Okay Planners, You’re Being Bombarded by Clients Wanting Product Placement in TV Shows. Time to Think a Little Out of Your Comfort Zone, as This Article Attests

Aug 26, 2009  •  Post A Comment

By Brian Steinberg
Advertising Age

Spanish-language network Univision is making an "American Idol" play by launching musical talent contest "¡Viva el Sueño!" (Live the Dream!"). The show will pit 14 contestants against each other to determine which of them will have an opportunity be the next Latin-music superstar. And just like "Idol," the show will integrate its lead advertisers — in this case, AT&T, InBev Anheuser-Busch’s Bud Light, Coca-Cola, State Farm and Target — into the program itself.

 Univision has done plenty of product placement in its past — marketers including Kraft Foods, Unilever, Ford and Maybelline have strutted their wares in such programs as "Nuestra Belleza Latina" ("Our Latin Beauty") and "Sabado Gigante" ("Giant Saturday") — but executives at the network believe "Viva el Sueño" represents some of its deepest work to date. Many of the marketers will appear in ways that emphasize their products and brand attributes. "Viva el Sueño" will run for 13 weeks and debuts August 30 at 8 p.m. on Univision.

Univision hopes the program will show the network bringing product integration to "the next level, where the integration is truly organic and built into the show," said David Lawenda, president-advertising sales and marketing, Univision Communications. He said Univision has sold about 80% of its ad inventory for the program.

In each episode, for instance, the last three contestants will face "El Momento Clave de Bud Light" ("Bud Light’s Key Moment"), during which viewers will get ready to find out which musicians get immunity and will be given another chance to sing for the show’s live audience. The last person left in the spotlight gets eliminated from the show. In another example, State Farm is able to "insure" one contestant each week when judges select someone to be given coaching in a State Farm-sponsored segment called "Apoyo y Guia (Support and Guidance) that helps them become a better competitor and prepare for the following week.

In the past, Univision, which can boast of having the biggest Spanish-speaking audience in the U.S., had lagged behind other Hispanic TV and cable networks in developing branded entertainment. The network made a breakthrough in 2008 with its launch of "El Juego Supremo" ("The Supreme Game"), which brought the "American Idol" method to a soccer competition between two groups of rookies from Mexico and South America. Nissan and Sprint had products featured during the series.

Sponsors of "Viva el Sueño" like the show for the same reason they like "American Idol": They expect the program to give them an opportunity to reach a broader audience that shares an interest in music. "Obviously, music is a huge part of the Hispanic culture," said Mark D. Gibson, assistant VP-advertising at State Farm. "It cuts across age, country of origin — so many different swatches of this community that it’s a huge opportunity."

"We definitely think that the audience is going to skew a little bit younger, but the opportunity is not only to get to the younger audience but the families," said Adaliz Vicens, senior marketing manager, AT&T, who oversees marketing to Hispanic consumers.

As it does with "Idol," AT&T will be able to drive a promotional message home to viewers. "We’re going to be the exclusive wireless text-to-vote [sponsor]," Ms. Vicens said. "We’ll be able to measure the success [of the effort] through the amount of text messages that we receive through the platform and, also, we’ll be able to measure the success of the other products we are able to upsell through it — ringtones, and then the side services."

Unlike "American Idol," the contestants on "Viva el Sueño," who come from the U.S., Latin America and Spain, have professional experience. Some may even have gained fame in their countries of origin. The program will follow them as they go through rehearsals, prepare for each week’s show, and perform Latin music hits. All will compete for $200,000 in cash and prizes in addition to the opportunity to make it big in the music business. #


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