Strategic Thinking

Sosa’s re-imagined the creative process. His approach included an unprecedented emphasis on market research, including the regular use of focus groups and an emphasis on creating an emotional bond between consumer and product.

He also made a practice of “shadow shooting.” Sosa explains: “We always shot commercials in Spanish and English, even if the spot was only going to be on [Spanish-language network> Univision. That way we’d have English-language spots on reels for showing to prospective clients.”

“You have to remember that at this point, Hispanic advertising still meant Spanish-language advertising in the minds of U.S. corporate types, and Spanish-language advertising on television meant Univision. The general-market firms still had just about all of the English-language business, including messaging intended for Hispanics.”

That began to change, as Sosa & Associates added accounts from Budweiser, Domino’s and Burger King to the U.S. Army. Beverage and fast food companies led the way in the market segment. The Coca-Cola account alone was worth $30 million; Budweiser was $20 million.

“They were the accounts to have. [Rival firm> Castor had had them for years. We made a decision to go after them and were successful,” Sosa says.

By pitching their creative in both Spanish and English, his firm helped to change corporate perceptions about the Hispanic community in the U.S.

Sosa & Associates’ messaging was just different from past Hispanic ad campaigns. A spot for the U.S. Army featured a mother expressing pride in her son’s enlistment . Earlier commercials, particularly those aimed at Hispanics, had stressed military service as an adventure.

“We depicted Hispanics as Americans. That was the crucial difference,” said Sosa, who sold his interest in Sosa & Associates in 1990. At its height, the agency was the largest Hispanic shop in the U.S., with annual billings of $130 million and a payroll of some 125 people. His former partners Bromley and Aguilar today front the heavyweight firms Bromley Communications and Creative Civilization, respectively.

“We wanted to be the best and largest advertising agency in the country. But beyond that we wanted to create opportunity for Latino professionals in advertising. There really weren’t that many opportunities for talented Hispanics in the industry back then,” says Sosa.

By that time, Sosa had also made a name for himself as a political consultant as well. Beginning with Ronald Reagan, he would work on six presidential campaigns, using the insights he’d honed as an advertising executive.

“In the early 1980s, and it’s unfortunately true to some extent even today, many corporate leaders and politicians assumed that anything having to do with Hispanics automatically meant Spanish-language messaging. It took some time to convince Republicans that the Latino voters they wanted to attract were actually generally acculturated and spoke English,” said Sosa, himself a Republican since seeing a televised speech by Dwight Eisenhower at age 13.

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