NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Univision Communications is scrapping its lavish annual TV upfront presentation this year. Instead, the biggest Spanish-language TV network will go on the road with senior Univision executives and talent to host smaller forums in five cities, kicking off in Chicago on April 1 and finishing up in New York on April 30.
"It's appropriate for these times," said David Lawenda, president of advertising sales and marketing at Univision Communications.
Last May, Univision's glitzy upfront presentation for more than 700 people at Lincoln Center in New York kicked off with the cast of "In the Heights" performing the opening number from the hit Broadway musical, and the audience danced to three songs by Shakira at the end. (In 2007, Jennifer Lopez made a brief appearance, and her husband, Marc Anthony, did a live, three-song performance as the finale).
This year will be very different.
"Getting clients to fly to anything is very challenging," said Graciela Eleta, Univision's senior VP-brand solutions. "The fact that we're going to them is seen as a great effort on our part. And we're better able to customize for clients, and that's a big plus."
Univision's first "Partnership Forum" will be co-hosted with Starcom's multicultural media agency Tapestry in Chicago. The next stop is Los Angeles, where Univision's KMEX station will host a forum for about 300 advertisers and agency execs on April 7 at the Getty Center. Then Univision will go to Dallas, with a forum for up to 150 people on April 14, followed by a Miami event on April 21 at Univision's studios that will include a studio tour. About 300 people will be invited to the final Partnership Forum in New York on April 30.
'We'll get to more people'
"At the end of the day, we'll get to more people than with one event," Mr. Lawenda said. "And we know our partners appreciate us coming to them, and bringing a serious business message about helping marketers grow their business. Hispanic may be one of the only growth levers for marketers today."
Univision has already laid the groundwork. Mr. Lawenda created the brand-solutions team more than a year ago to visit marketers and help them tap the Hispanic market. The group includes Ms. Eleta, who previously headed No. 1 Hispanic advertiser Procter & Gamble's multicultural efforts as VP-multicultural development organization for North America.
"For global clients, the Hispanic market is much bigger than many countries where they have full operations," she said.
Some of the research Univision pulls out for clients who are still dubious about the Hispanic market highlights that U.S. Hispanics are less likely to be in debt or own a home than non-Hispanics, and are more likely to pay cash for bills and purchases. They are also more optimistic about the future, which influences purchasing decisions.
Univision's presentations also help new clients build the business case within their own companies to invest in Hispanic, Mr. Lawenda said.
"We're encouraged by new brands coming into health & beauty, food, casual dining and some quick-service restaurants," he said. General Mills, for instance, has gone from advertising two brands to 16 in two years.
Still a tough market
It's still a tough market. Nielsen Co. reported that spending on Hispanic broadcast TV fell 2.4% in 2008, although that was less than the 3.5% decline for English-language broadcast TV.
It's unclear what will be left of the Hispanic TV upfront, held during the English-language networks' TV upfront week, which will be the last week of May this year. The Hispanic portion has always been anchored by the blockbuster Univision presentation at Lincoln Center on Wednesday morning. NBC Universal-owned Telemundo, the No. 2 Spanish network, dropped its big upfront presentation last year and participated in the broader NBC Experience, which included a Telemundo Lounge. This year, Telemundo plans to hold a series of client-development meetings with advertisers and agencies this month in Miami. The network's sales team has already had preliminary discussions with advertisers about the upfront market.
A more regional approach started last year when the first Texas Hispanic Upfront was organized in San Antonio in May by SAVision, the Hispanic-marketing arm of the San Antonio chapter of the American Marketing Association.
Univision, Telemundo and the main Spanish-language cable channels did evening presentations after a small media expo. Diane Huth, who chairs SAVision, said the Texas Hispanic Upfront will be held every two years, with the next one planned for June 2010.