Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Names will be named

Years ago I made the mistake of putting a friend's name in a blog posting hoping he would understand the tongue-in-cheek nature of the piece. It backfired. I publicly apologized. And swore never to name names in any RoundSeventeen blog posting.

Today I'm welching on that promise.

For two reasons.

First, I'm getting to a privileged point in my career where I just don't give a shit anymore.

And second, I've come to the painful conclusion that what I write matters to no one because frankly no one (apart from you faithful fourteen followers) is reading what I'm writing.

So what bullshit am I calling bullshit on?

Years ago, I was in charge of advertising for El Pollo Loco advertising. They had a minuscule budget and an ambitious media plan. Somehow we had figured a way to make 45 TV commercials on less than $250,000. Even by 2004 standards, that was quite a feat.

One day, the account people requested my attendance for a meeting with the folks from Cruz Kravetz, their Hispanic Marketing Agency. They were going to produce some El Pollo Loco commercials and thought it would be a good idea to get some guidance.

Wait, what?

The money I was told I didn't have for production was being used to fund the production of other commercials. Why, I naively thought, are we making two different sets of commercials?

Because, as the bullshit machine was slowly being cranked to 11, Hispanics eat El Pollo Loco's citrus-marinated, fire grilled chicken for completely different reasons than general market Caucasians or African Americans.

You see, I was under the mistaken impression that people from Mexico or El Salvador or Belize might enjoy EPL because they were hungry or appreciated fresh chicken or authentic salsa and tortillas.

But that, it turns out, is a narrow white man's view of the world devoid of any ethnographic insight.

As the Cruz Kravetz experts expertly pointed out, Hispanic people are all about, "family, passion and the family-oriented, passionate preparation of food products."

And then I was treated to a cavalcade of storyboards featuring large families. Being passionate. Eating chicken. And then, impossibly, being more passionate.

If it weren't so politically incorrect I would have told these professionals exactly what I thought of their fiesta de mierda.

They are by no means alone in their hoodwinking.

I've never had the pleasure of sitting in with an African-American speciality boutique, but I can spot their spots a mile away. Most often in car commercials. The copy, accompanied by needle-drop 'urban' music, invariably includes nonsense like "flow", "smooth" or "get your drive on."

Frankly if I were Hispanic or black I would be seriously offended by these cliched marketing approaches.

Then again, who am I to judge. I'm not a member of any minority. I'm just a white Jew. And the only advertising I respond to usually involves liquidation sales or 30% discounts.

Wait a minute…


Unknown said...

Agree, 98% of the time is pure bullshit. But once in a while it's necessary to do something different for multicultural target. Especially when the Gen Mket campaign is already on air and is not relevant for other targets. For example, the Ballpark campaign made by Y&R that is all about Patriotism, or the Rice Krispies that is all about nostalgia. I think the mistake is doing advertising that doesn't take in count Hispanics and African Americans.

Anonymous said...

Well, although your sarcasm is well appreciated your narrow mindedness is not. We are in the business of selling things so understanding the type of communication a brand should use to connect to it´s consumer base it's key.

Maybe you should try making some Chipotle-Marrow Matzo Balls, it may help expand your horizons.

Anonymous said...

You are absolutely right! Your pov is just a narrow white man's view of the world devoid of any ethnographic insight.

Rich Siegel said...

Wow, anonymous.

I don't know where to begin. Yes I do. Since you are in the communications business you should know that it's is the contraction of it and is. It is incorrect to use an apostrophe to indicate a possessive.

Furthermore, before you make any assumptions about my narrow-mindedness, you should know the commentary was directed at the strategic and creative executions in question.

If clients feel the need to do special niche marketing, and I can see where that would be called for, they ought to at least make it good and not rest on tired stereotypes and lazy execution.

Now where can I get some of that delicious sounding Chipotle-Marrow Matzo Ball Soup?

Anonymous said...

Believe me, we eat that bullshit every day, literally and figuratively. Most (if not all) CD and CW working in the Hispanic market came from another country where we used to work for the "general market." When we arrived we discovered that we weren't any longer. We were to work for a niched-stereotyped market that we ourselves invented and now we have to keep it alive otherwise we won't get paid (my wife can't get really mad if I bring no money home).

Not apologies or complains here, just some clarification... OK, OK, yeah, some frustration: when we dare to present a good idea, relevant and entertaining that could live in any language and in country, often we get reprimanded. You don't know how many times I have heard "where's the Hispanic insight?" or "I already have a general market agency."

Greetings, Rodolfo

Anonymous said...

I apologize for my grammar in advance. Some hispanic shops are good and some are bad but all are frustrating. Believe me every brief I've seen in the last two years involves family, passion and authenticity in some form or another. All executions end up being the same. Why? In present day that is the only way to justify the client paying the agency. Those are the only "insights" we have left to cling on. It's getting harder and harder to justify having separate agencies. The few times I've seen insightful and strategic creative get to client it is shot down because it's not "Hispanic enough". "This feels like a general market campaign". "It's too universal". So it comes back to strategy and they sprinkle family and piƱatas on it. Client feels safe, agency gets paid. So the next time creatives complain about the client not liking out of the box ideas, at least remember you're not stuck in a box full of guacamole.

Sincerely, Creative in Hispanic Advertising

Anonymous said...

Well, I used to work in an hispanic agency. I'm argentinian and I feel the same way you said, pure cliche and really far away for me but I understand that the ads are made for mexicans and similars. But is true, there is a lot of bullshit and a lot of money involve on that.

Anonymous said...

As a director that has worked in the market , and is a hispanic American, I can attest to all of this.

The amount BULL sold to ignorant clients was incredible, always with the same stupid "oh latinos wouldn't do this, or are this and that"...

To make sure it was different form the general market campaign, it always featured an abuela, a man with a mustache and a person named Jose, because all hispanics watch Don Francisco, live with 121 family members, and live in a fiesta bubble. Doesn't matter that the idea sucked or was worst than a circa 1972 commercial from Peru, the client accepted it because that is what hispanics understand, according to the agency.

This is why, in most cases, hispanic agencies are fucked now. It make no sense (never did, but it took clients a while to wise up), to have a bunch of jackasses get paid to produce work that would e rejected in any other spanish speaking country, just for vein mediocre.

The US hispanic ad market has always found and sold its reason for existence by presenting things in a dumb down, lowest denominator, "oh, hispanics wont understand that" bull shit mentality, and its high time that shit ended!

And ending it is.

Ricardo Cardenas said...

I just saw an ad for pepsi, you know... You are right, you guys from the GM are super duper good and insightful, sorry for bullshitting your bullshit. Oh, by the way, i might have misspelled a word, but it might be cause i was watching " friends" sorry again. How do i go anonynoumoussn. On this, oh shit that is my name.

Pablo Buffagni said...

I'm sorry that you had a bad experience and I agree that a few years ago, some of the people working for the Hispanic market were "not alone in their hoodwinking" but that's changing fast. Actually, I think that the communication for a brand like "El Pollo Loco", with that name, considering the California demographics and the tortillas, should be handled in its totality by people who are really interested in knowing what other things – beyond fresh chicken, salsa and tortillas – might the target consider in order to connect with the brand.

Peter S. Mooney said...

I had never heard of the Christmas Pooper and wanted to read something in addition while here. Glad to have read this. For some reason, wherever I went I was put in charge of the Hispanic advertising too. If you had not mentioned the Family thing, I would have known you were both a fraud, an imposter, and somebody posing as something he was not. Because that is all they said about anything. What day is it? Family. Do you think we should have dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima? Family. Would you eat an Angel if you were hungry and no one was watching? Family. Why don*t you write an **Actual Commercial?** ever? Family.

The one and only thing I ever did in my entire career that I feel probably made me look a little rude was storming out of conference rooms where a meeting with a Hispanic Advertising Agency was or was about to take place. Every single time, usually before everybody had sat down. Having worked so hard to live a pure, honest, kind, ethical, beyond the call of duty, treating everyone, not just as my equal, but much better than me. This hyper respect I gave freely to all, whether they be known rapists, escaped Nazi War Criminals, full time purse snatchers, serial arsonists...You name it, I gave them nothing but unconditional love and respect.

I am filled with anger and resentment to this day, I could not be pathetically, overly kowtowing to this one thing, Hispanic Ad Agencies. I still talk about it. I really do, roughly three to four times a week on average. Why? Family.

PS+ By the time I moved to Ketchum, to work with the lovely and talented Steve Beaumont, I had decided I would write all Hispanic spots, TV and Radio, myself and simply refuse to talk, ever again, to a Hispanic Agency. That*s when I learned that an English script is like a thirsty sponge. Hand in a leisurely paced, thirty-second radio script,for let*s say KFC, to a translator, and it will come back, if you*re lucky, a sixty-second spot. And this, only if you can find a Spanish speaking auctioneer, who also just so happens to be a meth addict, to be your AVO.

Peter S. Mooney said...

Please excuse me if I sent the same comment in 32 times. I have not left a comment on a blog or website since 2010 and completely forgot anything about doing so. That was the one and only time. I sent a comment to the LA Times. They tracked me down, had me come in, meet the publisher and all the famous writers and hired me. Three months later, LA Times/Tribune declared bankruptcy, laid me, the person who hired me, the rest of the LA Times, off immediately. Like you, had spent a year writing a book, sold 7 copies just prior. At this point I decided never to write another word or speak. The world refuses to give us money for fear we might be tempted to go on living. I can see the logic but wish they would destroy another group...Like ISIS! There we go! Tell the world for me,please.