AOL Pursues Hispanics With Spanish-Language Campaign

Playing to its strengths, America Online is launching a six-month national Spanish-language ad campaign aiming to bring Hispanics online via AOL Latino.

The multi-million-dollar integrated campaign is slated to launch Tuesday with :30 spots on all major Spanish language television networks, including Univision, Telemundo, Telefutura and Azteca America. Radio spots will run on Univision Radio, Lotus Entravision Reps and Spanish Broadcasting System. The campaign will also include direct mail, interactive advertising, CD-ROM distribution and grassroots marketing.

AOL Latino, the Spanish language version of AOL’s 9.0 Optimized online service, wants to capitalize on the fastest-growing minority group in the U.S. The number of Hispanics online jumped 12 percent between January, 2003 and May, 2004, to 13.8 million users, according to comScore Media Metrix. AOL is the top ISP for U.S. Hispanics, according to comScore.

Hispanics are seen by many as the next big online marketing opportunity. The campaign plays to AOL’s strengths because AOL is good at getting novice consumers started online, and also because it has the AOL Latino customized offering for Hispanics, an analyst said.

“AOL can do for this market what others cannot: give them the content and the tools to come online,” said Charlene Li, principal analyst with Forrester Research.

The first ad in the campaign depicts a young boy asking his parents, “Why don’t we have Internet access at home?”(“Porque no tenemos Internet en casa?”) A voiceover explains the benefits of AOL Latino, the father buys a computer and the story ends with the son scoring a winning report card. The ad closes with a free 50-day offer.

The commercial reflects research from an April, 2004 AOL/Roper ASW U.S. Hispanic Cyberstudy. According to the study, seven out of 10 Hispanics believe having an Internet connection at home improves their children’s performance in school.

As the six-month campaign develops, AOL Latino CD-ROMs will be distributed in retail outlets including Circuit City, Wal-Mart, CompUSA and Sears. A “Sign on a Friend” program offering $50 to members who refer a friend will eventually be added to the mix. Direct mail and online elements will also be added later.

In July, a grassroots marketing effort will kick off with hands-on demonstrations of logging in and surfing via AOL Latino by “street teams” circulating in Miami and Chicago’s Hispanic communities. “Our research indicates that Hispanics need additional information and support to help bring them online,” said Mercy Lugo-Struthers, AOL Latino’s director of Hispanic marketing.

Though past Spanish-language portals such as StarMedia and QuePasa.com didn’t do well, Lugo-Struthers attributed this mainly to bad timing. “Three or four years ago the market wasn’t ready,” she said. “Also, computer prices have gone down, so it’s more accessible.”

AOL Latino has a better chance of success because its programming and marketing strategies are “carefully researched and appropriate for the current stage of the market,” said Juliana Deeks, analyst for Jupiter Research, owned by the parent of this publication.

The service, which launched in October, 2003, appears to be flourishing. In January, it snagged four major brands, General Motors, Coca-Cola, InterContinental Hotels Group and Artisan/Lionsgate, as sponsors.

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