The HMO Interview: Ingrid Otero-Smart


Hispanic Market Overview 2014, presented by Lopez Negrete Communications, is now available via download at no charge to all via We thank the more than 7,000 industry professionals who have downloaded this year’s report; 4A’s members now enjoy access to the report, extending our partnership with the industry organization.

Due to the size of the PDF file, iPad and iPhone users have been unable to view the document. Therefore, will be offering select excepts from this year’s report in the coming weeks as a benefit to industry professionals.

We resume our series of excepts with a Q&A session featuring Ingrid Otero-Smart, CEO of Casanova Pendrill.



The phrase ‘total market,’ in the eyes of Ingrid Otero-Smart, president and CEO of Costa Mesa, CA-based shop Casanova Pendrill, has emerged as a “flavor of the month” topic that has captured the attention of anyone interested in attracting Hispanic consumers.

Otero-Smart prefers to talk about “cross-cultural marketing.”

“There are so many models and definitions that it can be confusing,” she says. “Our job is to help our clients navigate the murky waters of change and come up with the most effective model.”

By looking at cross-cultural marketing, Casanova Pendrill goes from the siloed model of GM, Hispanic, Asian, and African-American agencies to an integrated approach. By doing so, the agency can best identify universal cues and bring them to life in culturally specific stories.

“Cross-cultural marketing starts with the ethnic segments to develop effective communications that will cross over to the general market, instead of the other way around,” she says. “This model is reflective of the new U.S.—it is inclusive and embraces cultural nuances.”

But is that “total market”?

“It is interesting for us to see all the talk about TM now, when Casanova has been doing this for years for clients such as the U.S. Army, Hot Pockets, Denny’s, and General Mills,” she says. “A great example of this is the work we have been doing for Nature Valley for the past five-plus years, where what started as the Hispanic strategy eventually became the ‘total’ strategy since it was based on a universal insight.”

How does the agency then ensure that a client’s pitch, and subsequently a client’s work, meets their “total market” objectives?

“It is imperative that we start with an in-depth review of the brand’s general market strategy,” she says. “Understanding how they got to that point and what the essence of the brand is allows us to develop a compelling messaging strategy that lives within it.

“Our philosophy has always been that our consumer does not live in a bubble. They may prefer to speak Spanish and consume Hispanic media, but they are also exposed to the general-market messaging. The brand has to stand for the same values no matter what language we are communicating in.”

Does the client understand truly that “total market” efforts are inclusive of Spanish-language advertising and marketing initiatives?

“Clients in general understand this … at least the smart ones do,” she says, “A total market strategy does not preclude the use of Spanish-language ads. On the contrary, you cannot deliver the total market without Spanish-language advertising.”

Interestingly enough, one of Casanova Pendrill’s clients just asked the shop to develop the total market plans for one of their brands. “A Hispanic agency lives fluidly on both worlds,” Otero-Smart notes. “Therefore we are the total market. The GM agencies as a whole live in one dimension, so it is more of a struggle for them to think this way. For us it is a way of life. For them it is a huge cultural shift.”

Does this explain why the Hispanic market agency continues to remain important?

Otero-Smart notes, “Having worked in this market for over 20 years, I have seen the general market agencies come and go as it relates to their interest and involvement in our space and have heard the naysayers predict the demise of the Hispanic agencies for a while. We are still here and stronger than ever.

“The Hispanic agencies have the talent, experience and expertise to continue to deliver the most effective programs for our clients. We live fluidly in both worlds, while this requires a significant adjustment on the part of the general market agencies. As we have seen through the years, they do not have the patience, passion or commitment to stick with it. They may have more resources than Hispanic agencies do, but they are not well-suited for this task.”

Meanwhile, Otero-Smart envisions a future where Spanish-language media will continue to have a strong role in the lives of U.S. Latinos. “Connecting with our consumers goes beyond language and the Hispanic media channels understand this,” she says. “While immigration may continue to slow down, this does not mean that the use of Spanish will disappear. In 2024, there will still be a strong Univision, there will still be many Spanish-language radio stations, and we will still be attending Calle Ocho.”

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