Greetings from Hollywould'vecould'veshould've. I was driving down Sunset Boulevard recently and I noticed the new billboard of a Fortune 500 company that is in the child clothing business. Their billboard featured two adorable white babies in white clothes, on a white blanket with white letters shaped like white clouds. It was a beautiful billboard set amongst a cacophony of other messages. However, something struck me odd about this particular billboard from a marketing point of view especially considering their other billboard campaigns looked more like the town in which they do business.
I parked in front of the billboard and called a friend of mine, who is the foremost expert on data in Los Angeles. This guy can tell you how many left-handed people blew their noses in LA in 1978. My question however, was a much simpler one. "Dr. Bautista," I asked, "What is the percentage of White non-Hispanic births in Los Angeles in 2012?" He quickly answered, "Seventeen percent white, 62 percent Latino and 21 percent black and Asian." These numbers floored me! Eighty-three percent of all babies born in Los Angeles are not white!? Wow! My first thought was to go short on my Coppertone stock. This company should win an award just for being able to find two white babies in LA. I will submit my nominations at the appropriate time.
Later in the day, I had lunch with a friend that is a marketer in the television business. I told him about the billboard and it perplexed me how a Fortune 500 company could target an ad aimed at such a small audience of 17 percent. He responded, "It must have to do with the traffic that drives down Sunset." Could he be right? Is it possible that maybe only white people drive down Sunset Blvd and the other 83 percent of Angelenos take a different route? No wonder the traffic is so bad on the side streets. Orrrrr, maybe my friend was wrong. Only one way to find out. I felt like I was about to embark on an episode of Myth Busters.
I left lunch and took side streets (ironically named La Jolla, San Vicente and Santa Monica) to get back to the billboard on Sunset. I parked my car. Pen and paper in hand, I began to put down a mark every time a car went by with someone that looked white, as opposed to not. After about 20 minutes, I counted 1,000 cars and slightly more than 750 were not white. I called my friend and blurted out, "Myth Busted."
That night at home I typed on my computer the name of this particular company and then hit the word "images." Immediately a barrage of white babies popped up on the screen. All beautiful, with their cute little clothes, and all very white. But I mean, really white. White, like Edgar Winters, you can see the veins under their skin, white. In fairness there was a smattering of African American babies and a few Asian babies, but damned if I could find a cute little Latino baby anywhere. Como es posible? (Translated for the language impaired: "How is this possible?") Yet I can attest that I have seen many cute Latino babies in LA. Maybe they couldn't cast a Latino baby for a billboard because they don't speak English. Bad logic -- they're babies, they don't speak any language. Hmmm, maybe they rolled their R's when they were making baby talk and that could have disqualified them. Seems like crazy logic, but no crazier than targeting such an audience of 17 percent and actually expecting your business to be around in 10 years.
All this in a time where Disney, in November of 2012, aired a movie called Sofia The First. Sofia, was the first-ever story told on Disney, where a Latina actually got to be a fairy princess. Lo and behold, it was the highest-rated cable TV show for kids 2 to 5 in the history of cable television! Perhaps others should take a page from Disney and start making fairy tales, not living in them.
That night as I got ready for bed, I decided I want to buy a billboard on Sunset. Only the billboard I want to put up is one that I hope the power brokers in all aspects of media will see as they drive the strip. This billboard will have a bunch of babies: Asian, black, white and Latino, all in cute little clothes, with a slogan that says, "Love ALL Your Customers At First Sight." I will of course put this billboard on the side streets as well, just to make sure I reach the majority of Angelenos.