NEW YORK -- It's Miss Universe meets "The Apprentice." Marketers are stampeding into Spanish-language network Univision's reality show "Nuestra Belleza Latina" ("Our Latin Beauty").
Pageant contestants on 'Nuestra Belleza Latina' have to perform branded challenges similar to those on 'The Apprentice.'
A dozen finalists will be announced April 3 for the new weekly show that combines the Latino love of beauty pageants with specific "Apprentice"-like branded challenges for marketers Ford Motor Co., JC Penney, and L'Oreal's Maybelline New York and Garnier.
In mid-April, for example, contestants will go to Ford's Hispanic ad agency, Zubi Advertising, to pitch ideas for a Hispanic spot for the Ford Edge.
"A la 'The Apprentice,' they'll come to our office, be told about the vehicle, and come back and pitch ideas to us, and we'll judge them," said Joe Zubi, the agency's chief operating officer. "They'll need to show their creative side."
At the agency, there is no lack of volunteers to mentor the contestants, he said.
David Rodriguez, Ford's multicultural-marketing-communications manager, said when the contestants have to drive somewhere, they'll go in one of four new Ford Edge crossovers. "And we're part of the story line," he said, referring to the branded challenge.
A selling point for another sponsor is that Hispanic women are bigger consumers of every category of cosmetics than non-Hispanic women.
"A program like 'Nuestra Belleza Latina' lets us show products being used, and shows that they are appropriate for all different skin types," said Daniel Villarroel, director-multiethnic marketing for L'Or?al's Maybelline New York and Garnier brands. "We'll also have a branded challenge. They're going to have to come up with a theme for one of our display events at a retailer."
Mr. Villarroel said one of the company's Spanish-speaking makeup artists will introduce the challenge on the show. The contestants will compete in teams of three, with one acting as a creative director and the other two as models, he said.
The retail sponsor, JC Penney, is supplying the contestants' wardrobes and the furnishings for the Miami mansion where they will live during the show, said Manny Fernandez, JC Penney's multicultural-marketing director. Next month, the contestants will head to a JC Penney store in Miami for a challenge, perhaps involving the company's private-brand merchandise.
"It's not your run-of-the-mill Latin beauty pageant," Mr. Fernandez said. "And the Hispanic market doesn't have as many reality shows [as the general market]. There's an opportunity to be interactive."
Viewers impressed with the contestants' clothes can go to a JC Penney microsite, accessible through Univision's website, for a closer look at the merchandise and the chance to buy it.
Marketers say they have weekly calls with Univision execs and keep a close eye on their brands. And some are excited about being judges for their branded challenges.
"We've been working really closely with Univision, and I'm going down [to Miami] to approve the house and attend fittings," said Olivia Vela, JC Penney's multicultural programs marketing manager. JC Penney's Hispanic shop, Dieste Harmel & Partners, Dallas, is also involved.
The three marketers involved in challenges also will each get one 40-second branded recap, shot by Univision, that sums up the week's action.
Roberto Garcia, Cingular's executive director of Hispanic marketing, said he loved the mix of reality show and beauty pageant and immediately made Cingular's exclusive mobile sponsorship of the show part of the company's deal with Univision in the last TV upfront.
To promote the sponsorship, Cingular is shooting a spot this week with its Hispanic agency, WPP Group's Bravo, Miami, starring Univision personality Giselle Blondet, who will host the show, he said.
"We'll do text alerts to remind people to vote every week, and include highlights of the next episode," Mr. Garcia said. Cingular isn't doing a branded challenge, but branded "call to vote" banners will appear along the bottom of the screen each week, and Cingular will do an educational 30-second "How to Vote" vignette.
During the show, the contestants' fate will be determined by a combination of viewers' votes, judges and the contestants themselves, who will be able to save one of the contenders marked for elimination in each round. Univision will sign up the winner as an on-air personality, and the four sponsors are contributing cash and prizes.