The first part of TheWrap’s series on Hispanic moviegoers examined their growing role at the box office. This installment explores how studios are marketing to that group.
When Jaime Gamboa started working in the entertainment industry seven years ago, movie studios had little idea how to court the Hispanic market. Studios appeared to be using Google to translate their trailers into Spanish; outreach to the community amounted to a press day in Miami with “the Latino in the movie.”
But studios have no choice but to wake up to growing power of the Hispanic moviegoing audience.
“Everyone has recognized the importance” of the Hispanic audience, Gamboa told TheWrap. “But not everyone has addressed the need.”
While Hispanics are woefully under-represented in the casting of feature films, marketers like Gamboa have helped Hollywood embrace Hispanic moviegoers more thoroughly and effectively than in years past.
Gamboa runs Soda Creative, a creative agency that makes trailers and mounts TV campaigns for movie studios. A Hispanic marketer for more than a decade, Gamboa’s helped companies market their movies to the Hispanic audience for video-on-demand, DVD and other home entertainment properties before branching out into the theatrical realm.
Sensing an opportunity to take advantage of the paucity of attention paid to the Hispanic moviegoer, he set up his own shop, and now works with major movie studios such as Universal, Disney and Warner Bros. on their marketing campaigns.
“I came out of brand marketing, where all major agencies have Hispanic marketing divisions, but nobody in Hollywood did,” Gamboa said. “Nobody was cutting trailers tailored to the Hispanic market.”
That has changed over the past few years, as Hollywood has gradually recognized the growing power of U.S. Hispanic moviegoers. Select partners bring Gamboa in several months before the release of a movie, armed with research about the film’s appeal to Hispanic viewers.
In the case of this summer’s “Maleficent,” Disney was concerned its advertising spots would scare off younger viewers. The studio was counting on young girls to see a fairy tale based on the story of Sleeping Beauty.
The studio was especially concerned about the Hispanic audience, for whom moviegoing is often a familial outing.
“We were looking at spots from day one saying, ‘If the mom thinks it looks scary, she’ll stop her kids from seeing it,'” Gamboa said. “The last thing you wanna do is scare… Hispanic moms. We started to go fun, more action-driven.”
To compare, look at the first trailer, which features harrowing music, dark colors and aggressive visuals, with this fourth one in Spanish, which sports bright colors, fairies and a more benevolent “Maleficent.”
The strategy worked: 25 percent of the audience for the opening weekend of “Maleficent” was Hispanic, according to Nielsen. Many of them were women over the age of 25 — the moms Disney needed. (For more on the power of Hispanic women at the box office, take a look at this exclusive research.)
Disney has invested significant time and resources into courting the Hispanic market, Gamboa said, testing every movie early on with Hispanic viewers and hiring people who understand those viewers.
Universal and Warner Bros. have hired marketing executives dedicated to the Hispanic market: Fabian Castro, who just earned a promotion at Universal, and Warner’s Rick Ramirez, who has the largest team of any Hispanic marketer at a Hollywood studio.
Castro joined Universal four years ago to develop custom advertising campaigns for the Hispanic market. One of his first efforts was “Larry Crowne,” a romantic comedy starring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts.
Hanks did the weather on “Despierta America,” Univision’s popular morning show, which has become a regular stop on promotional tours. The movie was a flop, but that clip went viral both in the Hispanic community and nationwide, running on “Good Morning America.”
A year and a half later, Castro was working with “Mama,” a horror movie directed by Andres Muschietti. With the backing of prominent Mexican director Guillero del Toro, Castro was convinced he could motivate the Hispanic audience to show up in droves.
They developed a trailer and debuted it on Univision.com, the first time the studio launched a trailer on a Spanish-language website. “Mama” grossed $28.4 million its opening weekend, taking the No. 1 spot with 46 percent of its audience identifying as Hispanic, according to Universal.
“You used to not see a lot of custom creative developed for the market; people would take a 30-second spot and translate it,” Castro said.
Those two campaigns demonstrated the challenges faced by all marketers charged with courting the Hispanic moviegoer.
“We strive to develop an invitation to an audience in a way that will be culturally relevant,” Castro told TheWrap. “There are genres we feel we can lean in a little more towards, and sometimes we have a movie with a particular talent that might be Hispanic. But most of our releases don’t have that angle. For us, we work to discover what it is we can develop.”
While some customers dislike being addressed directly, research suggests Hispanics relish it.
“The Hispanic market likes it when someone is talking to us,” Orci told TheWrap. “We like it when someone is taking the time to say, ‘Hey you, we’d like you to come sample our product.'”
Studios that don’t have an executive dedicated to Hispanic marketing tap outside consultants like Linda Guerrero, the head of the Targeted Entertainment Marketing and Promotions Division at 42West.
Guerrero launched the company’s multicultural division seven years ago and has teams in Los Angeles, New York and Miami. She works with Fox, Relativity and the Weinstein Co., among others, and is quick to point out that she employs Hispanics of many different nationalities: Colombian, Mexican, Puerto Rican, and so forth.
“Hispanic outreach wasn’t always a part of the conversation,” Guerrero told TheWrap. “Hispanic media wasn’t viewed with the same importance.” But now, Guerrero said, “Hollywood is completely embracing it.”
While she had to convince clients they needed to commit serious resources a few years ago, incorporating a campaign for the Hispanic market is now automatic.
The quality of the campaigns has improved as well. Guerrero can experiment more, dreaming up stunts that can break new ground.
With “Divergent,” Guerrero took a plot piece from the movie — the zip line — and convinced the hosts of “Despierta America” to go for a ride. (See below video.)
These are examples of what Guerrero calls “the overall Hispanic hook” she can use to get consumers to show up at the theater.
“There are different ways to integrate that into programming, print, grassroots and tastemakers,” she said. “It doesn’t matter that there are no Latinos in the movie.”
Casting is one area where Hollywood continues to lag in courting Hispanic moviegoers, with movies like “Fast & Furious” more of an exception than the norm. (See more on casting in this story.)
Guerrero’s take on Hollywood’s efforts is sunnier than others. She praises everyone, whereas Soda Creative’s Gamboa believes there’s more work to be done.
“I liken Hispanic marketing in the entertainment industry to where brand marketers were in early 2000,” Gamboa told TheWrap. “They were all having the discussions the entertainment industry is having today. “Not everybody is doing it well, but it excites me that they are interested.”
The commitment has deepened, but it still does not match the audience.
“Hispanics are certainly not getting a quarter of the marketing dollars or the casting opportunities,” CAA’s Christy Haubegger, an expert on multicultural audiences, told TheWrap. “You could say they are over-delivering in value. You could also say the non-Hispanic audience is just really underperforming.”
The next installment in TheWrap’s Hispanic moviegoing series will tackle theater chains’ attempts to court the growing audience.
Read more of TheWrap’s ‘Hispanics at the Movies’ Series