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FIRST HISPANIC BRANDED ENTERTAINMENT AGENCY OPENS

'The Lab' Is Headquartered Aboard a Miami Boat

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The first U.S. Hispanic ad agency with a focus on branded entertainment is opening this week in Miami. The Lab, started by Hector Prado, a creative, and Pablo Trench, a former client services director turned TV production executive, is probably also the first Hispanic shop to set up its headquarters on a boat.
Pablo Trench and Hector Prado survey their new working space -- a boat docked in Miami. The vessel is the headquarters of The Lab, the first Hispanic branded entertainment agency. Click to see larger photo.

"The emphasis will be on branded entertainment and nontraditional brand communications," Mr. Trench said.

Mr. Prado said he was looking around for cool office space in a loft or even a church, but hit on renting the 46-foot yacht because the new agency will be doing some business-to-business work for the boat company.

'Playful nature'
"As we grow, the boat will become more inconvenient," Mr. Trench admitted, "but in the beginning, it represents the playful nature of The Lab."

Mr. Prado, 37, a Colombian, is one of the leading creative executives in the U.S. Hispanic market. He was creative development director at independent agency Zubi Advertising, Miami, until last week.

He and Mr. Trench, 39, originally from Argentina, met when he was associate creative director at Publicis Groupe's Bromley Communications in San Antonio and Mr. Trench was vice president of client services. Until last week Mr. Trench was managing director of Promofilm U.S., a production company that produces TV shows for Universal NBC's Spanish-language network Telemundo and English-language networks including Fox and VH1.

Home-improvement shows
At Promofilm, Mr. Trench created a branded entertainment division. His first project there was a home-improvement show created for Lowe's called Lo Dejo en Tus manos ("I Leave It in Your Hands") now running on Telemundo. The show features the unusual twist that the homeowner chooses one of six decorators to do the makeover -- but is unaware that some of the candidates are only pretending to be professional decorators. In another Promofilm project, a weekly Home Depot-backed home-improvement show starts on Telemundo in mid-February that will have a different theme each quarter, starting with Mi Primer Hogar ("My First Home") for first-time home buyers.

Mr. Trench was also involved in a zodiac-based dating show developed by Promofilm called 12 Corazones ("12 Hearts") in which couples find the right match through astrology. The show has been running since October on a local Los Angeles Spanish-language channel affiliated with Telemundo and is about to add an SMS platform and a viral interactive game, he said.

"It's a mix of entertainment, technology and branding," Mr. Trench said.

New sophistication
Spanish-language TV has a long history of often-clumsy product placement, from telenovelas to long-running weekly variety show Sabado Gigante, whose host Don Francisco even gets the audience singing advertising jingles. But interest has been growing in doing more sophisticated branded content as more Spanish-language programming is produced in the U.S. rather than imported, with the leading Spanish-language network, Univision, more open to the concept. New genres like home improvement and reality shows appear to offer new opportunities.

Mr. Trench said he can see The Lab going beyond tailoring TV shows to brands, with customized branded shows on radio and custom publishing, for example.

"Clients are very, very hungry for options," he said.

Not replaced at Zubi
Joe Zubi, chief operating officer of Zubi Advertising, said Mr. Prado's role as director of creative development would not be filled but that he is looking for an executive creative director to oversee the agency's 26-person creative department, including three creative directors.

Mr. Trench said The Lab may develop projects with others such as Promofilm and Zubi.

"I'm interested to see what their organic integration ideas are," Mr. Zubi said. "I'm a firm believer in outside-the-box media ideas. I'm always open to Hector and value his creative integrity."

One of The Lab's first projects will be launching barbecue products for a South African company that wants to tackle the U.S. through the Hispanic market, Mr. Prado said.

He said The Lab boat will mostly remain at anchor because it costs extra to actually sail it. But he said he looks forward to going out with a few creatives for several brainstorming days at sea.
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