Telemundo's "Dame Chocolate" ("Give Me Chocolate") will launch in mid-March with Clorox so tightly integrated into the soap opera that plot twists and characters' lives literally hinge on the effectiveness of the brand's products.
Although the soap will air first in the U.S. Hispanic market, Clorox is eyeing the thriving novela export market that will take "Dame Chocolate" to potential Clorox customers in 30 or more countries. "We were approached by Clorox and its agencies to find a way for Clorox to integrate itself into our novelas," said Steve Mandala, exec VP-sales of NBC Universal-owned Telemundo.
Fire Advertainment, a Buenos Aires-based branded-content company in which DDB Worldwide has a 40% stake, took the concept to international Clorox executives, who sold it to U.S. management as a great global opportunity that would work in the U.S., too. DDB agencies were also involved, and Clorox's Hispanic agency, Dieste Harmel & Partners, Dallas, did U.S. Hispanic planning.
"Dame Chocolate" follows the usual conventions of Latin melodrama. A father loses his daughter, moves to the U.S. from Mexico and starts a successful chocolate business. Years later and terminally ill, he is reunited with his poor, estranged daughter and heiress.
Derek Gordon, Clorox's VP-marketing, described the novela as "passion and romance and love of chocolate." Not to mention cleaning products.
Worked with script writers
Rodrigo Figueroa Reyes, Fire's president and executive creative director, worked with Telemundo's novela writers to help them identify where in the script it made sense to include four Clorox products: wipes, liquid bleach, Glad plastic bags and Pine-Sol.
"We have script approval," Mr. Gordon said, adding: "Our content fits very organically. We don't want to be disruptive."
In one Clorox moment, the heroine returns from Mexico carrying a Mayan flower crucial to the secret chocolate-making formula the bad guys are after. Only Glad plastic bags can preserve the flower's freshness.
"It's not classic product placement where you put the product on the table," Mr. Figueroa Reyes said. "Clorox products are part of the story. There are 130 episodes, and Clorox is as much a part of the drama as any of the actors."
In another Clorox cliffhanger, a character is about to be falsely imprisoned on a murder charge. The evidence is a blood-stained T-shirt. Clorox bleach removes the stain, and the police leave empty-handed after finding only a snowy-white shirt.
Less dramatically, two housemaids in very short skirts regularly clean the mansion with Pine-Sol and Clorox, while the gardener fills up Glad trash bags.
Telemundo broadcasts four hour-long novelas at a time, starting weekdays at 7 p.m. Each runs for about six months. Unlike bigger rival Univision, whose novelas are imported from Mexico's Grupo Televisa, Telemundo produces its own. That gives Telemundo the flexibility to negotiate product-placement and branded-content deals.
Clorox is the first marketer to take advantage of the international potential of a branded-content deal in a novela that will travel around the world. Mr. Gordon said Clorox's U.S. and international operations are jointly funding the novela sponsorship and will put "fully integrated marketing efforts behind it."
Mr. Mandala estimates "Dame Chocolate" will be sold to about 30 different countries through a distribution arm recently brought in-house as Telemundo International.
"We are in the process of identifying other novelas [for Clorox]," he said.