By Tanzina Vega (NY Times)
Viewers who tuned in to watch the Telemundo telenovela “Mi Corazón Insiste” last week may have seen a new type of cliffhanger, one that directed them to a Web site with exclusive content sponsored by JPMorgan Chase.
Coming off a strong upfront season — when advertisers buy commercial time before the season — the two major Spanish language television networks, Telemundo and Univision, are lining up more opportunities for advertisers wanting to incorporate their products into their telenovelas.
While the idea of product placement, or as marketers prefer to call it, branded entertainment, is far from new, the campaigns are becoming increasingly sophisticated with elements that take the products from the telenovela to the Web and mobile devices.
In the Corazón campaign, viewers can watch what the network is calling “webvelas” featuring parallel story lines of original content starring Carlos Ferro, playing Camilo Andrade, and Cynthia Olavarría, playing Sofia Palacios. The mini-Web series, which will be called “Y Vuelvo a Ti,” features the characters doing things like paying for a meal using a Chase debit card or using a Chase ATM.
“You don’t normally think about financial advertisers getting involved in story lines,” said Dan Lovinger, executive vice president for advertising sales and integrated marketing at Telemundo, part of the NBCUniversal unit of Comcast. “It’s a subtle, organic, conscientious effort to make Chase a part of our world.”
Viewers can visit a Chase microsite for the show, follow the series on Facebook, watch it on their mobile phones and get text messages prompting them to tune in to the show or to go online. They can also download music from the Chase commercials and enter a contest to win a behind-the-scenes tour of the Telemundo studios. Mr. Lovinger described the strategy as “organic, but pervasive.”
Telemundo’s biggest competitor, Univision Communications, also has ramped up its product placements with advertisers like General Motors and Domino’s pizza incorporated directly into story lines for its show “Eva Luna,” about an advertising agency.
For a promotion involving the Buick Regal last season, the show’s lead character wins the account and shows the Buick team a commercial the agency created. That same commercial aired on the network and its affiliates apart from the show. In other episodes, the characters were shown ordering pizza from Domino’s for a late-night work session.
“It can’t be contrived, it has to be real,” said Steve Tihanyi, the director of branded entertainment and marketing alliances at General Motors. “In a way it was art imitating life, or life imitating art.”
General Motors will also feature its cars in a new Univision telenovela called “Talisman.”
“As integration has become more and more important for our advertising partners we keep raising the bar on what solutions we can offer,” said David Lawenda, president of advertising sales and marketing for Univision.
Until January, the network carried programming created by the Mexican TV giant Televisa, which limited options for brand integration since the shows were already filmed before being distributed through Univision. Because of the partnership with Televisa, Univision can now work on product placement in Televisa-produced content.
In this year’s upfront presentation, Univision reported commercial sales between $1.7 billion and $1.8 billion. “There’s no question that our dollar-volume growth was largely due to some of these major branded entertainment sponsorships that we sold,” Mr. Lawenda said.
“I think the ultimate possibility is actually to create an entire novela with an advertising partner,” said Mr. Lovinger, of Telemundo. According to Adweek, Telemundo reported a 20 percent increase in upfront sales from last year, to around $400 million.
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