strong trend in Hispanic families. So if you go out and offend with a product or service, that product might drop off the shopping list forever. We've seen fiascos like that. Generally, when you use religious icons in a disrespectful way, you?re headed for disaster. Of course that's the case in all cultures, but it did happen in the Hispanic community. Someone tried to use the Virgin Mary in a funny way, and it backfired.

How do you contend with having to reach many communities 'Mexican, Cuban, Puerto Rican' within the Hispanic population? We take great care in casting, and in how people speak. We try to use people that speak a generic type of Spanish. We stay away from slang, which might mean one thing in one dialect and something else in another. 'Chinas,' for example, is a word that means 'Chinese women.' It is also a word that people in Puerto Rico use to describe oranges. An orange juice maker once marketed to the community with an ad that said: 'The juice of Chinas.' Braniff Airlines years ago went out and said 'Fly on Leather,' meaning leather seats. When they translated that message from English, they said, 'Vuelo en Cuero,' which means in slang, 'Fly Naked.' There's a slew of major corporations making these mistakes. But they've also learned a lot. People are using more expertise of people who really understand the market.

There's been a move toward using Hispanic cues in English language commercials so that a Hispanic child, for example, might pick up on the cue whereas his non-Hispanic counterpart would not. Where do you stand on this? I think it's a great idea, because English-speaking Hispanics have been ignored by advertisers for so long. It's hard to see a Hispanic in an English language ad. You can see an African American person, and I'm not saying that the situation is where it ought to be there, or an Asian American person, but Hispanics have always been absent. In the US it's the largest minority. The number one TV station in Los Angeles, KMEX from UniVision, is Spanish. That's amazing when you think about it. But right now, job one will be to reach the Spanish dominant, the majority. The English-speaking Hispanic is the minority within the Hispanic community, so fully addressing them is more down the road. It's important, but the point is that most advertisers are still trying to enter the Hispanic market, and you have to enter it in Spanish.

Can you give me an example of a difference between the themes that resonate in the Hispanic community and those in the non-Hispanic community? I go back to the very beginning of the Tobacco Education Campaign for the California Department of Health Services, Tobacco Control Section. We have developed a large arsenal of Spanish language tobacco education ads. They have been used throughout the world. The way we've approached it is in keeping with the name of the campaign?through education. The campaigns inform people that smoking is not only the cause of well-known diseases such as lung cancer, but also of heart attacks and strokes. The impact on you and your family is tremendous. The thing that comes to mind is that in the Hispanic community, the tobacco industry is seen as a big business, and they have the right to make money. And that's seen as okay. So our campaigns juxtapose the tobacco industry's right to sell with the Hispanic lives lost to smoking-related illness and the impact on the family. This resonates better among the Hispanic community and arouses strong emotion. It's one of the most fascinating campaigns I've worked on.

How has Hispanic advertising evolved over the course of your career? When I first started, people would laugh at me for wanting to do this. It's turned into the hottest arena. There's so much interest from advertisers. We still have a long way to go, because so many advertisers aren't talking to the community. But this is the new middle class. It's a young community with family and kids. Imagine all the products that go with that. They're hard working and their purchasing power has increased because of it. They have money, and are spending it. Smart advertisers see that. I don't think the growth in Hispanic advertising is because Ricky Martin sang a popular song, it's because any marketer who looks at this community can see the potential.

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