Last week’s selection among the 25 Most Powerful Women by PEOPLE En Español, puts Daisy Expósito-Ulla back in the public eye. Seeing a U.S. Hispanic advertising and marketing business leader, recognized alongside Mexican journalist Carmen Aristegui and Univision’s anchor María Elena Salinas, serves to call attention to Expósito-Ulla’s community involvement and civic role. HMWorks explores the latter aspects of the Chairman/CEO of d expósito & Partners, which was recently chosen by the Advertising Educational Foundation (AEF) as 2015 Agency of the Year.
What makes a businesswoman like you a “Most Powerful Woman”?
I wish I had real power! The power to end hunger or to heal the emotional wounds of a child refugee separated from his or her family. My power is tiny. But I guess distinctions like PEOPLE’s probably pay attention to the fact that I believe in so much more than “strictly business.” To me, life and business go together, especially because the ethics of both are intertwined.
How does your view translate to what you do in advertising in the U.S. Hispanic Market?
To begin with, I always try to add a dimension to that concept: There is no Hispanic Market without a Hispanic Community. We, as an industry, are simply a humble derivative of community. We are a bridge to our Hispanic Community for Corporate America and that entails social responsibilities to this group. This is very much a differentiator that explains the way we function as an agency. We don’t separate market and community but see them as a whole. Hispanic Market is merely the result of marketing terminology.
Do clients share the same view?
Fortunately many of them do! In our case, AARP sees itself as an agent of change and an enhancer of opportunities for prosperity for the 50+ segment. With McDonald’s, in our Northeastern region, we are proud of our collaboration on their ongoing initiative to provide college scholarships for graduating high school students, the Becas HACER. And ConAgra, as you know, is deeply involved in a food drive effort against hunger. Look, we live in a hyperconnected world. Companies cannot be deaf or disconnected…
How do you envision both the market and the community connecting?
Rather than “connecting,” I see the two of them as inseparable. The brands that know this are the ones that do better. We have a mission as mediators to our community. We and the brands serve benefit from their business and their loyalty. If they do well, we do well. The poet Pablo Neruda spoke of “la miel de los felices,” the “honey of the happy ones.” In other words, as I see it, we owe it to ourselves to be there for our community –both in the happy and the less happy times they may go through. There are times when I wish we could be more vocal for them, especially when they are attacked, when they are suffering, when there is no honey or happiness…
Basically, what you are saying is that brands and people in your business should position themselves closer to the community…
Exactly! Consumers should be seen and felt as people –not just as statistics or transactions. There is a new book by Gillian Tett, she is with London’s Financial Times –the book is called The Silo Effect. She lived briefly with a tribe of goathearders and she has brilliantly extrapolated her anthropological experience to some good and some terrible aspects of the tribe’s shared behavior. From goathearders to avarice driven Wallstreeters. The silo mentality, as Tett says, can be dangerous. And this can be applied to any of us as individuals and to almost every company out there. It’s real.
We recall some of your initiatives within the Hispanic advertising industry, which of them remains closer to your heart?
I’ve always believed in the power of education, before and as far back as when I headed AHAA and we were able to forge a very strong pro-education initiative with The White House. But my passions include many other causes: the arts, human rights, community support organizations, industry-related organizations. Many of these are shared with my agency colleagues. Needless to say, this is a vision I share with my life and business partner, Jorge Ulla. And perhaps, above all this, there is a calling to help mentor, guide and empower young people coming into the communications industry.
Some may argue I tend to favor women, which I will not contradict, but I think I can be pretty inclusive as far as supporting people waiting for opportunities. It’s our future!
Judging from your answer, education remains a primary goal of yours. Some of us in the industry have seen you from maternity to rearing your son Gabriel who is now a writer for some major publications…
It wasn’t easy but, through his childhood, we had the support of two sets of “abuelos”. It’s beautiful how Hispanic culture can provide a family infrastructure that can also guarantee language continuation. I was constantly traveling on business and so was Jorge, as a filmmaker for a long time. All in all, we belong to the fortunate few. And this makes us doubly obligated to give back to society.
Was he schooled on “the business”?
Not really. Gabriel went to Browning, a school with which we have an affinity of values. We cheated quite a bit and took him on work trips with us, but that served as homeschooling and exposed him to the world. It was out of necessity but it paid off. He was lucky to go to NYU and now to Columbia. He knows this makes him part of a miniscule group of privileged people. And he also knows he needs to help others as much as possible.. He has that kind of social conscience of millennials.
We see both your name and your husband’s on the board of Repertorio Español. We know you are also involved with food kitchens, charities of different sorts that you don’t talk about…
No, no, I’d rather not! And I know we are not alone –many people in our industry have huge hearts. In the case of Repertorio Español in New York, well, it’s public domain and we love what they do in defense of our Spanish language. Our language is embattled these days, it’s being attacked as part of a xenophobic wave.
And other causes?
I truly believe in empathy and solidarity. Pope Francis I, or as we call him, El Papa Francisco, speaks of solidarity, subsidiarity and love. His message could be the most beautiful message to advertise. That’s what I call power!
Well, we wield the power to have a better business, a better industry, a better country and a better world…