Karina Dobarro has been named Chief Strategist and the highest-ranking woman at a venture launched by Cuban-American rapper Pitbull (Armando Pérez) and Horizon Media founder and CEO Bill Koenigsberg. Named 305 Worldwide, a play on two of the musician’s nicknames (“Mr. 305” and “Mr. Worldwide”), the new marketing agency concentrates on quality storytelling for multicultural audiences.
Dobarro assumes her new role along with her current duties as SVP of Multicultural and International Brand Strategy at Horizon. This very busy ad executive will appear onstage as a keynote speaker during New York Television Week. She’ll provide the media agency perspective during a super session for the 17thAnnual Hispanic Television Summit.In advance of her presentation, Dobarro has agreed to answer questions about her stellar career trajectory, the take-off of 305 Worldwide and hot trends in multicultural marketing.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
I’ve heard you speak about “Polycultural America.” What is it?
In the industry, we’re starting to acknowledge the shift from “general market and multicultural” as two separate segments to “multicultural becoming the new general market.” This new mainstream is sometimes referred to as “Polycultural America.” “Polycultural” is more than a term—it’s a reflection of America today.
Before we began our interview, you mentioned just now learning about the growing trend of stating pronouns. What are your thoughts?
I champion any practice that supports diversity and acceptance. While it’s quickly being adapted—particularly among the younger generation—more education is needed in schools and the workplace.
Horizon recently conducted a workshop called “Allies Werk!” to build awareness and foster inclusion. We leveraged LGBTQ+ capacity-building educators both from within and outside the agency to talk about pronouns, inclusive language and LGBTQ+ allyship.
Some folks are baffled by the act of stating pronouns. Why is it important?
It respects people’s identities and experiences, creating a safe space for people to be themselves.
Which pronouns do you prefer?
How did you get started in the advertising world?
I always knew I wanted to work in advertising but wasn’t sure in what capacity. I went to college in San Francisco and graduated during the dot-com bubble burst in the early 2000s. There were hardly any entry-level jobs in the industry at that time, but I was determined to get started so I sent my resume to over 100 companies. The one company that called me back was a media agency, Initiative. Two years later I was promoted and transferred to the New York office.
What drew you to the multicultural side of the business?
While at Initiative in New York, a former colleague reached out with a job prospect at a Hispanic full-service agency. It piqued my interest having majored in marketing and international business. The idea of being able to tap into my culture and language was something I’d always hoped to do. Now I had the opportunity while still focusing on the US market.
You were a rising star at GroupM Multicultural. Then you accepted a position at Horizon. Why?
I was fortunate to spend almost seven years at GroupM agencies working with blue chip clients like AT&T, Macy’s, and Unilever on their multicultural initiatives. I had a great mentor, Gonzalo Del Fa, who was instrumental to my professional growth.
I was ready to build a multicultural practice of my own when Horizon contacted me. They gave me a white canvas. In five years, we became the third largest Hispanic media agency in the US, supporting the efforts of over 25 clients. We continue to see growth every year.
Additionally, my role expanded to become the US lead of our international network of independent agencies, Local Planet. Working with agencies across the globe, I’m able to keep my pulse on culture and media trends.
So, Horizon was attractive because you could have multiple roles and build a practice. What’ve been your biggest challenges?
Having multiple roles at the agency, it’s imperative that I effectively manage my work and personal time. Travel and meetings can become overwhelming, so I prioritize sleep to ensure my performance is never jeopardized.
Which wins have you found easier than expected?
Horizon’s culture of openness and inclusivity allows me to be at the forefront with clients while growing our multicultural business. Unfortunately, that’s not the case at many agencies where multicultural is often an afterthought.
What can you share with readers about the new project between Horizon and Pitbull?
305 Worldwide looks to connect brands with US consumers through a multicultural-first approach. As the US becomes more diverse, it’s imperative for brands to lead with multicultural insights, particularly for categories where all future growth will come from these segments. 305 Worldwide will leverage Horizon’s insights, data and analytics to inform in-culture storytelling in the form of content, creative and experiences. Armando is the perfect partner.
How did the partnership come about?
Last year, during the agency ‘s celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, Pitbull came in to talk to our CEO, Bill Koenigsberg, about Hispanic culture and community. That’s when this partnership was born. They are both highly entrepreneurial, constantly searching for the next big idea.
What’s your role in the new multicultural agency, 305 Worldwide?
Serving as Chief Strategist while continuing to lead multicultural at Horizon, I’ll bridge our current capabilities with the new solutions developed under the 305 Worldwide entity.
What does each side bring to the endeavor?
Horizon brings multicultural marketing, data, and insight expertise while Armando brings creativity and incredible cultural connectivity.
What do you see as the next big wave in media and advertising?
More marketers looking to connect MarTech and AdTech to more effectively address prospects and current customers on a one-on-one basis.
This allows us to address attitudes and mindsets that make multicultural segments unique. In the past, we relied mostly on survey and modeled data. Today, we use deterministic data tied to actual consumers to create and monitor profiles over time, developing customized content and messaging.
If you could make clients understand one thing about the multicultural market, what would it be?
The risk of doing nothing. As the multicultural population becomes the new majority, not growing with it will impact future business. Brands that engage early will see the return as multicultural consumers tend to be more loyal and influential.
By Court Stroud