Here's a Word You Don't Hear Much in '09: Growth

Road to the Upfront: Univision

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NEW YORK ( -- Univision is hoping its message "Still growing!" will stand out in a U.S. ad market still mired in recession.

David Lawenda, Univision's president-ad sales and marketing, speaks at a Univision 'Partnership Forum.'
David Lawenda, Univision's president-ad sales and marketing, speaks at a Univision 'Partnership Forum.'
At a comparatively modest presentation for about 300 people in New York yesterday, Univision Communications wrapped up a five-city tour that replaced the lavish upfront presentation the Spanish-language network has done in previous years with smaller "Partnership Forums" that agencies and advertisers could attend locally.

In a significant shift, there were more attendees in New York from the English-language market than Univision has drawn in the past, as the network continues to reach out to advertisers without much experience in the U.S. Hispanic market or Spanish-language media. Earlier in the day, Univision hosted a Hispanic immersion tour in New Jersey for a dozen executives at Kraft, none of whom were Hispanic.

Lisa McCarthy, a former Viacom sales exec who joined Univision last year as exec VP-client development and partnership marketing, said senior planners from many of the big media agencies attended the New York presentation. And Univision clearly took into account that there were gringos in the audience, along with two of the partners from the group of private-equity investors who acquired Univision in 2007 for more than $10 billion.

Ray Rodriguez, Univision's president and chief operating officer, explained Hispanics' unique fascination with blockbuster novelas by comparing them to the reaction a drama on English-language TV starring Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Aniston and set on the Titanic would elicit.

Growing audience
David Lawenda, Univision's president-ad sales and marketing, said, "We want to start with a word you hardly hear any more: growth." He said Hispanics account for more than one-half of U.S. population growth and, in New York, comprise 26% of young adults and one-third of all mothers. He said 77% of Hispanics speak Spanish at home, and that Univision's audience is still growing, ranking No. 4 in ratings and ahead of CBS among adults ages 18 to 34.

The audience applauded when he said 46% of ticket sales on the opening weekend of the movie "Fast & Furious" were to Hispanics.

In past years, attendees at Univision's upfront were treated to live performances by stars such as Shakira and Marc Anthony and the casts of Broadway shows. This year, Univision sports-show host Fernando Fiori bounced a soccer ball off his head a few times as he talked about Univision's 2010 World Cup coverage, and Melissa Marty, the winner of Univision's reality beauty contest "Nuestra Belleza Latina," appeared in a short, tight dress and described growing up in a Puerto Rican household where everyone gathered to watch "Sabado Gigante" on Univision on Saturday nights.

Univision has been delighted at the attention the network has received from President Barack Obama. News anchor Maria Elena Salinas described how the new president has already called on Univision reporters at two separate press conferences, talked about the Premio Lo Nuestro awards show and even learned to pronounce Univision's name with a Spanish accent.

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