Last week, Horizon Media, one of the largest media agencies in the country, announced a partnership with pop icon and entrepreneur Armando Christian Pérez, better known as Pitbull, designed to address content in the multicultural space better. The agency, 305 Worldwide, a mashup of two of Pérez’s best-known nicknames (Mr. 305 and Mr. Worldwide) will start with offices in Miami and New York, and the star will have a minority stake in the new endeavor.
The collaboration took about a year of gestation after Bill Koenigsberg, Horizon Media’s founder, president and CEO, interviewed Pérez during an internal company fireside chat. According to Koenigsberg, he was taken with the Cuban-American’s story and contributions to communities.
“As I was doing the [chat] with him, I got a much better sense of who he is as a person through how he has used marketing to the multicultural community, his charitable work and what he stands for,” said Koenigsberg. “I said to myself, ‘you know, he’d be an incredible partner.’”
For his part, Pérez saw that the pair would be simpatico and kindred spirits on the pathway to engaging diverse audiences.
“[Koenigsberg] wanted to get into the multicultural space and he felt that it was being underserved,” he said. “They needed somebody that has lived it and can bring companies into the culture with something that is empowering, motivating, inspiring and not disrespecting in any way.”
While there is a great deal of talk about multicultural advertising and marketing, Koenigsberg noted that he and Pérez saw some “white space,” specifically around the lack of quality storytelling in the market that accounts for $3.9 trillion in combined buying power, according to a University of Georgia multicultural economy report.
“Personally, I can’t name a lot of great multicultural agencies in the U.S. doing amazing work,” said Koenigsberg. “You think of traditional agencies like Wieden and Droga. But who comes to mind as doing great work in the multicultural world? I think there’s an opportunity for someone to rise to the top, and I hope it’s us.”
“People have to admit that this is the lay of the land at this point,” added Pérez. “The face is changing in not only the United States but the world. When you tap into that buying power and that kind of culture, you want to make sure that you’re respecting it. [Brands] may not be trying to be disrespectful, but they just don’t know any better.”
One of the more enticing things that brought Koenigsberg and Pérez together was independence, both in a real sense (Horizon Media is staunchly independent) and the spirit of the word.
“You’re beholden to yourself and not to stockholders,” said Koenigsberg. “There are certain assets of being publicly held, but there are drawbacks. [Being independent makes] decision-making more fluid and quicker because you don’t have to worry about how it might impact a quarterly report or annual earnings.”
Indeed, the ability to move fast helped close the deal with Pérez in the first place.
“I snatched him up faster than anybody,” noted Koenigsberg. “That was a competitive advantage in that we didn’t have to deal with a lot of bureaucracy to get this done.”
“To me, independence is the most important thing,” added Pérez. “That’s why everybody tries to get to this country … for freedom. [In business, being independent means] you can pivot when you want to pivot and move when you want to move. When you’re part of the corporate game, and all the red tape and politics, it’s hard to take advantage and maneuver.”
Throughout his career, Grammy-winner and Miami native Pérez has mined a wide territory outside of his musical career including his involvement in the city’s burgeoning tech scene (startups pitched Pérez during the eMerge Americas conference last year) and his role in starting the Sports Leadership and Management Academy (SLAM) charter school in Little Havana which has expanded to Las Vegas and West Palm Beach, Fla.