'The Bachelor': Why ABC Chose a Latino Contestant (Guest Column)
Each season of the ABC network’s Bachelor franchise begins with the promise of love, drama and other ingredients for successful reality programming. When this season’s new bachelor, Juan Pablo Galavis, was introduced, a new discussion entered the social media and blogosphere universe: “What is he?” Galavis’ name and Venezuelan nationality offered an answer: He’s Latino. Yet his complexion and coloring sparked a debate about just how Latino he truly is.
The conversation on Galavis unveils some sensitive pillars of multicultural identity: How race and color intertwine into culture and how self-defined Latinos continue to evolve in what defines Latino culture.
Only ABC knows the reasons behind selecting a blonde, light-eyed, U.S.-born/South American-raised, bilingual contestant for a well-known TV franchise. However ABC must have acknowledged that a potential new audience could be reached with such casting. This was a "no-brainer": According to Nielsen Co. and Experian/Simmons, approximately 60 percent of Hispanics 18+ prefer to watch TV in "mostly to only English" and therefore going beyond Spanish-only TV. They have a collective buying power of more than $1 trillion (driven by Latinas) … and ABC falls within the top three rated channels in measured Hispanic households. The casting demonstrates their desire to appeal to an expanded audience of Latinos, while also staying true to general market appeal.
It is still unclear if Mr. Galavis will attract new Latino viewers. However, as the millennial generation of Latino Americans (including Galavis) grows in influence, we can be sure that we will begin to see more nuanced examples of multiculturalism desired in content.
Galavis also personifies an important and growing segment of the Latino American community: He reflects traits of the Los Existosos archetype, revealed in our Beyond DemographicsTM Latino Identity study. Los Exitosos ("the ambitious ones") are stealth "transitioners," maneuvering between two worlds. Their bilingualism and education give them chameleon-like capabilities as a source of pride. Traditional markers of status and success (family, education, luxury) are symbols they strive for.
We weren’t surprised to hear the race/color/culture debate incited by Mr. Galavis’ multiculturalism. In fact, our Latino identity study prepared us for it. Our research with self-identified Hispanic Americans across a spectrum of demographics reminded us that "Hispanic" is not a race. African, Indian, Asian and European ancestries are all part of the diaspora. The color spectrum is also diverse: 51 percent of Hispanics define their skin color as "white," while the other half describe it as black, brown, mestizo or other.
As bi/multicultural communities continue to grow and evolve, advertisers and programmers need to understand how messaging and creative should transition to meet this cultural phenomenon and communicate with these audiences:
· Does casting reflect transitioning identities?
· Does the content or message tap into culturally nuanced insights, beyond language?
· How vertically should communication plans dive into culturally specific platforms and acknowledge the audience’s growing consumption of general market platforms?
Mr. Galavis is not what many Americans picture as "Latino." He is White. He is Hispanic. Let the complexity continue.
Esther Franklin is executive vp SMG Americas Experience Strategy. Danielle Cherry is vp and Human Experience Strategist at Starcom MediaVest Group.