NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Every night in the opening credits of NBC Universal-owned Telemundo's new Spanish-language telenovela, shot in New York, the heroine Manuela zips through Times Square in her Toyota Venza past the landmark giant electronic billboard. Thanks to Toyota, the Jumbotron flashes a different message texted in by a Telemundo viewer.
The idea of embedding a daily advertiser-sponsored text in the opening sequence of a novela grew out of an evolving partnership in which TV networks are consulting much earlier with marketers and agencies about their needs in client-development meetings rather than just walking them through programming they are trying to sell ads around.
Inspired by the urban setting of "Mas Sabe El Diablo" ("The Devil Knows Best"), Toyota Hispanic shop Conill first thought about graffiti. Then the idea of writing tags morphed into the obsession with texting.
"How do you weave together texting, appearing on TV, being locked into the show and have Toyota be part of it?" said Peter Blacker, exec VP-digital media and emerging businesses at Telemundo Network Group.
It wasn't easy. In the novela area of Telemundo.com, surrounded by Toyota images, users are invited to "Send your message to the world" in a text of up to 38 characters. Each day, Telemundo sifts through the texts -- 5,000 arrived during the novela's first week -- and notifies the day's winner before rushing to modify the opening sequence with the new message.
"The earlier you formulate a strategy behind a launch, the easier it is to generate ideas with media partners," said Doug Frisbie, national media manager, Toyota Motor Sales. "Often sharing doesn't happen early enough."
His own personal favorite was the first night's opening message.
"You can't beat a marriage proposal," he said. (But a few days later, something came close: "Sebas, you're going to be a dad. Paula.")
Pablo Buffagni, Conill's senior VP-chief creative officer, said the changing, consumer-generated messages are a perfect fit with the just-launched Toyota Venza and the "You decide" theme of the Spanish-language ad campaign for the crossover vehicle that can be a car or an SUV.
Conill's integrated ads play on the way Spanish speakers from different countries use different words for the same thing, whether it's a soccer ball (balon, pelota, bola) or a car's sunroof (sonruf, quemacoco, techo corredizo), and conclude with: "You decide what to call it." On Toyota's Spanish-language site for Venza, users answer a series of questions asking which word they like to use for different car parts, ending with a request for their name and address, a clever registration device.
Mr. Blacker said the new messages will appear on the Jumbotron every day for the first month of the novela, and may reappear at intervals later in the novela, which will last about six months.
When they aren't watching the opening sequence, viewers are getting to know the Venza driver, Manuela, a feisty lawyer torn between Angel, the gorgeous criminal she defends and falls in love with, and her philandering but workaholic fiancé, Martin, whom she marries without realizing he is so busy because he secretly runs the crime ring Angel works for. Since this is a novela, the two men are not only rivals in crime and love but one will inevitably turn out to be the other's long-lost son.
There's no rate card for Toyota's integration into the heart of a novela, but pricing involves figuring out the costs incurred in production and editing texted messages into the opening sequence and how the concept is supported through a mix of different media elements, Mr. Blacker said.