OCCUPATION Advertising executive who creates Spanish-language ad campaigns
GOAL To help mainstream companies reach out to the Hispanic audience
QUOTE "This culture has been beaten up and not given the admiration it deserves. I like bringing the spotlight to it."
Her first client was Columbia Pictures, which was trying to figure out a way to market La Bamba, its 1987 movie about rock star Ritchie Valens, to the Latino audience. That same year she won a Clio Award--the first ever given to a Spanish-language ad--for a Mountain Bell commercial. Now, as head of her own agency based in Santa Monica, Calif., with clients as diverse as Wells Fargo Bank and the Carl's Jr. hamburger chain, Anita Santiago is the most prominent ad executive in a hot niche. Latinos spend $300 billion annually, an amount that will double in the next five years. "A lot of time you see [ad agencies] translating spots, just taking their general advertising campaign and adjusting it," she says. "You really have to tailor the message."
The New Jersey-born Santiago, 46, was raised in Cuba and Venezuela by an American father and a Spanish mother, so "I really understand this market," she says. Her ads frequently stress family values, important to Latinos. A campaign for the California milk board features families enjoying milk recipes; another for Wells Fargo shows a grandfather telling a baby why he trusts the bank. With $16 million in billings last year, her agency is profitable and growing. "We don't want to be the biggest Hispanic agency," she says. "We want to be the best."
--By Desa Philadelphia