Scheduled for late October, Television Espanola is beginning a primetime weekly series, "Villarriba y Villabajo" (Upper Village and Lower Village), inspired by an ad campaign for Procter & Gamble Co.'s Fairy dishwashing detergent.
Believed to be the first in Europe based on advertising, the series of 26 hour-long shows on over-the-air network TVE-1 are co-produced by P&G and TVE.
Rafael Mazon, marketing services director, Procter & Gamble Espana, said the light drama is part of an effort to move beyond a traditional approach to advertising. "It has an additional benefit," he said. "[The story] evokes the advertising of the brand."
P&G is using the airtime it gets on the show, an unspecified number of minutes, to advertise its own products, likely including Fairy. The network is selling the remaining time to other advertisers but won't give out rates.
While the new series does not use characters or storylines from the campaign, it builds on the idea of a friendly rivalry between two fictional towns, the heart of a four-year-old campaign by Grey Advertising Espana, Madrid.
The four spots in :30 and :45 versions all take place in two neighboring villages, where those in the upper village always come out ahead because they use Fairy dishwashing liquid.
One spot, for instance, shows fiestas in the two towns. In both, townsfolk serve huge paellas to the revellers. But the upper village workers use Fairy to clean the paella pan and get to join in the celebrations quicker, while those in the lower village are stuck scrubbing their pan.
The ads have contributed to Fairy's steady growth here, Mr. Mazon said. Fairy was introduced here in 1982 and this year P&G said it became the leader in Spain's $15.4 million dishwashing detergent market.
It's not only the product that has proved successful. Although the scenarios are very specific to Spain, the locale can be universal. For about two years, direct translations or adaptations of the ads have run elsewhere including the U.K., Germany, Greece, Portugal, the Philippines and Egypt. Results have been mixed, depending on the time the product has been in each market. In the U.K., for example, Fairy is the market leader, said Mr. Mazon, while it has a lower share in Germany where the brand is only a year old.
In the upcoming TV show, the villages have become one, but are technically divided by a border between their autonomous regions, and are governed by different municipal regulations.
Everything physical in the center of the towns, such as the bar or the plaza, is divided by a line down the middle-with one side painted light blue and the other yellow to distinguish the sides. Services, such as the cemetery and fire department, are shared.
Integral to the plot is that there are different closing times on each side of the bar, so that at 10 p.m. everyone slides down to the other end. In another quirk, the only cemetery exists in the lower village so all deaths are officially recorded there: Technically no one dies in the upper village.
The idea for a TV series germinated with the director of one of the TV spots, Jose Luis Garcia Berlanga, the son of one of the great Spanish film directors, Luis Garcia Berlanga. The younger Mr. Berlanga alerted his father to the storyline. Known for a similar quality in his feature length films, Mr. Berlanga, with P&G's support presented a script outline to TVE.
The new series, like the campaign, sets a tone of rivalry in a colloquial and warm way, Mr. Mazon said.
Like the campaign, the series is designed to have wide appeal and could be expanded to other countries.
"We have very high expectations. We'll sell it where we can [although] it's still very early to talk about" concrete possibilities.