creative5Hispanics are the largest and youngest minority group in the United States, and you can bet that major advertisers want to reach them.  Actually, an agency called LatinWorks did make that bet, opening its doors in 1998 with a focus on “cultural branding” and creative work that spoke to a Hispanic audience.  The bet has paid off handsomely; LatinWorks now has more than 170 employees, more than $200 million in billings, and offices in Austin, TX and Detroit, MI.  The agency’s explosive revenue growth (32 percent in 2013) helped land it the number nine spot on AdAge’s 2014 A-List.

Also helpful: standout creative work that has brought in a slew of awards (including multiple Cannes Lions) and accounts (Dominos Pizza in 2005, Mars in 2007, Pepsico in 2011, and Target in 2013).  In the words of the agency, brands come to LatinWorks to “win the multicultural space,” something LatinWorks has helped them achieve through insight into its target markets.  For longtime client Anheuser-Bush, for instance, LatinWorks developed a “Smells Like Bud Light” campaign focused on barbecuing—and featuring celebrity chef Aaron Sanchez—that plays on the popularity of outdoor grilling within the Hispanic population.

Increasingly, LatinWorks is competing for, and winning, work directed at the general U.S. population as opposed to that aimed specifically at Hispanics.  The agency’s percentage of “total market” work has risen above 40 percent, due in part to a substantial campaign for an AT&T pre-paid wireless product.  LatinWords won the account in a competition with multiple agencies that are focused on the general U.S. audience.

The Way I See It

  •  LatinWork’s increasing work for the “total market” is a reflection of two powerful forces: first, its high quality of creative work; and second, the growing recognition among brands that all campaigns should appeal to multicultural audiences.
  • Marketers have a huge interest in Hispanic millennials, which is not surprising given the size of that market. With the growth in U.S Hispanic media spending far outpacing the growth in overall media spending, there will continue to be strong demand for U.S. agencies with a Hispanic focus.
  • Given AdAge research showing that Hispanics are more likely to download apps, chat, and stream video on their smartphones than non-Hispanics, LatinWorks and its competitors have significant opportunity to leverage technology tools in their campaigns.

The Way the Industry Sees It    



I sat down with Alejandro Ruelas, CMO & Managing Partner of LatinWorks to talk about the present and future of the agency.

What types of messages appeal to today’s Hispanic youth?

Hispanic Millenials are not fond of advertising that relies on stereotypes or clichés. These consumers expect respect for their intellect, and as such respond better to communication that demonstrates insight and understanding of their perspectives. Relevance is key with this demographic.

In 2013, LatinWorks became the largest U.S Hispanic ad agency.  Has the rapid growth of the agency presented any special challenges or opportunities?

Our growth has not been as rapid as some seem to think. We’ve grown steadily, but at a managed pace. We did this deliberately after seeing many of our competitors implode as a result of taking on every client opportunity that came their way. For us, delivering on our promises to clients has always been a priority. That said, growing in size does create some challenges; chief among them is the lack of qualified multi-cultural talent readily available in our industry, especially when the need to ramp up demands it within a short time frame.

Do you encounter many misconceptions about what Hispanics are like as consumers?  What are those misconceptions and how do you work to correct them?

Yes. Perhaps the most commonly cited is the one about Hispanics being brand loyal. To hear it, you’d think that Hispanics possess a loyalty DNA found in no other group of people. So there’s work to be done to dispel existing perceptions. Engaging clients in the process of discovery though research provides opportunities to do away with this and other Hispanic consumer myths.

LatinWorks recently partnered with EthniFacts, a consumer research consultancy, to conduct a survey of U.S. Latino culture.  What was your biggest takeaway from that project?

The work with Ethnifacts was a LatinWorks-funded initiative, and it was the result of a hypothesis we had about possible changes in the assimilation journey of bicultural consumers. The research proved that these consumers have moved from a previous psychological state where assimilation into American culture required the shedding of one’s ethnic identity, to a current state where they have gained the necessary confidence to claim their right to be as American as they are Latino. We call these consumers “Ambiculturals” and the findings have, in our view, important implications to the strategic work that needs to be done to win their support for our client brands.

What are the qualities that you most appreciate in the corporate clients that you work for?

I really don’t get to interact with clients on their work as much as I used to when the agency was smaller, but I think the qualities I used to appreciate then are the same today:

  • A belief in the power multicultural consumers—and Hispanics in particular—to help drive growth for their brands.

  • Total commitment to doing the work necessary to understand the target and market aggressively to them.

  • A willingness to engage fully in learning about the drivers of behavior among this consumer population.

  • A collaborative attitude that appreciates and embraces the value that a multicultural agency can add to their marketing efforts.

What’s the most interesting object in your office?

I have a framed painted music sheet from a well-known composer in the industry. In 1993, while I was working for Anheuser-Busch as the client, he wrote what turned out to be a great Spanish-language jingle for Budweiser. When he went in to record it the first time, I was in the studio with him. He had made some last minute adjustments to the score, and after he was satisfied, he pulled out a watercolor paint kit and some brushes and began to paint over the score while the recording took place. He later told me that this was a routine he liked to follow because it helped him deal with his nerves and the anxiety of the first recording. When the work was finished later in the day, he took the music sheet, rolled it, and to my surprise, he threw it in a trashcan. This was his original written piece of music, and with the watercolors he had added, it looked to me like a unique piece of art. I asked him if he was okay with me retrieving it from the trashcan and taking it with me. I think he was puzzled by my interest and pleased at the same time. I had it framed and have kept it ever since. It’s the first thing you see when walking into my office. I suppose this is as good an example as any that one man’s trash can be another man’s treasure.