It's Upfront's season and Hispanic television networks are ready to party. Univision will offer its 2011 upfront presentation at The New Amsterdam Theatre in the heart of Times Square on May 19th; Telemundo will throw a ball at The American Museum of Natural History on May 17th; and even the relatively smaller Discovery en Español will offer a breakfast at the elegant Four Seasons Restaurant on May 18th. But luring advertisers to buy airtime in Spanish TV didn't use to be that glamorous. As Eduardo Caballero, an industry veteran, tells it, back in the 70s, it used to be a matter of “putting a stack of papers in a binder and going to Cincinnati to talk to the people of Procter and Gamble about the Hispanic market, to St. Louis to talk to the people of Anheuser Busch, to Atlanta to talk to Coca-Cola. You had to make them understand the Hispanic consumer. Back then there were very few statistics.”
The US Census Bureau provided some of those statistics.The Hispanic population in the US grew from 14.6 million in 1980 to 22.4 million in 1990, and to 35.5 in 2000. The results for 2010 show more than 50.5 million Hispanics. In addition, starting in 1991, Nielsen began to measure Spanish TV viewers in Univision and Telemundo, and already in 1998, Univision's rating were already higher than some of the English TV networks.
The general market upfront season dates back to the early 1960s, when networks took over production of TV programming from advertisers. Gradually they adopted the format they have today: each network holds a presentation of their lineup to advertisers and media buyers and then offers a lavish party afterwards. But it wasn't until 1997 that Univision joined the upfront circuit and presented its programming line-up at what was then Tavern on the Green, in Central Park. The presentation, under the helm Chief Operating Officer, Henry Cisneros, featured a mariachi band and the soccer announcer Andrés Cantor, who offered a sample of his famous “goooooooaaal” scream to advertise the network's plans of broadcasting the World Cup in France in 1998. The effort paid off. According to Univision's reports of the time, the company's profits soared 124% in the following quarter.
Telemundo followed suit and held its first upfront in 1998, at the Sony Imax Theater in Lincoln Center. 1998 also marked Telemundo's sale to Sony Pictures Entertainment and Liberty Media, Telemundo's first array into “Spanglish,” with a program featuring Maria Conchita Alonso, and into English, by adding English subtitles to its most popular shows.
The industry kept evolving. The problem was that not everybody agreed on what being “Hispanic” meant, whether Latinos responded better to Spanish or English advertising, or if it even was a homogeneous population. This conundrum actually resulted in a greater variety of options. While Univision and Telemundo remain the giants of the industry, other networks have entered the field.
Azteca America entered the market in 2001 and achieved Nielsen's network status in 2006; also in 2001, Telemundo launched Mun2, catering to bilingual Latinos aged 18 to 34; SíTV (now Nuvo TV) was launched in 2004, as a bicultural, bilingual alternative, also catering to the same coveted demographic; Mega TV, from Florida, launched in 2006, and Veme in 2007. That's not even counting the general-market networks that launched Spanish versions of their channels such as Fox Sports en Español (1996, now Fox Deportes), ESPN Deportes (2001) and Discovery en Español (1998) among others. Last month Fox Hispanic Media (FHM) was created. In addition to the male-targeted Fox Deportes (formerly Fox Sports en Español) and the woman-targeted Utilísima, FHM comes to its upfront presentation in May with Nat Geo Mundo, a sister network of the National Geographic Channel and Nat Geo WILD. FHM seeks to capture advertising dollars in a more efficient way by offering advertisers a one-stop shop to target Hispanic men, women and families.
Rochelle Newman Carrasco, Chief Hispanic Marketing Strategist at Walton Isaacson, says, “It's a vibrant industry.There are the old guard network players, but both Univision and Telemundo are trying to respond to changing needs and demographics. Telemundo, in particular, is exciting to watch both at the broadcast level and their new social media initiatives.They're both working on progress. And then there are the mun2 and SiTV worlds, MTV3, etc. all geared to address the needs of the bilingual bicultural youth market and still finding their power in this space.”
As Spanish and Latino targeted networks proliferate, so do the opportunities to advertise in them, and another question persists: whether throwing a lavish party to announce your lineup pays off better than approaching potential clients in their own turf, in smaller meetings. Both Univision and Telemundo have tried the smaller meetings approach. In 2008, Telemundo's lineup was announced at NBC's upfront; and in the next two years it conducted meetings with clients across the nation, forgoing the upfronts altogether. Univision opted for the smaller meeting approach in 2009, only to rejoin the splurge upfront season last year.
There are those who never believed in the effectiveness of the big events. “The upfronts create an artificial emergency situation and the decisions made there can have a devastating effect. From the agency's point of view, they are ideal, because they freeze the base prices. But from the client's point of view, I would completely avoid them,” says Marcelo Salup, Chief Marketing Officer at DMG Solutions. Even more than smaller meetings, Salup favors to keep in touch often with the clients, “so I can find solutions to the immediate problems.”
Craig Geller, who in the 15 years he spent in Telemundo rose to Vice President of Advertising Sales, and who is now Senior Vice President of Advertising Sales at SíTV (now Nuvo TV), also favors what he calls Client Solutions meetings.In March nuvo TV met with 10 of their top key clients and agencies to offer them a preview of the line-up and of the network's rebranding. Geller and his team will also have a press conference in New York in May. “I really think that these one on one meetings are evidently more important, and if you do them right, I believe they are going to be the ones that'll capture the better share of the marketplace, from both, advertising revenue, and viewers stand point,” says Geller.Nuvo TV will launch in July and will be Nielsen rated in the 4th quarter of 2011.
UPFRONTS: GOOD OR BAD?
+A celebration and a sharing of vision and energy.
-Those who go are already buying Hispanic media.There are many other potential advertisers who don't know Hispanic markets and will skip the upfronts.
+Throwing a lavish party to announce a lineup may pay off better than approaching potential clients in their own turf.
-Create an artificial emergency situation and the decisions made there can have a devastating effect.
+Secure some inventory on a long term basis on the advertiser's terms.
-For the Agency they are ideal, because they freeze the base price. But that may not be beneficial to the client.
-Advertisers want more flexibility across platforms and on their own timing.
Last year, Fox Deportes conducted its first national “Upfront Tour.” Tom Maney, Senior Vice President of Advertising Sales, says, “We are always looking for ways to change the Upfront game and bring it to the next level; bringing something original and unexpected each time.” This year Fox Deportes will be back in New York. “We want to surprise our guests with an exciting presentation at a wellknown venue but can't give too much away in advance,” says Maney. The official announcement will come before April.
Ultimately, the Hispanic advertising industry is still nascent compared with the general market, and it keeps growing.Another factor likely to influence this year's upfronts is the recent trend of advertisers consolidating their media buying operations into general market or multicultural agencies And away from Hispanic shops. For instance, last year, Home Depot left The Vidal Partnership for The Richards Group and Burger King left Latin Works for CP&B (BK just left CP&B this month). As Caballero argues, general market advertisers and media buyers might also have different priorities. Those who go to the Spanish upfronts are already buying in those networks, and there are many other potential advertisers who don't know the Hispanic market and who will likely skip the Hispanic upfronts. “There is an extraordinary margin for growth in the Hispanic market, so it's very attractive. But how can they find it attractive if people don't know the industry? If they don't come to us, we have to go to them,” adds Caballero.
Still, the upfronts can be more than a fancy tool to sell air time. Newman Carrasco sees the large scale events for the industry as valuable. “There is a need for a celebration and a sharing of vision and energy and for all of us to remember what we are providing to consumers in terms of content and value. I think that should be a collective experience. An experience that the agency people can appreciate on one level and the clients that choose to come can appreciate on another.”
In addition to TV ads and product placements in programming, the networks offer multiple platforms for advertising revenue, such as mobile apps, web content and radio.News about these platforms are also unveiled during the upfronts. But the trend might be shifting. Clear Channel Communications started its own version of upfronts last year, meeting with advertisers and agencies in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York.
Last year, and in smaller in scale and glitz factor, was the first Mobile Upfront at the Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts in Lower Manhattan. This year it will be held at the Edison Ballroom. But instead of entertainment, it will feature day-long seminars on content, targeting, technology and, according to their website, “most importantly, Monetization.” When asked if there were any Hispanic companies or even Latino themed apps last year or projected for this year, Paran Johar, Chief Marketing Officer of the event, reported that he “didn't have any demand for it last year or this year in mobile advertising.