Campaigns would do well to reach out to Latino population What others say

Posted: Friday, July 23, 2004

Everyone seems to be competing for the Latino community's attention these days.

In the last week alone, NBC championed its Spanish-language Telemundo channel as the ''biggest thing we've got going,'' and both President Bush and Sen. John Kerry began airing translations of their ads on Spanish-language television and radio.

While many recognize the potential of the Hispanic-American market, it's a lot trickier to ensure that you actually appeal to its members. Since NBC acquired Telemundo in 2001, It has been chasing the success of Univision, which controls 75 percent of the Spanish-language programming market. Univision's popularity derived largely from its rights to air Mexican telenovelas roughly equivalent to soap operas, except they last for only four months.

NBC finally figured it out, but for years thought its only option was to dip into the other mass producer of telenovelas: Portuguese-speaking Brazil. This fall, Telemundo will change its approach and launch its own telenovelas that are written specifically about the Hispanic-American experience.

On the political front, Bush and Kerry need to adopt the new Telemundo mentality and create pieces specifically for Latinos. Merely translating their campaign ads into Spanish is about as appealing to Latinos as a dubbed Brazilian telenovela.

The campaigns would be wiser to create ads encouraging Latinos to vote and telling them where to vote and how their voice is integral in American politics. The hard truth is that Latinos have not been going to the polls. ...

Some in the Latino population claim politicians do not speak their language or reach out to their communities. But herein lies a Catch-22: in order to get politicians' notice, their community has to go to the polls.

For the Latinos, it comes down to an army of one each Latino voter making the effort to get to the polls on Nov. 2. The more Latino votes cast on election day, the more politicians whatever their party or ethnicity will listen to, court, and help Latinos across America.

The Patriot-News, Harrisburg, Pa. - July 19

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