Arenas Entertainment, a Beverly Hills, Calif., shop, will work initially on two programs -- the new fall series "Ugly Betty" and the juggernaut "Desperate Housewives," which entering its third season. The agency, which specializes in Latino entertainment marketing, will be responsible for creative work as well as strategy and media planning-and-buying, all targeting Hispanics.
Early buzz for 'Ugly Betty'
"Ugly Betty" is rapidly emerging as one of the few buzzed-about shows for fall. It is an adaptation of a hit Colombian telenovela called "Yo Soy Betty La Fea" that has been sold around the world. The heroine is a smart young woman whose talents are overlooked because, unlike the stunningly beautiful characters of every other novela, she is plain, pudgy and hideously dressed. In the U.S., "Betty La Fea" ran a few years ago on Telemundo, giving the NBC Universal-owned Spanish-language network a big ratings boost. Univision, the biggest U.S. Spanish-language network, started airing in late April a Mexican remake called "La Fea Mas Bella" ("The Most Beautiful Ugly Girl"), starring basically the same character but named Lety instead of Betty.
Now ABC is hoping that U.S. Hispanics, many of them already familiar with the Betty character, will also become fans of the English-language version, debuting Sept. 28. Interestingly, "Ugly Betty" will go head-to-head with Univision's "Ugly Lety," running nightly in the network's top novela slot on Thursday at 8 p.m.
Appeal to Latin pride
The Hispanic ads from Arenas appeal to Latin pride and play humorously on the idea that a Spanish-language hit has become such a phenomena that a major network is remaking the series in English. Starting with print breaking in late August, ads feature the actress America Ferrera in her full Betty regalia -- thick glasses, shiny braces, bushy eyebrows and polka dots -- and the tagline "Tan Fea Que La Hicimos En Ingles" ("So ugly we did it in English.")
"The ads are a private wink to the Latin community," Arenas CEO Santiago Pozo said. "It's a crossover dream."
Even though the ads are mostly in Spanish for an English-language show, Mr. Pozo said it's not unusual for even the Spanish-dominant to watch the general market TV networks, in part to improve their English, as he did when he immigrated from Spain years ago. Arenas has been marketing Hollywood films in English for years through Spanish-language and bilingual media.
"If a program is in English or Spanish is secondary," he said. "What's driving ratings [growth] at Univision and Telemundo isn't the language but the programs."
Coveted time slot
Mr. Pozo is particularly pleased that "Ugly Betty" will run on Thursday nights, the biggest day for movie studios to target filmgoers, because Hispanics go to the movies more often than non-Hispanics. "In key markets like Los Angles, opening weekend attendance is 49% Latino," he said. "This will give studios a vehicle to reach audiences who are heavy users of film."
Marla Provencio, co-senior VP of marketing at ABC, said the agency would also help the network advertise in local theaters in Hispanic neighborhoods and on the side of vans and other grassroots outreach.
Ads include the web address UglyBetty.abc.com/espanol, believed to be the first web page ABC has done in Spanish.
"We see Betty as the female Rocky," said Ms. Provencio, confirming this will be the first time ABC has used a Hispanic shop.
Arenas will also work on bringing more Hispanic viewers to "Desperate Housewives" and heightening awareness of actress Eva Longoria as the feisty character Gabrielle Solis.
"'Desperate Housewives' is the novela of all novelas," Mr. Pozo said.