In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, Campaign US is spotlighting Hispanic executives from across the industry. This interview with John Gallegos, founder and CEO of United Collective, has been lightly edited.
What is it like to be a Latino/Hispanic in the advertising industry?
I’m Hispanic, and I’m in advertising. I see both elements as complementary and independent. It is important that my success not be exclusively defined by ethnicity; that being Hispanic does not define my career or persona. It’s a complement and a valuable additive.
I’m proud to be part of the population driving growth in the U.S. My insights and sensibilities about the audience are valuable. But being Hispanic and a part of the audience is not enough. Success requires combining these sensibilities with skills and capabilities.
Hispanic culture is driving so many trends in society, so being Hispanic in advertising can be a huge advantage. Hispanics can make enormous contributions not just to Hispanic-targeted work, but work that influences the entire consumer landscape. Being Hispanic and in advertising presents endless possibilities. Unfortunately, the industry is still struggling with how to define and tap into our expertise.
How has it changed since you first started?
When I broke into the industry, the conversation was primarily about reaching the Hispanic audience in Spanish. There wasn’t enough emphasis on creativity and brand storytelling. So I started my own agency to put creativity at the core of Hispanic advertising.
I’m happy to see the caliber of creative work has evolved. I can’t emphasize enough how important creativity and cultural attunement is to engage any audience. Technology has been a game-changer as well for this market, expanding our reach and ability to target messaging. The key will be finding creative ways to use technology.
How would you like to see brands honor Hispanic Heritage Month this year?
I don’t like to offer one-size-fits-all recommendations, because it's dangerous to generalize and every brand has its own circumstances. But if I had to, I would tell marketers to be mindful, authentic and open-minded.
Be mindful of where you are in your relationship with Hispanics as consumers, customers, business partners, employees and as a community. Is this your first dedicated effort? Is this part of your yearlong plan? Is this an ongoing commitment? And be authentic. To meaningfully honor Hispanic audiences, marketers need messaging that is true to their brand AND connects with Hispanics.
HHM represents an opportunity to do something impactful. Whatever you do, use this as an opportunity to learn and evolve. Start where you are and do what you can. If you are committed, your efforts will be rewarded.
Where has the advertising industry made progress with diversity and inclusion? What still needs to be done?
Progress is in the eye of the beholder. It’s important we get specific when tackling the topic. Looking at DE&I as it relates to “multicultural” audiences, I’ve seen many improvements — from new marketers investing, to more conversation around creativity. However, these improvements are too often not widespread. The advertising industry is still behind when it comes to a collective and consistent commitment towards DE&I as it relates to multicultural audiences.
What is something you love about your culture?
I love the duality of being a Mexican American. I live at the intersection of Mexican and American cultures. The ability to flow from one to another and back seamlessly is amazing.
How would you like to see your culture represented in the industry and by brands?
I’d like to see marketing and advertising that is more in-step with the realities of America. Cultural attunement is a key to better or more effective advertising. This belief is reflected by our founding principle: to help clients grow with the most culturally attuned and creatively driven marketing.