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Strategic Thinking

30 Oct, 2011

Lionel Sosa created the first effective advertising to target a Hispanic-American audience.

In Lionel Sosa, ambitious entrepreneurs can find the ultimate lesson in the power of strategic thinking.

Best known for his role in the development of Hispanic advertising in the United States, Sosa has excelled in many other fields, from politics and publishing to fine art and, most recently, television production.

In almost every case, his triumphs can be traced to a keen understanding of prevailing market conditions, and an unerring feel for emerging trends.

And while his personal philosophy with respect to achieving success may strike some as the stuff of self-help happy talk, there’s no arguing with what he’s achieved.

“You have to set bold goals and believe in yourself,” he said during a break from his most recent venture, a multipart PBS series on the northward outflow of refugees from the Mexican Revolution titled The Children of the Revolucion.  “Expect good things to happen and good things will happen. Have a good attitude, work hard, recognize opportunity, and give it your all.”

Sosa paid his dues as a $1.10-an-hour sign painter before founding his own graphics art studio in his hometown of San Antonio. The year was 1966.

As the firm grew, his client roster came to be dominated by local ad agencies. Sosa realized there was more money to be made in advertising. He got together with Lupe Garcia, Beverly Coiner and Warren Stewart to found a general-market advertising agency, Ed Yardang.  Coiner came up with the name, in honor of an imaginary childhood friend.

“It was kind of a fanciful name, but that way we didn’t have to worry about a title that included all four of our names,” Sosa explained.

The firm grew steadily, and in 1978 Ed Yardang’s solid creative work caught the attention of an aide to then-U.S. Senator John Tower, who was gearing up for a tough re-election bid and wanted to improve his standing among Hispanic voters. In what would prove to be an important event for Sosa, and Hispanic advertising in the U.S., Tower’s campaign enlisted Ed Yardang for the campaign.

“Looking back on it, it was pure luck that we got that call at all,” Sosa now says. “We had no political experience. To us, it was just another business opportunity. What we lacked in political savvy, though, we made up for with creativity and good hard work.”

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