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How Do Changing Demographics Impact Ads?


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Michele Norris.

Today, we wrap up our series on the changing notion of what it means to be All-American. For decades, it's been shorthand for a certain idea often captured in advertising - things like rugged strength or wholesomeness. Think the Marlboro Man or may be a Breck girl brushing her long hair.

(Soundbite of a Breck commercial)

Unidentified Man #1: It's like getting a brush in a bottle when you use Breck shampoo. Breck brings out the shine in your hair, like brushing a hundred strokes.

NORRIS: America looks very different today and so, too, do the ads. The disposable income controlled by minorities is growing at a much faster rate than for white households. Hispanics alone control $1 trillion in purchasing power.

To get a sense of how changing demographics have reshaped advertising, we turn to Roberto Orci, president of the Acento ad agency, and Jimmy Smith, creative director of TBWA/Chiat/Day. He says there's been a clear shift in his business.

Mr. JIMMY SMITH (Creative Director, TBWA/Chiat/Day): I think you see advertising that's ahead of what's really going on in America. The advertisers are definitely, they understand that more than just white America is buying their products. So they're trying to reach all cultures and all races, whether it's Latino, black, Asian or, you know, Native American. It doesn't matter. They just see that as another opportunity to sell their product.

NORRIS: Roberto, is that true for you, as well?

Mr. ROBERTO ORCI (President, Acento Advertising Inc.): Yes. Another thing that's changed - I agree with everything Jimmy said - is that in the past people would talk about multicultural as to do with social good. Like it was the right thing to do and it was good for PR. That's not the case anymore now, and the push for multicultural marketing is coming from the very top. It makes sense for business now and it's well-recognized.

NORRIS: There's an ad that is in such heavy rotation that I'm betting that most of our listeners have probably seen or heard it. I am talking about the ad for the Dos Equis beer, and The Most Interesting Man in the World at the center of that ad. This man is shown in this advertising in all these James Bond like scenes.

(Soundbite of a Dos Equis ad)

Unidentified Man #2: He lives vicariously through himself. He is The Most Interesting Man in the World.

Unidentified Man #3: I don't always drink beer. But when I do, I prefer Dos Equis.

NORRIS: This man is beyond hip. Now, not long ago, how unlikely would it be that The Most Interesting Man in the World was Latino?

Mr. ORCI: That is a big change in the market and it's been evolving over time, because in the same category, beer, we had the Corona beer, which became very popular with their beach ads. Those were all Mexican beaches and it was trying to help you imagine what vacation was in Cancun, and try to recapture that spirit.

Now they've become much more overt with the Most Interesting Man in the World. And it's really interesting because it does put that market at the same level. It's a good sign.

NORRIS: Jimmy?

Mr. SMITH: That the beer campaign is, in my opinion, is one of the greatest of all times. It's a classic. And, you know, as we creators say when we see something like that, we always go: I wish I had done that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SMITH: But it's not a Latino guy. I'm sure there is a Latino cat that would've killed that role.

Mr. ORCI: The interesting thing about that comment is that myself, as a Latino, I would not have known that he wasn't Latino. I mean, I would have to have inside information. Because it's such a blended race that you have all kinds of colors in hair and eyes, that he looks Latino and he sounds Latino. My God, he looks like my Uncle Raul, actually.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ORCI: He does. Well, my vote for The Most Interesting Man in the World is the campaign of the Smell Like a Man. And he's African-American but he, I think he represents what all of us would like to be. And I think that's a fantastic campaign that takes a multicultural character and makes him apply to the whole country.

NORRIS: You're talking about the man that sells Old Spice, the fellow who looked like he spends a whole lot of time in the gym.

Mr. ORCI: Yes.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of an Old Spice commercial)

(Soundbite of heavy rainfall)

Unidentified Man #4: Hello, ladies. Look at your man, now back to me. Now back at your man, now back to me. Sadly, he isn't me. But if he stopped using ladies-scented body watch and switch to Old Spice, he could smell like he's me.

(Soundbite of thunder)

Unidentified Man #4: Look down, backup. Where are you? You're on a boat with a man your man could smell like.

(Soundbite of a whistled song, "Old Spice")

NORRIS: Now, are they selling Old Spice there? Or are they selling a really handsome man?

Mr. ORCI: I think they're doing both.

(Soundbite of laughter)

NORRIS: You both have been in the business for quite a while - decades, in fact. And I want you to take me back to early discussion and help me understand how these discussions have changed, discussions with your clients about their expectations and the audience that they want to reach.

You know, what did that discussion used to sound like a how has it changed? What does it about like now?

Mr. ORCI: Early on, in the '80s and '90s, it was trying to convince marketers that there was a Hispanic market. Because everybody believed back then that Hispanics would all assimilate as other immigrants have done. In other words, in 10 years, they'll all be speaking English, there will be no need for Hispanic marketing. That has been thoroughly debunked because of the fact that the language is still very strong, and the culture is very strong.

So now, the conversation with marketers is: How big is the opportunity. What is the sweet spot? Where can I get the most bang for my buck?

NORRIS: Jimmy?

Mr. SMITH: For me, my first gig was at Burrell advertising, which is an African-American advertising agency and one of the first. And every time I would present something to the client, they would come back, well, what's black about that? And one of the times I presented a black cowboy in an ad, right? And the client didn't understand that there were actually black cowboys.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SMITH: So they were like, well, why do you have a black cowboy? That's not going to target the African-Americans, there's no such thing as black cowboys. So, you don't get those questions and more.

NORRIS: What are those conversations like today?

Mr. SMITH: I can't tell you when the last time is I had a conversation about race. I present ads that they can be targeting people that play golf. And I might have, you know, all Latinos in it or something like that. The question never ever comes up. Like, again, I've worked on a lot of sports brands, people understand now that when you're targeting youth, sports is just sports. It's sports, it's sports and it's colorblind.

NORRIS: So is not that you're having overt conversations about race. It's just that multiculturalism is expected.

Mr. SMITH: It's expected. They want it to be multicultural.

NORRIS: Jimmy Smith, Roberto Orci, good to talk to both of you. Thank you very much.

Mr. SMITH: Thank you, appreciate it.

Mr. ORCI: Thank you.

NORRIS: Roberto Orci is the president of the Acento ad agency. And Jimmy Smith is creative director at TBWA/Chiat/Day in Los Angeles. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.