The evolution of brand integration in Spanish language television


From Don Francisco to Dame Chocolate

The evolution of brand integration in Spanish language television

By Larissa Acosta and Sarah Oitzinger

In March 2007, Telemundo debuted a new prime time telenovela called Dame Chocolate.  Loyal viewers will recall the trials and tribulations of Rosita and Bruce…star-crossed lovers in search of true love and a chocolate recipe ordained by the gods.  Hispanic marketers will remember this particular drama as the first telenovela that organically incorporated brands such as Clorox, IKEA, Washington Mutual and Wal-Mart into its story.  

For many years, Spanish language television has placed products and brands into specific programming vehicles.  Univision’s Sábado Gigante set the standard, with Don Francisco pitching many consumer goods and services over the life of his popular variety show.  

Telemundo’s Dame Chocolate pioneered branded content in Spanish language telenovelas, where brands are organically woven either as part of the storyline or as a backdrop to a scene.  

2007’s Hispanic media upfront presentations confirmed that branded content is now a viable vehicle for Hispanic marketers. Market leader Univision just launched an online novela in which the main character is a spokesperson for Caresss, and a locally-produced Spanish language version of Desperate Housewives, that is being marketed as one of their prime vehicles for brand integration.   Additionally, the network recently aired Nuestra Belleza Latina, a reality TV show which leveraged the popularity of beauty pageants with branded challenges from marketers such as Ford, JC Penney and L’Oreal. 

Telemundo as well continues to open doors for advertisers to organically integrate brands into their US produced novelas and reality storylines.  The media giant also is developing the concept of commercial-free broadcasts with a drama titled “Idolos de Juventud” (“Youth Idols”) in which  brand exposure will come from product integration, web content and mobile marketing efforts and not from traditional advertising pods. 

While branded content is not a substitute for “traditional” media as the primary vehicle by which to build brand awareness and preference, for those brands that have money, resources and the right attitude to test new uncharted vehicles, there is a brand new world of opportunities available to engage Hispanic consumers.  The evolution of branded content in Hispanic television reaffirms the Latino Cultural Identity platform of the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies that identifies the complexities of Latinos in the U.S.: a key driver in strategy development when marketing to this segment.

Hispanic marketing is no longer about translating thirty-second television spots into Spanish.  Just like the general population, effective Hispanic campaigns need to leverage, not only the most relevant consumer insights, but also the right channel apertures that will drive the most relevant connections.  To optimize branded content opportunities in Spanish-language vehicles, or to engage Latinos in any marketing effort, takes an intimate knowledge of the Hispanic consumer and their programming and lifestyle preferences.

Advertisers are best served by specialized Hispanic advertising agencies and media planning teams that can work with the networks on content development strategies grounded on solid understanding of the target’s relationship with the medium versus a traditional commercial schedule mostly based on cost efficiency and audience delivery. 

Hispanic-branded content opportunities have lagged general market media efforts but are now poised to explode in Spanish language media vehicles.  The growing importance of the US Hispanic viewer base combined with the need to develop relevant content that draws ratings has led the Hispanic networks to produce more US-based programming instead of relying solely on international imports.  The fiercely competitive media environment has challenged stations  to offer programming options that are more reflective of the sophistication of their Latino audiences, and marketers to develop more creative ways to reach and connect with consumers.

Many research studies confirm the importance Latino consumers place on word-of-mouth and celebrity endorsements.   It is the general belief that Latinos welcome marketing messages as validation for their need for information and desire to feel that corporate America takes their buying power seriously. This explains why traditional product integration opportunities such as Sabado Gigante as well as other on-air talent product mentions will remain viable enhancements to Hispanic communication plans. 

As consumers begin to expect new levels of brand engagement, we need to remain committed to finding new ways to surprise and delight consumers with our brand message. Reality-type programs will continue to provide interesting and innovative integration opportunities and the future of branded content in telenovelas looks promising.  However, key issues need to be addressed by programmers, marketers and their agencies to ensure organic integration, but as important, seamless execution.

Candidness and communication between the marketer and the writers/producers of the program is critical to ensure the needs of both parties are met.  Finding alignment on the varying degrees of brand integration within a scene and valuation of those opportunities accordingly is essential.  It takes a different set of resources and effort to build a brand into the storyline than it does to place a product into the background of a scene.  Moreover, production teams are not as familiar with the nuances of a brand which can be crucial to the marketer, so brand immersion is important.  The marketer also needs to understand the writing and production processes, and be willing to be flexible.  TV production moves fast; sometimes they are shooting two-to-three days before air, so prompt communication and decisions are critical.

Currently, writers, producers and actors in telenovelas have little incentive to integrate brands and products. Talent contracts often contain restrictions around interaction with, and implied endorsement of, products which can present challenges.  Similarly, writers and producers can see brand integration as an obstacle to storytelling instead of an opportunity to reflect real life in their novelas.  Although real life is packed with the brands and products we use everyday, writers and producers may still need more encouragement to embrace this shift in mindset and focus.

Finding a great content match for your brand can be complicated but as marketers and networks begin to partner to co-develop content, better organic integration, particularly at the storyline level, will result.  Relying on the unique expertise and cultural insight of a Hispanic agency to incorporate branded entertainment into the marketing mix is essential.

Continued innovation in media, interactive, planning, creativity and every aspect of Hispanic marketing, is what corporate marketers depend on to build brand equity and what Hispanic agencies deliver.  The landscape of Hispanic marketing is changing almost as quickly as the consumer it serves and the evolution of brand integration in Spanish-language television is just one example.

Larissa Acosta and Sarah Oitzinger work for Dieste Harmel & Partners, a full service Hispanic advertising agency.  Both are involved in the development of the Dame Chocolate integration effort on behalf of The Clorox Company.  Larissa is the chairman of the education committee for the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies.