EXCLUSIVE: Univision Revs Up Brand Integration With GM

Primetime novela 'Eva Luna,' which debuts Monday, weaves no fewer than three vehicles into its story lines.

Univision Communications is seeking to take brand integration to another level with primetime novela "Eva Luna," which launches on its Univision network Monday and weaves no fewer than three General Motors vehicles into its story lines.

The first primetime drama of the Spanish-language media giant's Univision Studios, produced in cooperation with Venevision International, "Eva Luna" also features Domino's Pizza and T-Mobile as brand integration partners, with all partners getting exposure on TV and online.

Univision has a long tradition of product integrations on such shows as Saturday night variety flagship "Sabado Gigante," and it has vowed to do more of them and in new ways since launching its own production arm late last year.

It also eyes new integration opportunities as part of its recently expanded content deal and investment arrangement with Mexican media powerhouse Grupo Televisa, particularly as more marketers are looking to beef up their outreach to the growing Hispanic population in the U.S.

The GM arrangement for "Eva Luna" may be a sign of things to come as it treats vehicles like characters and provides a two-way integration of sorts.

On the show, Latin movie star Blanca Soto's protagonist Eva ends up working at an L.A. advertising agency and wins the Buick Regal account, and her team then creates a commercial for it. The spot, the first Spanish-language TV ad for the GM vehicle, will not only be part of the show, it will regularly air on Univision and sister networks TeleFutura and Galavision.

Two other GM vehicle brands, both Chevrolets, also will be featured and get distinct personalities. The Chevy Cruze will make appearances in key scenes of the love story between Eva and Daniel (novela heartthrob Guy Ecker), while the Chevy Traverse will play the role of a trusted companion helping Daniel and those closest to him at key moments.

"The breadth and depth of this partnership make it unique," said David Lawenda, Univision Communications president of ad sales & marketing. "We have just set a benchmark for what we can do in terms of integration in a primetime dramatic production ... We worked with [GM] to really weave their vehicles into the storyline as key characters with vivid roles and distinct personalities."

The GM executive in charge also highlighted that while the car giant has bought ads and done integrations with Univision before, this deal has broken new ground.

"We have never done anything to this extent and depth," said Steve Tihanyi, general director, branded entertainment & marketing alliances at GM. "This is really a big step forward for us in terms of the [ever-growing] Hispanic audience and really connecting."


As part of that, GM also will be the exclusive auto sponsor of the "Eva Luna" site on www.univision.com and present the series' Moment of the Week there.

Said Tihanyi: "We wanted to elevate [this] to a whole new level of integration, way beyond product placement."

As part of that, local dealers also will run promotions that play off what happens on the show, he said.

The companies aren't disclosing financial aspects of the arrangement.

As far as other brands on "Eva Luna," Domino's will be integrated into the series and sponsor preshow teasers, reminding viewers to order their pizza in time for the show.

T-Mobile USA will get brand vignettes during key moments of the novela and showcase new mobile devices within the novela. Current subscribers also can get exclusive show content on their handsets.

There's a fourth undisclosed integrated sponsor for the show.

To further improve brands' ability to reach a broad audience, full episodes of "Eva Luna" will be available online the day after they air on TV.

Univision said the creatives on the series and the brand partners are focused on ensuring all integrations seem natural. "You do have to respect the creative process," GM's Tihanyi echoed. "But we do pay attention to such things as someone getting into the car without putting the seat belt on ... or someone getting in to drink."

"Eva Luna" is a love story revolving around U.S. immigrant Eva Gonzalez. "However, little does Eva know that in order to find happiness, she will first have to suffer tremendous loss as her life is intertwined with dark family secrets, lies, deception and the unstoppable ambition of one family," the network said in announcing the series.

Lawenda said he is bullish on "Eva Luna," creatively and financially. "The show is extremely well sold to advertisers," he said. "The [GM deal] is a game changer. And you can count on us to offer many, many more opportunities for our marketing partners in primetime in the future."

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