News

Spanish language commercials now standard for statewide campaigns

Second of three parts

California political campaigns are taking notice of the state’s exploding
Latino population. On the air and on the ground, Democratic and Republican
campaigns alike are targeting the state’s fastest growing demographic, and
trying to communicate with the Latino electorate in what for many is their
native tongue–Spanish.

As a result, Univision, by far the most watched Spanish-language television
network (and in much of the state the most watched network, period) has
begun flexing its political muscle. It is emerging as a gatekeeper to the
state’s most coveted political demographic.

Political advertising on Spanish-language TV has tripled in the last three
years, according to estimates from the TNSMI-Campaign Media Analysis Group,
an organization that tracks campaign ads. Statewide, campaigns spent $2.2
million for spots on Spanish-language TV in 2003. That number more than
doubled to nearly $5.3 million in 2004, and reached a record high of $7.3
million this year.

The lion’s share of those dollars went to Univision, the Spanish-language
giant that, combined with sister-network Telefutura, controls as much of 90
percent of Hispanic market in parts of California.

“This isn’t your uncle Jaime’s Mexican TV anymore,” said Wayne Johnson, a
Republican political consultant who believes that Latinos are a swayable
segment of the electorate for the GOP. “If this were the 1980s, we would
call [Univision viewers] the Reagan constituency. Today, that audience
speaks Spanish.”

And, Johnson says, the best way for Republicans (and Democrats) to reach
that audience is advertising on Univision, which in Los Angeles has more
prime time adult viewers (18-49) than ABC, CBS and NBC combined, according
to Nielsen Media Research’s July ratings.

But some skeptics question the efficacy of Spanish-language political
advertising. They say Univision’s audience, whose “backbone” as one observer
put it, is first generation immigrants, is flush with viewers but short on
voters.

“I think it is terrific if you want to sell stereos; it is another thing
entirely if you want to win votes,” said Andr


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