Spanish-Language Media Veteran Joe Uva on Hispanicize's Growth Opportunities

Joe Uva - P 2017
Courtesy of Hispanicize Media Group

The privately held company is pushing further into original content, looking at e-commerce and hoping to play "a very big role in the 2018 midterm elections with millennials," says the former Univision boss.

Joe Uva, the former chairman of NBCUniversal's Hispanic Enterprises & Content unit, which includes Telemundo, and former president and CEO of Univision Communications, in September was named chairman and CEO of Hispanicize Media Group.

The privately held multiplatform media company that organizes the Hispanicize marketing conferences has been building a business targeting multicultural millennials and Generation Z and has been expanding that via recent acquisitions.

Beyond the Hispanicize events, the company now runs DiMe Media, a network of bilingual Latina and Latino digital influencers and content creators; Hispanic celebrity influencer network Exit 7; food and cooking site Hispanic Kitchen; and, written by and targeting bilingual, multicultural Latin moms.

"Bringing Joe into HMG is a major opportunity for us as his reputation and credibility signals an era of major expansion, investment and evolution for the company that I founded eight years ago and will continue to play a leading role in," Hispanicize founder Manny Ruiz said when Uva took on the role. 

Uva's goals are to integrate the assets and help scale the business while also offering more authentic, relevant content for brands looking to target multicultural millennials and Gen Z. 

Uva spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about Hispanics' importance as the fastest-growing minority group in the U.S. with 59 million people (over 40 percent of whom are millennials), what brands need to do to tap into their $1.5 trillion in buying power and how Hispanicize is different from Univision and Telemundo.

How did you end up at Hispanicize Media Group? 

After I left NBCUniversal in June of 2016, I really wanted to ramp up my digital knowledge base. I spent several months just researching new platforms and technologies and made made some investments in companies and ended up doing advisory work with a few of them. In the course of that advisory work, I was introduced to a group of investors who had made an investment in Hispanicize. Most of the conversations were about the portfolio and what they were trying to accomplish. I thought it was really interesting, got to know the Hispanicize team, did diligence on some of the opportunities to expand the asset base and came on board full-time in August as chairman and CEO.

Why are the Hispanicize assets appealing for consumers and marketers? 

Hispanicize built a very profitable business-to-business event business with the Hispanicize event. It will have its ninth year in Miami in 2018. It has really had remarkable participation from brands, agencies, content creators and particularly social influencers. It really has become the go-to Hispanic event for marketers. 

We're also going to expand the L.A. event, and have the April event in Miami for three days and the other in L.A. in  late September, Hispanic heritage month, for three days. The company has these successful B2B events, has grown its base and expanded its network of social influencers to 1,900 via DiMe Media and acquisition. The influencers are predominantly female, millennial, Gen Z Latinas.

In September, in the process of acquiring Hispanic Kitchen and, we also acquired a social media management company that manages all social media activity on behalf of Hispanic celebrities. We have 35 active celebrities we work with on a regular basis. [They include @Glamdapper, @Alicia_sf, @ChiquiDelgado, @MariaCeleste, @ChiquisRivera.] If you are a brand looking for the big impact, we can match up the appropriate celebrity. 

Do you see any main competitors, or how does Hispanicize do things differently?

There are players in the space that are doing some of the things we do, but I think one of the big advantages is the success of the Hispanicize events. Brands have continued to come back and sponsor year after year and attend the event, expanding the number of representatives that they send. And the increase in the overall number of brands and marketers who are participating really is a testament to the trust and the value that they see in us, the authenticity of it. And nobody is really in the Hispanic space doing what I just described. 

We can help marketers with the ongoing problem of connecting and engaging with millennial, Gen Z Latinx consumers who are vitally important to any brand. Hispanics in general significantly over-index in terms of their consumption of media on mobile platforms, and particularly of video. They over-index on their recommendation based on social media and their sharing, and they expect more than the population at large that brands should have a Facebook page, for instance. That speaks to them about brand transparency. And they rely heavily on personal recommendations for product reviews.

We talk to them in both languages [English and Spanish]. But what's most important is talking to them authentically in culture with relevant, resonant content being generated by influencers they are fans of and they trust. 

With politics being so much in focus these days, is there any role for Hispanicize to play there?

We think that we have the ability to play a very big role in the 2018 midterm elections with millennials. Through our influencers, we can help candidates connect on a very high level of engagement and call to action to get out the vote. 

What are key topics and issues for the Hispanic Generation Z demographic you focus on?

What they all expect is authenticity and transparency. They are smart enough to know when someone is trying to sell them as opposed to using their own voice. Whether it is fashion, food, music, entertainment or gossip, social causes, opportunities to better serve ... those are all part of the interests and the expectation. They have very strong opinions and desires. They don't want to be told what to do. They want to be told why it's important. And then they like to figure the rest out themselves. They don't want to be talked at, they want to be talked to.

Tell us more about one of your social influencers or social media stars and how he or she is different from  Hollywood stars.

There is a young girl from Mexico in her teens who does these YouTube videos basically called "This Girl's Closet." When she gets up, she decides what she is going to wear. She opens her closet, tosses things around, she looks, and it's that authenticity that is relatable. That's the kind of viral social influence that these influencers can have. There are YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter stars out there that are not A-list celebrities that grew up in Hollywood. 

How is Hispanicize different from the likes of Univision and Telemundo?

When you look at the traditional media companies that serve the U.S. Hispanic community, they are very good at what they do, but they are linear-first. They got too much invested in capital-intensive physical plant infrastructure to go all to a mobile-/digital-first approach. That would require so much change that it would be extremely disruptive and could significantly impact their revenue streams and profit margins. So they focus more on adapting linear content to digital platforms. 

What opportunities lie ahead for the company?

We think there is an opportunity to really diversify the revenue streams of the company; for example, with pop-up influencer events for the fans of those influencers — ticketed, sponsored, live-streamed, curated content coming out of this. We think it can be "A Night With" or "An Evening With."

Branded content is also an opportunity. We work very closely with advertisers today to create branded content for them that we then take across our social platforms, their social media and other digital platforms and integrate some influencers.

E-commerce is something that we are looking at very closely. We also believe there is a real opportunity to offer advisory work based on all the data and analytics we are collecting.

And we are continuing to pioneer the U.S. Hispanic social media industry. 

Any interest in more acquisitions?

The first priority — now that we have our portfolio as it stands, which just came together — is monetization. We think we have got a solid asset base, and the priority for 2018 is monetization, growing revenue and continuing to attract influencers.

Our influencers' feedback has been: Hispanicize finds us work, make us money by introducing us to clients — and so we feel pretty good we can nurture those relationships. 

I don't see any acquisitions on the short-term horizon, but I do see the opportunity to form strategic partnerships to help scale ourselves and potential partners based on complementary offers. 

Do you have any plans to do more original content?

We are starting to do that. We have two sets of influencers steeped in comedy that we represent. They became YouTube and Facebook stars. Our celebrity talent social media management division represents them. Most are A-list on-air talents at Telemundo, Univision and Televisa

This one team based in Miami is called Los Pichy Boys; they are Cuban American and are very irreverent with comedy. They are very successful at attracting advertisers. They produce these YouTube shows, and we this year got them a deal with the Miami Univision radio station where every morning, five days a week from 6 to 10 in the morning, they are the hosts. We will be launching pop-up events for their fans who want to see them live. There is a lot of demand for that. This provides us with live content, like those HBO comedy specials. They are doing it on an HBO, and we'll be doing it on social media. 

There are also two young millennials in L.A. called the Mexican Gueys who are also bilingual, very funny. We have a lot of demand from venues who want to host them. 

That gives us the opportunity to stream content live, sell tickets via digital platforms that allows us to collect data we can then analyze. It allows us to take a lot of the content from the live stream and curate and redistribute it in other forms on other platforms. And we can find sponsorships for every piece of that. That is a new revenue model for us. Whether that original content is specials or series, I am fascinated by the opportunity.

I also think there is a big opportunity to take content that works very well in audio podcasts and convert that into YouTube programming and other video distribution opportunities. Series can be funny, sports, music, celebrity- or influencer-based. 

Anything people misunderstand about Gen Z?

It's a generation that is sometimes hard for previous generations to appreciate and understand. On one hand, you feel like they are so opinionated and they don't have any real-world experience, yet they think they know it all. The reality is they are much more intellectually curious than any previous generation, and they consume massive amounts of content. They are better informed, and they have great values. They are very concerned about quality of life and non-traditional measures of success. Yes, they want to make money, but their passion is clean water, they want to know what brand to buy to support that, and so on. 

They don't want to be told how to do something. They will figure that out for themselves. They just want to be told why this or that is important. They have demonstrated they don't have to work in an office environment 8 to 10 hours a day 9 to 5. Maybe they sleep in until 1:00 and do their best work from 10 p.m. until 3 a.m.

They are so vitally important to understand as consumers and entrepreneurs. It has such an impact on the economy going forward. Organizations that embrace and engage and build authentic relationships with them will benefit.