Although Univision attacks the English-language broadcasters every year, the network had more ammunition and did a harder sell this year. And, rather than just preaching to the choir of committed Hispanic agency execs in the audience, the presentation was tailored to some of the Hispanic market newbies the network worked hard to draw to the event. Introducing its stars, Univision explained who they are and compared them to general market celebrities, and offered a tongue-in-cheek explanation of what a telenovela is.
Looking for swing spenders
"It's a smart strategy," said Isabella Sanchez, VP-managing director of Tapestry, Miami, Starcom's multicultural media unit. "This will be a hard year to get incremental dollars. So they're going after those who are definitely going to spend on English-language TV and convince them [to switch some dollars]."
And it certainly didn't alienate the hard-core Hispanic portion of the audience. Univision's presentation started with the cast of "In the Heights" performing the opening number from the hit Broadway musical set in New York City's very Dominican neighborhood Washington Heights, and ended with three sensuous songs by Shakira that the audience jumped up and danced to.
"I was shaking everything," said one Hispanic agency media exec.
Expecting growth in some areas
Although the general market is forecast to be flat, David Lawenda, Univision's president-advertising sales and marketing, said after the presentation that Univision is expecting to see growth this year in categories such as retail, package goods, food, beauty products and even financial services.
"We're definitely looking at up dollars," Mr. Lawenda said. "We'll top last year's upfront."
In one of the stranger moments of the presentation, Univision announced a makeover for the popular but dated-looking "Sabado Gigante" show -- started by Don Francisco in his native Chile back in 1962 and a staple on Univision for 22 years -- but wouldn't give details about the new and improved version to come.
"The most advertiser-friendly show gets friendlier," said one Univision exec. (That's hard to imagine. In a typical moment captured in a quick clip from "Sabado Gigante," Don Francisco clutches Ritz crackers and chants "Ritz. Ritz. Ritz.")
Executives stressed the network's growing efforts to work with advertisers in areas like branded content, where Univision has lagged other Spanish-language channels. "We're being more flexible with advertisers," said president-COO Ray Rodriguez.
Sports and beauty
One series that will air this year, the soccer-based reality show "El Juego Supremo" ("the supreme game"), was brought to Univision by Hispanic agency Vidal Partnership and its clients Nissan and Sprint. A beauty-contest reality show, "Nuestra Belleza Latina" ("Our Latin Beauty"), will return as a two-hour show rather than a single hour.
And Univision is looking for marketers for "Viva el Sueno" ("Live the Dream"), a singing competition to find the next Latin superstar from among a group of struggling unknown singers.
Besides looking for popular programming, Univision identified the most popular TV ads. The two winners, picked by viewers who voted for their favorite commercials at Univision.com, were a Ford Motor Co. spot by independent Zubi Advertising, Miami, and one for Procter & Gamble's Pampers by Conill, New York.
Telemundo hosts 'lounge'
The other two Spanish-language TV networks -- NBC Universal-owned Telemundo and Azteca America -- didn't do upfronts this year. Telemundo was included in Monday's NBC Experience, where there was a Telemundo Lounge for network executives, talent and clients to mingle, and Maria Celeste did her daily 5 p.m. show "Al Rojo Vivo" live from the Experience.
Telemundo also hosted a press conference where the network's execs, including new COO Jacqueline Hernandez, the former publisher of People en Espanol who joined Telemundo in late April, talked about a new approach featuring research-based insight and multiple platforms.
"At the core of this year's upfront strategy is our 'Concept Integration' model, where the advertiser and partner take center stage and play a key role in the original programming process," Ms. Hernandez said.