With a diverse slate of entertainment projects, the Argentine ad agency is poised to create branded entertainment for its clients, which include Coca-Cola Co., DirecTV, and Renault, hoping their products and messages stand out in an increasingly muddled media marketplace.
It appears to be working. The shop's first effort, the television show "Asuntos Pendientes" (Pending Affairs), has gained a solid following since it started airing in a prime-time slot on second-ranked broadcaster Canal 13 last month.
The hour-long program takes a fresh look at solved crimes by bringing together culprit and victim to tell their versions, backed by documentary footage. They then meet face to face without moderators, presumably for the first time since the ordeal. It is the first time such a concept has aired in Argentina.
"We wanted to make a program that let the people involved say what they wanted to say without opinions from journalists or hosts," said Carlos Baccetti, VP of the Buenos Aires-based agency. "It is more interesting to hear what they have to say than opinions."
In one episode, the sisters of an alleged murderer and his victim went toe-to-toe. He was "incapable of murder," the sister of Alfredo Yabran, a Mafioso businessman, argued. Yabran committed suicide while on the run from the law for supposedly ordering the killing of a photojournalist in 1997. The sister of the photojournalist called Yabran "an assassin."
"In general, advertisers don't have a problem buying time on the program," said Diego Abadie, operations director of media-services shop Arena Media Communications, which is controlled by Havas' Media Planning Group. "There is a risk that some issues could be more sensational, but advertisers are buying as much time on the show as on the rest of the channel's programs."
"We want to use content to add value to brands," Baccetti told Madison + Vine. Its first program is also something the agency, 40% owned by Interpublic Group of Cos.' Lowe & Partners Worldwide, just wanted to do, he said.
"We are learning how to make television content [through the new Agulla & Baccetti Television unit] so that we understand the market and can develop content for advertisers," he said.
Some ideas may not be attractive to marketers, he said. But if there's a potential audience, A&B will develop them like it has done with "Pending Affairs," working with a production company and recouping costs by taking a share of ad time sold during the program, he said.
Coming out next from A&B is "El Once," a police comedy set in a busy Korean and Jewish neighborhood in Buenos Aires. It will air on leading broadcaster Telefe, a unit of Telefonica's Admira. The network is co-producing "El Once."
%%PULLQUOTE_LEFT%% Among other content, A&B is preparing a comedy along the lines of "Starsky & Hutch," a political spoof and radio programming. The cable channels Cartoon Network and HBO have asked for content, said Baccetti, adding that they plan to weave brands into a cartoon for a client.
Feature films will follow, he added. Already one idea is advancing, a drama starring Shakira. It will tell the story of a young pop artist who is being pushed and pulled by a manager who wants to mold her into somebody she doesn't want to be.
A&B does have some experience in entertainment. Ramiro Agulla, who runs the agency with Baccetti, has directed videos for Shakira and other Latin American pop stars.
A&B's move into content comes as marketers here increasingly turn to entertainment as a livelier way to boost brand recognition than traditional advertising. They see sitcoms and reality shows as a fresh and subtle means to provide steady exposure of their brands.
Last year, General Motors bankrolled a comedy starring its Chevrolet Meriva for the launch of the five-door family car. Unilever co-produced a reality show branded by its Lux line of soap, and Coca-Cola got its Quatro soft drink written into the script of a comedy set in an ad agency.