It created "It's Not What It Seems" with a local production outfit to provide new exposure for the roomy, family car. Airing weekly on a major network in October and November, the three-part series is about an architect trying to keep the secret of his brother and mother's shady past from his conventional wife when they come to stay, fresh out of prison. Throughout, characters drive the Mervia, taking sharp corners and packing and unpacking it.
"The series may not be cheap, but it is an effective way of showing the car in use," says Guillermo Muro, an account manager at Interpublic Group of Cos.' McCann-Erickson Argentina, who helped with the development of the program. "You can't do that in a 30-second commercial."
The series is the latest example of the innovative approaches that Argentina's largest marketers—many of them blue-chip multinationals—are taking to generate brand awareness in an increasingly cluttered media marketplace. Coca-Cola Co., Unilever and other companies are pressing their agencies to come up with new concepts to market their brands— or they are dreaming up the ideas themselves and bankrolling the production.
Marketers have long used product placement in Argentina. Yet the method, while a cheap and effective way of inserting products into programming, has become stale, says Guillermo Gimenez y Brotons, manager of flavored drinks and new products at Coca-Cola in Argentina.
"We are looking for fresh and lively ways to reach consumers," he says. To do this, Coke has turned to script placement and other methods that put its products into the context of a program that squares with the brand's message, says Gimenez y Brotons, thus minimizing or avoiding any viewer backlash.
Most recently, it worked with the producer of sitcom "Sleeping with My Boss" to write its Quatro soft drink into the teleplay. Set in an ad agency, the script involves the development of campaigns to launch a red-grapefruit version of Quatro.
Coke's latest venture, created in-house, is "Sprite Sees You." The half-hour program offers teens a platform for self-expression and airs four times a week on Much Music, a cable music channel. Its aim is to show off Sprite as in tune with the country's teen zeitgeist.
B'CASTERS ON BOARD
Broadcasters and production companies, suffering a weak ad market, are embracing the move by advertisers to create programming, unlike in the U.S. where many network honchos are still dragging their heels about client-supplied programming and product integration.
Argentina's economic collapse last year drove down ad spending by 35%. As a result, networks have had to look for creative ways to finance shows, according to Hugo Imbrosciano, account director of media-buying firm Brand Connection. With advertisers covering the costs, risk of a low return on ad sales is reduced for networks and producers if the show falls flat.
GM was one of the first to dive into TV programming. Last year, it cast the Chevrolet Astra as a protagonist in a four-part suspense drama "End Game." It also branded the endurance game show "The Chevrolet Challenge," on which 20 people vie to win a new Chevy pickup truck by keeping one hand on it for the longest.
"The idea is to not bore people," says Leandro Raposo, general creative director of WPP Group's J. Walter Thompson Argentina. "Any format that doesn't appear to be a copycat will catch people's attention."
Raposo recently worked with Unilever to write the scripts for five short TV films to promote its Sedal Pro-Color hair-coloring line, the marketer's second foray into TV programming. Each of the films tells the story of a woman with her hair dyed red with Sedal.
%%PULLQUOTE_LEFT%% In October, Unilever created "Lux Star, A Star Is Born," a weekly talent competition for actresses, to promote its Lux brand of soap. It is part of a wider campaign developed with JWT and media agency, Interpublic's Initiative Media, Buenos Aires. The aim is to transform the brand's image from a soap of the stars to one that "brings out the star in you," says brand manager Federico Rubinstein.
Rubinstein expects "Lux Star" will be more effective in achieving this goal than traditional ads, as the show provides steady exposure of the brand and associates it with the young star seekers.
While the push into programming is new for Unilever, Andrea Raggio, marketing director of the consumer products giant in Argentina, says the company would only continue if it remains fresh.
"The idea is to constantly generate new ideas to build brand awareness, not to repeat a show that could get tired," she says. "When it becomes more of the same thing, then we will change and do something different."