NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- It all started as a carefully scripted branded-entertainment project last year with the premise that three aspiring Mexican musicians met at a casting call for a State Farm Insurance commercial and formed a band called Los Felinos with the insurance company's support.
Now State Farm is sending the band out into the real world, or at least the world of reality TV, backing an eight-episode show that traces their story from novice band to somewhat seasoned performers overcoming challenges along the road from Miami to Los Angeles.
The docu-reality show "La Banda Del Pueblo" ("The People's Band") is being filmed now by State Farm's U.S. Hispanic agency, Alma DDB, and Fire Advertainment, a branded-entertainment company. The show will make its debut Sept. 13 on NBC Universal-owned Spanish-language network Telemundo.
But first the band of six itinerant musicians -- which started as a trio of cheerful amateurs: a former gardener, a construction worker and a mariachi singer -- are being spruced up.
"They're going through an image revamp," said Luis Miguel Messianu, president-chief creative officer of Alma DDB. "They'll be more professional, more sophisticated. Maybe a couple of them will lose some weight."
The makeover includes getting viewers to vote on a new Spanish-language name for the band. The poll is promoted on Telemundo and its websites and opened today with three choices for a new band name: La Banda Que Va (The Band That Goes), Los Validosos (Courageous Ones) and Conjunto Raza Poderosa (Mighty Ones).
'Like "Rocky," but in Spanish'
The show's first episode will recap the band's history, which Fire Advertainment's U.S. CEO and creative director, Christian Reslen, has been filming since that first State Farm commercial last year. Toward the end, a State Farm exec will introduce the band to a well-known Hispanic singer, who will help them succeed in the music business if they overcome 10 challenges as they cross the country, culminating in a concert in Los Angeles for the final show.
"It's funny, it's sad. It's like 'Rocky,' but in Spanish. And with Mexican music," Mr. Reslen said. In the second episode, for instance, the band members descend on a Miami radio station they hope will give their songs airtime.
"We said, 'We're going to help you, but the people you're going to meet are real. You have to convince the DJ to play your music,'" Mr. Reslen said.
Last year the original Los Felinos branded-entertainment project was named to Advertising Age's Marketing 50, an honor given to the 50 best marketing ideas each year.
A survey by State Farm found that U.S. Hispanics made the connection between the company and its support for the fledgling brand pursuing its own American dream, reinforcing the brand in a way traditional advertising wouldn't, Mr. Messianu said. In a major Hispanic initiative, State Farm has become Alma DDB's biggest client.
On the TV show, a State Farm agent will appear in an episode, and the soundtrack will be the song Los Felinos first sang, called "Ahi Estoy" ("I'm There"), the State Farm tagline.
"It has to be subtle," he said.
Besides airing on Telemundo, La Banda del Pueblo will be rebroadcast each week on Mun2, Telemundo's edgier cable channel aimed at young, bicultural, bilingual Hispanics. Extra scenes are being shot with the idea of possibly tweaking the show when it airs on cable to better target the more acculturated Mun2 audience.