By Bryan Wiggins – Creative Director, Mendoza Group
( Philadelphia Ad News, October 2008)
Uriel Rendón, Alberto Becerra and Aida Garcia mixing it up at Mendoza Group’s Grand Opening Christmas Party
“Do you speak Spanish?” I can count on this question to arrive like clockwork five seconds after I inform anyone that I’m the Creative Director for Mendoza Group, a fun, thriving, Hispanic marketing agency headquartered in Media, PA. Four years of high school French granted me the skills I need to order a decent bottle of cabernet, but have done little to foster my knowledge of its sister Romance language. If I had been able to discern America’s future demographic profile in the eighth grade, I probably would have checked “Spanish” when I picked which language to learn the following year, but back then, my long-range planning was confined to deciding which Who or Yes tape to pop into the 8-track next.
Still, for the past six years, I’ve increased both my knowledge of the Hispanic culture and, I believe, the quality and marketing power of the work I’ve produced with my associates. How was this achieved by someone who once bid an important client goodnight with a hearty “Buenas Nachos”? To solve the Curious Case of the Gringo Creative Director, one needs only to investigate who we at Mendoza are, and exactly what makes us tick.
The mix of cultural identities that constitute Mendoza’s staff is a microcosm of the broader American/Hispanic culture. Our group’s roots are planted in regions as diverse as Cuba, Panama, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Mexico, (as well as more exotic locations like Florida, Maine and New Jersey!) Somehow, this mix percolates in a kind of rich, stimulating, and sometimes unpredictable environment that nevertheless yields both precisely-planned and spontaneously-born creative work.
This work matures through the same channels of change that shape and define Latin American culture in America. That culture is a constantly evolving mélange of individual Latin and American ethnicities that blend and braid through three similar but distinct processes of transformation: assimilation – the absorption of one group into a larger group, acculturation – the two-way trade of cultural traits and integration – the combination of separate parts into a unified whole.
The beginning of the Mendoza creative process starts with brainstorming sessions between key staff members to identify marketing strategies and the print, broadcast, web and community marketing programs that will realize them. These sessions follow an accultural model, where individual ideas are exchanged from a variety of perspectives. Some of these ideas are then assimilated into larger concepts that contain aspects of the original notions. Ultimately, these larger concepts are integrated into a single, cohesive marketing plan. This process is replicated as the plan is developed into its constituent creative parts and continues as these assets pass through successive rounds of review and refinement.
This potent process of creative growth shapes not only Mendoza’s marketing plans and products, but its people as well. A review of the development of the “Mi Promesa” and “Fresh Mouth” quit-smoking campaigns for the PA Department of Health illustrates the education our staff gleaned by comparing and contrasting individual cultural perspectives as we shaped these initiatives. The “Mi Promesa” campaign leveraged the traditional Hispanic core value of family commitment to create print and broadcast ads designed to motivate Latino parents and grandparents to promise to quit smoking for the benefit of their offspring. In contrast, the “Fresh Mouth” initiative used a more upbeat and stylized approach that included street teams of rappers, dancers, hip-hop radio spots and colorful, bold, print materials to motivate smoking teens and young adults to quit. The dialogue which identified the emotional triggers that would best resonate with each of these age groups and the strategies explored to activate them granted the entire creative team a deeper understanding of emerging social polarities between older and younger Hispanics and the cultural constants that still serve to unite them. This process continues with each creative challenge Mendoza meets, expanding a corporate cultural consciousness that continues to grow each time we design strategies to connect with specific segments of the continually morphing Latino culture.
This Mendoza-mindset doesn’t only aid us at work however, it’s also alive when we play. Our recent grand-opening holiday party at our new headquarters in Media featured a full-house of clients and peers from all along the Hispanic/American cultural continuum. After a few hours (and more than a few mojitos!) the band, ”Los Pleneros,” broke into the traditional, “Parranda Navideña, a vibrant catalogue of holiday music and dancing known to all Latinos. As the music played, heads bobbed, hands clapped, until more than a few surrendered to the music and cut loose before the band. Many of the feet that flew that night were attached to people just like me; not Hispanic by birth, but happily dancing to the beat of America’s rich cultural mix. It was enough to make a Gringo proud!