Christy Haubegger can't hide her delight. It's not just the excited rush of conversation pouring forth from the young publisher. It's the numbers: the premier issue of Latina, her bilingual magazine aimed at Hispanic women, hit the streets last week with an initial printing of 300,000 copies - a startling number for a debut.
To Ms. Haubegger, who as a child adopted by Anglo parents was encouraged to cherish her Hispanic heritage, the big launch confirms the importance of a long-underserved market.
"Nobody knew we existed till the 1990 census," she says. But Hispanics are the nation's fastest growing minority group. By 2050, 1 in 4 Americans will be Hispanic, the Census Bureau predicts.
Currently, 27 million American Hispanics wield more than $225 billion a year in buying power, from cosmetics to baby products. But only in this decade has the business world begun to take notice.
"We get 1/17th of the junk mail. We answer solicitation phone calls and talk to people because no one's talking to us," Haubegger says.
They're talking now. In two languages.
Though the majority of Latinos in the United States are believed to be bilingual, only 17 million reported speaking Spanish at home, according to the Census Bureau. And with the Hispanic population projected to triple by 2050, the new generations born here are likely to speak English under the ever-present pressure to assimilate into American society. Further, English-dominant Hispanics tend to be younger, more affluent, and more educated than their Spanish-speaking brethren.
Advertisers are taking notice of both markets. Ad revenues at the nation's more than 1,500 Spanish-language and bilingual publications and radio and television stations were estimated at more than $1.2 billion last year.
For its Versa Training campaign, Reebok has billboards and magazine ads delivered in English but featuring the smiling face of past gold-medal swimmer Dara Torres.
"The Spanish-dominant group is not hearing many messages at all," Ms. Haubegger says. "On the other side, the English-dominant group is hearing tons of messages, but they don't resonate with them because they're not culturally relevant. If you want to reach them, you better look like them, speak like them, if that means using 'Spanglish,' or using the appropriate music in the background.... When they see that ad, you want them to picture themselves in front of that car."
One recent English-language ad for McDonald's, aimed at Hispanics, makes a pun on the word "papa" - meaning both daddy and, in Spanish, potato.
But even in Haubegger's Latina magazine, which leans heavily toward English, with condensed Spanish versions of the articles, most advertisements are in Spanish.
How an advertiser targets a Hispanic audience depends on what it is selling and where it is selling, says Octavio Nuiry, public relations manager at ADR Communications in Newport Beach, Calif., and co-author of a Hispanic media directory.
"If you're selling Nissan automobiles, absolutely [target English-speaking Hispanics], because they have more disposable income. Whereas if you're marketing potato chips, that's a product anybody can buy," Mr. Nuiry says.
The new realities of Hispanic marketing showed up in Dallas this past January when KESS-AM, a radio station owned by Heftel Broadcasting, decided to drop its lone English-language talk show. Members of the Dallas chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens, the nation's largest Hispanic advocacy group, picketed the station, complaining the move would deprive the area's English-speaking Latinos of part of their heritage.