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How Is ‘Money Heist’ Changing America? Gonzalo Del Fa and Nancy Tellet Explain

December 13, 2020

Court Stroud Contributor
I write about media, entertainment and diversity.


TOPSHOT - A member of staff wearing masks of the Spanish TV show "La Casa de Papel" draws the name ... [+]    AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

Can a European television series shape U.S. culture? Quite possibly yes, if that show is Money Heist (La Casa de Papel in the original Spanish), part of a wave of foreign-language content attracting millions of American viewers.

Multicultural Majority 2020, a new study by the Culture Marketing Council (CMC), examines this question and others using more than 20,500 consumer touch points to better understand the mindset of Gen Z. Comprised of teenagers from 13 to 17, this U.S. generation is the first in which non-Hispanic Whites are in the minority.


Gonzalo del Fa is President of GroupM Multicultural and the current chair of the Culture Marketing Council (CMC). Nancy Tellet is founder of PureClarity and CMC's research chair.

In this interview, Gonzalo del Fa, President of GroupM Multicultural and the current CMC chair, and Nancy Tellet, founder of PureClarity and the trade organization’s research lead, share insights about the correlation between age and electronic device usage, the importance of in-culture content and the ways foreign TV shows like Money Heist are influencing American attitudes.

What’s the most obvious thing clients just don't see about multicultural media and marketing?

Nancy Tellet: They don't see the urgency and the imperative. This country has already become, at least in one demo — and, in a few years, all the others — a majority multicultural country. Many clients have small budgets, or they cut funding for multicultural when the overall budget gets cut. And they don't think of multicultural as the primary driver of the mainstream, which it is quickly becoming.

Why is there this reticence?

Gonzalo del Fa: Nancy said it perfectly. People have this idea that if I'm not there now, I can do it next year or some years from now. This is not a matter of who's going to eat the cake. The cake is being eaten. If you don't start now, somebody is going to eat it for you. 

When you think about how the population is growing in the U.S., it's very clear that what is feeding the growth is the Hispanic community first, followed by the Black and the Asian communities. It's not the White community or “general market.” If you are a brand, and you keep putting all your bets in the portion of society that is shrinking, your brand is going to shrink with it.

CMC has an upcoming webinar called Media, Technology and the Escalating Power of Culture and Content. Can you give a sneak peek about your findings?

Nancy Tellet: Sure. The upcoming webinar is the third in a series. Multicultural Majority 2020 was so epic that it's taking four webinars to cover about 85% of the material. This particular one takes a look at some trending information on media. We also did a 2018 study called Digital Lives. We'll be trending some of the questions that we asked on device usage and things that people use in their homes, like different social media platforms. Some of the most interesting findings are about content, because content is culture.


Content and culture are so interlinked. What did you find about the evolution of media?

Nancy Tellet: One of the insights we came across was that a lot of people are basically decluttering their devices.

For instance, teens have a lot fewer devices than they used to have. Anything non-smart with teens is on the decline: non-smart TVs; portable music players such as iPods; and desktop computers. Even laptops and tablets, though they're still used, have had a decline with teens. Everything smart is growing, like smartphones, smart TVs and smartwatches.

For adults 18 to 34, they had a decline with music devices, non-smart TVs and desktops. With the oldest crew, those over 35, only non-smart TVs declined. They are keeping all their other devices. So, the younger you are, the more you're decluttering.

Culture is very much connected to language, particularly for minority communities. What did the study find about their relationship?

Nancy Tellet: There were two areas of culture that were really important. The first is about in-culture content. In our study, we had equal samples of non-Hispanic Whites, non-Hispanic Blacks and Hispanics. We spoke to teens 13 to 17 and we spoke to people who were parents of some young Gen Zers as well, folks between the ages of 25 and 49. 

We found that for in-culture content, meaning content in any language that is dedicated specifically to Blacks or Hispanics, interest remains very strong. We found this in the 2018 study as well. In fact, even though I've been researching on culture, media usage and marketing for years, I was astounded by the sheer power of in-culture content. 

Spanish, as a cultural thread, continues to transcend reliance. For many people, the first thing they mentioned is language. 

Many new clients think that the primary reason they should do Hispanic marketing is because of all the people reliant on the Spanish language. But most Hispanics are not reliant on Spanish anymore. They are bilingual. Among teens, 94% are U.S. born. It isn't about reliance. It's about culture. Language has taken on, and has always had a huge cultural significance. We found that regardless of age, eight out of ten Hispanics, whether they're teens or 49 year-olds, were consuming traditional Spanish-language TV channels like Univision and Telemundo. 

That's huge. It was almost the same number whether they were 14 or 40. We also know that 67% of non-Hispanic Blacks and 73% of Hispanics 13 to 49 visit in-culture online sites and spend a lot of their time there.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 31: People wear Money Heist's Dali costumes in Times Square on October ... [+]  GETTY IMAGES

What’s the other major discovery unearthed by the study?

Nancy Tellet: The second big content insight blew my mind. Global content is changing culture in this country. That is a huge thing because content both reflects and also amplifies culture, and sometimes it creates culture. 

Think about it. After 9/11, we had a lot of content shows like 24 and Homeland. They expressed our anxieties and increased militarized law enforcement. Then, Glee became a millennial game changer, reflecting the values of diversity. The telenovela, with its lyrical romance, was taken out of the traditional Univision, Telemundo and Spanish-language world. You saw it in the mainstream with Jane the Virgin. U.S. films and TV series have been exported to other cultures around the world for decades, but Americans have generally been resistant to the reciprocity of having foreign content come in.

But then there were signs of change. I remember Iron Chef as programming that was embraced from another country, but you really didn't need to have much language to enjoy that. Then, global YouTube creators started making inroads. Right now, out of the top 10 YouTubers, two of them are India-based. The number two is a guy from Sweden, who does most of his stuff in English. There's just a lot of YouTubers creating organic content that's from across the world. 

And then Netflix NFLX -0.7% changed the game with its sheer scale and resources. In our study, 91% of everyone 13 to 49 uses SVOD, or subscription video on demand, and 83% of those watch Netflix. That's a huge scale. 

Netflix wasn't like YouTube, which did it organically. Netflix did it very strategically. Their Chief Product Officer said it doesn't matter where you live or what language you speak, it’s about great storytelling. 

“Netflix members around the world want authentic storytelling, a perspective from a passionate creator that's grounded in local culture.” Our study found that this cross-pollination of titles from Netflix, especially ones that come from other parts of the world, is huge. 

In Hispanic homes, everyone was talking about La Casa de Papel, which is Money Heist in English. But so many Americans in general are watching this show —viewers who are Black, who are Asian, who are White. Our study found that 53% of non-Hispanic Whites have watched a show in a language they do not speak. 58% of non-Hispanic Blacks have done so. A whopping 68% of Hispanics have watched a show on SVOD in a language they don't speak. They've been watching things like Giri/Haji from Japan and Dark, which was a big series from Germany.

When you have over 50% of every race and ethnicity watching content from other countries and cultures, it's doing what Glee did for millennials. It makes you more aware, more embracing and more empathetic to other cultures. And that’s something the world deeply needs more than ever.


This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Listen to the full episode of The Revolución Podcast featuring Gonzalo del Fa and Nancy Tellet with co-hosts Ana Crandell, Diego Lastra and Court Stroud on iHeartMediaSpotifyApple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsAmazon Podcasts, or by clicking here.