Univision’s First Web Novela a Branded Effort

Jul 12, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Univision’s first online novela carefully follows the Spanish-language soap-opera conventions: a secret crime, at least one character suffering from amnesia, and a beautiful heroine torn between a conniving boyfriend and his mysterious rival. What’s unusual about the heavily promoted novela debuting July 10 is not that it’s a digital drama, but that the star of “Mi Adorada Malena” (“My Beloved Malena”) plays a spokesmodel for Caress, giving the Unilever brand a central role in the story.
Brand is woven into the plot
In real life and in the novela, Unilever is introducing Caress Exotic Oil Infusions body wash. After researching the genre, the marketer wanted to associate the novela’s mysterious, exotic elements with those qualities in the product. Caress is so woven into the plot and characters that the online back story section describes Malena’s assistant Rebeca as “personifying the characteristics of the Caress woman, modern and confident.”
“They challenged us to help them with the launch of a new product,” said Maryam Banikarim, chief marketing officer of Univision Communications. “They knew novelas are the watercooler conversation, and the big [ratings] numbers.”
The novela consists of six episodes lasting four to six minutes each on Univision.com; for the finale, viewers will choose from two different endings shot by Univision, whose in-house production team created the soap opera.
“The hub is online but we’re bringing the story telling to TV, print and radio,” said Rob Master, Unilever U.S. marketing director, Caress.
90-second TV spots
On July 10, a 90-second TV spot with footage from the Caress novela will air during Univision’s “Destilando Amor,” currently the highest-rated show on Spanish-language TV. Shorter teaser promotions will run elsewhere, and every Tuesday a spot will run on “Destilando” touting the release of another episode of “Malena” and recapping the previous week’s action.
Mr. Master said there will also be a big radio push on Univision Radio stations in the top 25 Hispanic markets and print ads in titles such as People en Espanol and TV y Novelas. Advertorials in TVNotas will give weekly updates of the storyline.
“Each week leaves you with a classic cliffhanger,” Mr. Master said. For instance, the first episode will end with a shocked Malena discovering that her elegant psychiatrist fiancé, Leonardo, who is plotting against her, and the valiant but dangerously in debt writer Mateo, who also loves her, have a prior relationship.
On Univision’s website, “Mi Adorada Malena” is promoted along with Univision’s regular novelas, and a mini-site devoted to the show features a video of Malena, pictures and back stories for eight characters, sign-ups for mobile and e-mail alerts, free Caress samples, sweepstakes and all the episodes as they are posted.
Univision assets
In a sign of the range of Univision assets assembled for Unilever, the novela’s music is a song by Anais, a past winner of “Objetivo Fama,” Univision’s version of “American Idol.” Users can download the song, video, wallpaper and ringtone from the Malena site, and win a trip to see Anais perform.
Unilever is also integrating the novela into its own multibrand “Vive Mejor” (“Live Better”) Hispanic platform. The opening episode of “Malena” will be screened at a “Vive Mejor” roadshow in Miami on July 10, Mr. Master said.
This year, Unilever’s two big efforts behind the Caress brand are a modern take on fairy tales narrated by “Grey’s Anatomy” actress Kate Walsh in the general market (www.caressfairytales.com), and the “Malena” project for Hispanic women.
Setting a price for “Malena” was “the longest part,” Mr. Master said. “It’s such a new space. Cost is driven by our media dollars.”
Now Unilever will use three criteria to measure Malena’s success: data from research firm Millward Brown; web interaction, traffic and length of time spent on the site; and, most important, sales, he said. Unilever will work with Nielsen to identify changes in U.S. Hispanic sales.
Univision wouldn’t comment on the two different endings viewers will vote on, but Mr. Master confided, “They’re very different, but they’re both happy endings.”

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