March 12, 2009

   As the economy goes from bad to worse and consumer sentiment continues to dip, it seems we all need a little bit of fun that will not break our already emaciated piggy banks. This is the case in our Latino communities as we struggle to balance our optimism and zest for life with the stress associated with increasing lay-offs and mounting debt. Latinos are giving it their best as they deal with these challenging times through hard work and through the inspiration and support of the family.

We are spending more time with our loved ones, including through affordable entertainment options such as film and television, and more specifically, the timeless Telenovela whose perfectly shaped form of escapism seems tailor made for today's social and economic climate. What better way to forget about the doldrums of our day to day than with the story of an ingénue of poor background who will surely move into the big opulent house, that is after a slew of trials and tribulations involving some slaps, highly charged physical and verbal exchanges, along with very dramatic acting and arching of the brows.

No matter how you feel about them -and I agree that we need more educational and engaging Latino content-  there's no denying that Telenovelas pretty much define U.S. Hispanic television. No other genre has captured the imagination of the Latino population in the U.S.  The most recent example of this came a couple of weeks ago when Univision's “Fuego en la Sangre,” beat all the major mainstream networks in the very sought after 18-49 target audience. And while Spanish dominant audiences naturally contributed a hefty proportion of the viewership, it is the pull with bicultural Latinas that really makes the genre a winner, providing Spanish language networks with much needed Mojo to weather this economy.

Telenovelas work because they deliver our culture in its most dense and exaggerated fashion, a recipe ready-made for those craving an idyllic representation of home, and for U.S. born Latinos looking for a dose of something tasty that reminds them of the uniqueness of their culture, no matter how exaggerated. In telenovelas, the Latino culture that we often need to put in the background at work and other settings comes to the forefront with its full dramatic force. It's the good, the bad and the ugly all in your face. There's a certain catharsis in that.

But above all telenovelas work well because it appeals to our culture and immigrant penchant for magical realism, drama, story telling and above everything else optimism. It's not coincidence that the rougher reality format has not picked up as well in our market. They don't deliver that dreamy quality we seem to want in at least hourly daily dosage. In telenovelas everything is possible and the protagonist will always surmount the toughest obstacles, hence the appeal to immigrants that are struggling to build their own American dream. Telenovelas provide that little lift, akin to coach rekindling a boxer's broken spirits during a fight.

Brand building and advertising is to some degree the art of persuasion so it would seem only fitting that we could learn a few lessons from telenovelas. Some of these lessons include the power of story telling and culture. Telenovelas like good branding also build an incremental and powerful relationship, where you're left wanting more. Brands should explore ways to calibrate these emotional crescendos in how you talk to your consumers. And no, don't think that I'm counseling for passionate kisses and dramatic dialogue as part of your brand DNA, I'm referring to instilling passion for your brand. This can be done in many ways, including a clear and powerful identification of your brand's values.

So before you, like I often do, fall into the criticism of how Telenovelas set our culture back, leave us uneducated, etc. make a list of the good things you feel such a powerful genre contributes to our culture, how would you improve on the genre while still making it commercially viable.  Let's look at this glass as half full. Isn't that part of what our optimistic mindset is all about? And with that in mind, also let me know how branding and novellas go together; are there any brands that you feel are perfect for a branded Telenovela? So get put on your Telenovela producer hat on and tell me what you think.

By Roberto Ramos, President + CEO, The Vox Collective

Comments

Bravo - there is power in the telenovela for us to learn in mainstream America. The art of culture and storytelling embody narrative, escalation and closure appealing to the inner emotions that we desire in a good novel, article or film. This isn't to say pandering is what we are after but instead, the simple act of celebration. A good example of advertising that meets this sense of telenovela escapism and good narrative is the Corona ad that takes you to the calm beach and the clink of the glass of a cold beer. This is what Corona delivers for you - a positive emotional experience that takes you away. The product is ever present without being overly conspicuous. This act transcends typical cpg ads of product shot 3 benefits product shot. I assure you there are more than three benefits of the beach shot! Regarding brands that would make a great branded telenovela - I think of Target. Target is luxurious, and affordable and fun. While value laden it is price accessible and the affiliation with designers of all types makes it aspirational. It's about more than price - it's about the way it looks. So one might invision the cinderella story turning from rags to riches when she shows up at the ball looking like all that and her evil madrina looks terrible even though she spent a ton more money - who ends up vindicated. Target has so many brands and line extensions that the opportunities are endless. So let's show mainstream tv that something can be learned from Hispanic telenovelas.

I completely agree with this thinking, since many people evade the issue of the novels without thinking that they define us in one way or another. We must have in mind that what target novel’s impact and why. I bet the majority are adult women and adolescents, but especially Hispanics. We have not asked, but many of these women are identified with some of the protagonists in the novel, and have led to their work every day. Novels is not a thing of the past but that has takes time in the media. The mark of a product may be associated with novel in some ways, first is identified with the consumers and with their specification product as well as a novel. The clear point is that a novel can identify with their characters and attributes life the customs of Latinos.

This is very true. The soap oprahs have a strong power over the Hispanic Culture. This is because they represent drama, history and dream reaching in a small world where everything is possible. It's where the shars beat all odds. This appeals our culture especially to the inmigrants because they want to reach the american dream and they see hope thru this type of media. True the soap oprahs they identify their cultures strong and close.Due to difficult economic situation the soap oprahs represent a way to entertain. Us a publicist we should take advantage an all of these facts to be able to reach targets. This target is one that let themself, go with there emotions and thats where we have to attack.

Hi Mr.Ramos! I strongly agree with this blog because "telenovelas" has captured most of the Hispanic audience and allow us to feel optimistic in pursuing the American Dream during this very hard times. I like watching "telenovelas" and as a way of entertainment has united my family. We spend time together and later talk about the different situations presented. Definitely, all thought sometimes exaggerated, I identify myself with the characters and enjoy them.

I totally agree with your opinion, soap really are part of the Latino culture, this is the case every year since they retain the language, customs, traditions, lifestyles, scenarios, experienced memories, which manage to attract and identify the Latin soap operas, have led the Latin refuge there because it may be the only way to have memories that allowed isolation of the bustle of their daily lives. Soap operas are a reflection of past situations that have some Latinos. These are the living example of what happens around the Latino society.

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