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Spanish TV Joins the Big-Event Big Leagues

It is a "big event" television program, watched by increasingly larger audiences. Because the program is live, viewers are more willing to watch as it is being broadcast rather than tape it for later. As a result, more marketers are eager to use the program to show off new advertising.

Sounds like the Super Bowl? Yes. Sounds like the Academy Awards? Also yes. Sounds like the Olympics? Er, um, yes, until Turin, anyway.

In this instance, the program is "Premio Lo Nuestro a la Música Latina," an annual all-star music awards show, which is to be presented from 8 to 11 p.m. (Eastern time) tomorrow on the Univision network owned by Univision Communications. "Premio Lo Nuestro," which translates roughly as "people's choice," is typically the most-watched program among Hispanic audiences, except in years when there are World Cup soccer matches; 6.3 million people watched the 2005 show, compared with 5.3 million in 2004 and 5.1 million in 2003.

That the list of so-called big event TV programs now includes a show in Spanish as well as English-language mainstays like the Super Bowl and the Oscars is another sign of the growing importance of the Hispanic market to mainstream advertisers. Among those that will be using "Premio Lo Nuestro" to introduce commercials or campaigns are PepsiCo and Wendy's International.

"We've got some ground to make up in awareness and relevance with the Hispanic consumer," said Ian B. Rowden, executive vice president for marketing at Wendy's in Dublin, Ohio. "This is a major step forward for us."

Although Wendy's has been devoting part of its ad budget to the Hispanic market since 2002, when it named the Vidal Partnership as Hispanic agency of record, the company has "never undertaken something as big as this, as serious as this," Mr. Rowden said.

The focus on Latino consumers is part of efforts by Wendy's to address a slump that has caused growth to slow suddenly. Last year was the first since 1987 that sales declined at Wendy's stores open at least a year, a closely watched indicator of vitality in the fast-food market.

Other steps being taken by Wendy's to address its problems include adding menu items, spending more money on marketing and focusing its ads on the younger consumers who are particular devotees of fast food. Because the Hispanic population tends to be younger than the general market, campaigns addressed to Latinos also serve to reach a youthful audience.

"We're trying to push our relevance a little younger and connect more with that consumer," Mr. Rowden said.

To further gain the attention of younger Hispanics, the campaign that Vidal will introduce for Wendy's during "Premio Lo Nuestro" will also get its own dedicated Web site. The Web address (noalacomidamediocre.com) reflects the theme of the campaign, a humorous crusade against "la comida mediocre," mediocre food, which will be presented as a make-believe benefit by imaginary Latino music stars.

In the commercials, actors portray Hispanic singers in genres like pop, rock, reggaetón, ballads, Caribbean and Tejano, or regional Mexican. Any resemblance between the cast and real-life performers like Ricky Martin, Daddy Yankee, Enrique Iglesias, Marc Anthony, Celia Cruz and Gloria Estefan is no coincidence.

The actors gather in a recording studio, evoking actual benefit performances from Live Aid to "We Are the World," under a banner proclaiming "Unidos Contra la Comida Mediocre," or "United against mediocre food." One participant says earnestly: "When they asked me to do it, I didn't hesitate. I had to support this cause." They all proceed to join in singing an uplifting anthem with lyrics like these (translated into English):

Today we sing together

We need to fight

Mediocre food is a bad thing that we need to confront

We deserve something better

We won't stay quiet

It's a moment to make a change

Together we'll make it happen

A 60-second version of the commercial will appear on TV only during "Premio Lo Nuestro," Mr. Rowden said, then go up on the special Web site, where computer users can watch and download it. A 30-second version of the spot, and another commercial in the same vein, will subsequently run on other Univision shows as well as on three other networks that cater to Hispanic viewers: Galavision, TeleFutura and Telemundo.

The campaign expands on commercials that Vidal introduced to Hispanic consumers in October, which spoof the genre of public service announcements by portraying the choice to eat hamburgers at Wendy's as a way of "protecting your friends and loved ones from less-than-quality food," said Tony Ruiz, partner and chief strategic officer at Vidal in New York.

"We had a significant amount of discussion that we might be pushing the envelope," Mr. Ruiz said, "but it's presented in a way that it has a wink, and is not meant to be disrespectful."

The Pepsi-Cola Company division of PepsiCo plans to run three new commercials for two soft drink brands during "Premio Lo Nuestro," all created by its Hispanic agency, Dieste Harmel & Partners in Dallas, part of the Omnicom Group.

There will be one new spot for Pepsi-Cola, featuring Eva Longoria of the ABC series "Desperate Housewives"; the commercial urges consumers to "Enjoy the taste" of Pepsi-Cola.

There will also be two new spots for Sierra Mist, offering a Spanish-language version of a comedy-focused campaign from the general market that carries the theme "It's that refreshing." The spots will introduce a cast of performers from a popular Mexican variety show, "Otro Rollo."

To dovetail with the commercials on "Premio Lo Nuestro," a new section of the Sierra Mist Web site (mist-takes.com), presented in Spanish, is to go live tomorrow. Another marketer that is to introduce a campaign is GenSpec Labs, for a new line of vitamins billed as formulated for the needs of male and female Hispanic consumers. The "vitaminas para Hispanos," as they are described in the commercial, are part of a line that also includes vitamins for African-American and Caucasian men and women.

 

Stuart Elliott, The New York Times. February 22, 2006

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