May 25, 2011

The XXX Industry Targets the Hispanic Market… But Are We Ready to Help?

You don’t have to work in the Hispanic market to know the impact the 2010 U.S. Census figures have already had on the American landscape. But if you do work in the Hispanic market as I do, you know the buzz is all good! Many optimists believe the census will awake the sleeping beast that is corporate America and result in bigger investments in our industry. Well, from what I have recently witnessed, there is another beast that also seems to have awoke…the adult entertainment category.

In my almost 20-year, diverse career in PR, I can honestly say I have never been approached to do PR for any adult entertainment product. So to get two calls within two weeks got my wheels turning... Are there business categories out there that we have not even considered as viable options as clients? And is the adult entertainment industry even a viable option? Morally, the answer is probably no, but is that reason enough to make a decision about a new business opportunity? Over the years at RLPR, Roxana Lissa and I have established a set of criteria for determining if a new client is the right fit for the agency, and a company’s principles do come into the decision, but so do many other factors. So in fairness to the two companies I spoke with, I put their businesses to the same test we do all potential clients.

Our criteria is rather basic: First off, do they "get it" and are they passionate about the Hispanic market? Is it a brand or product that the team would want to work on? Is the company one which we would be proud to add to our roster? And of course, will the opportunity be a profitable one? Ideally the answers to all of these questions will be Yes! Truthfully the answer to all of these questions is often a combination of Yes and Maybe. If the answer to any questions is a resounding NO then we move on.

The two companies that approached us are a heavily-backed Hispanic-relevant, Spanish-language, adult entertainment production company (i.e. porn), and an established, extra marital affairs website launching a Spanish-language version and Hispanic marketing campaign. After speaking with them both, it was obvious that the answer to the first question - do they "get it"; are they passionate about the Hispanic market - was a resounding Yes. I was impressed by the level of awareness, strategic thinking, comprehensive marketing approach and in general good business sense of both companies. Having spoken over the years with dozens of marketing, PR and brand folk, some of whom don't get the Hispanic market and never will, it was surprising for me to be able to talk so strategically with these two companies. I suppose I, like many people, believed that if you were in a XX or XXX-rated business you were not business-minded. Big misconception.

To answer the second question - how would the team feel - I asked some of them and it was pretty much a NO WAY across the board. But that no came with some interesting commentary... The Hispanic media - at least the more traditional, Spanish-language outlets - are relatively conservative in their views. (It is a fact that one third of voting Hispanics are Republican and the culture has a stronger overall connection to religion and faith then other ethnic populations). The team did not feel comfortable working on these accounts from a moral perspective, but they also did not think their stories would resonate positively with Hispanic media.

The third question – would the company be one we would proud to add to our roster?… not exactly. In an industry where family brands such as Proctor & Gamble and Ford are the biggest investors, having one of these companies as clients would most likely be a no no. And finally, the question that unfortunately guides many companies’ ultimate decision… will we make money? The answer to that one was unfortunately yes: unfortunate because it would be money we were passing on.

One level of criteria that Roxana and I had not defined as part of our filter is would it be a challenge? Would it be exciting and different? If that were one of our questions, the answer would be Yes. Working with either of these companies would be embarking on the unknown, a new frontier. In marketing and PR, you don’t get that opportunity too often. And for this reason alone, I’m actually disappointed that we won’t be supporting these smart, strategic businesses in their efforts. I know there will be other challenges around the corner, but will any of them be pushing us to take risks, risqué or not? And more importantly, will any of them make better cocktail party conversation? I think not.

By Melissa Smith, Executive VP RLPR