A new telenovela starring the People Meter

If you thought Univision and Telemundo were the only ones in the business of giving Latinos their much-needed dose of drama, think again. In an effort to explain Latinos what the hell it is that it does, The Nielsen Company this summer debuted a “telenovela” in Humboldt Park, Illinois.According to a July 30 statement, The Nielsen Company’s telenovela is “an innovative approach to demonstrating and informing consumers about the Nielsen Local People Meter technology.” The marketing gimmick –which debuted this summer at the Fiestas Puertorriqueñas– is the creation of FCG Latino, which opted for this “fresh approach” to inform consumers about what Nielsen does and how sample households are randomly selected.

But don’t get too excited: what Nielsen calls a telenovela is simply a 20 x 20 outdoor booth were local actors perform, playing the role of a Latino household receiving the visit from a Nielsen representative. Alas, no zorro-style fighting, nor juicy threesomes! I wonder what type of ratings that thing will get…

Welcome! … are you a U.S. citizen?


As a freelance writer for Crain’s Advertising Age, I have to visit their building every now and then. The publishing house occupies a couple of floors in a big building on 711 Third Avenue and, as it often is the case in many office buildings, visitors are expected to fill out a visitor’s book with basic information such as name, time in, person you are visiting, time out, etc.

Nothing wrong with that, except during my last visit I noticed the visitor’s book had a new field that had been dutifully filled in by previous visitors: “Are you a citizen of the United States?” That was a first (and I’ve lived in this country for over 9 years now). Of course, I found that very amusing, and wrote a big “NO” in the corresponding column. I was also proud to see I was the first “NO” of the day. Apparently, everyone before me was either a proud American or a dangerous foreigner trying to sneak in.

Curious, I asked the editors why such information was required, and received the most sensible, honest answer anyone could have expected:

“We got that thing at Staples … we had no idea about that!”

Menos mal!

Quotable quotes for the weekend….

“Jerry sold, collected his money and is having fun.”

Univision CEO Joe Uva on whether Jerry Perenchio is at all involved in the network’s operation. (The Hollywood Reporter)

“You will not have 20 Home Depots and 20 Wal-Marts.”

Cuban exile Jorge Piñón on what U.S. executives should not expect when Cuba opens up for business (i.e. when Castro goes kaput). Mr. Piñón is a former BP executive and co-founder of Cuba Business Roundtable a Miami-based organization that provides U.S. businesses with information “they will need should America end its now 46-year-old embargo against the Castro regime.” (Forbes.com)

Good lord! the iPod finds Jesus in Mexico

Want to sell stuff in Mexico? Reach out to Jesus Christ.

That is exactly what computer retailer Compumac did to pitch its MacMerchandise in Queretaro, one of Mexico’s most pious cities: an image of Jesus wearing the ubiquitous white earphones begs: “Father forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing,” presumably referring to those buying non-authorized stuff. “Buy your iPod from an authorized retailer.”


Is there anything sacred? … Jesus!

(photo: Reforma.com)

Air France taps a ‘commie’ to pitch first-class service


Lucky travelers between Mexico City and Paris on Air France flights can now chose from a succulent menu that includes chicken breast in white pipián sauce, chicken supreme stuffed with almonds and sesame seeds in an olive and capers sauce a la Mexicana, or lightly-spiced Chipotle meatballs… All this, while they sit back and enjoy Julie Taimor’s several-hours-long movie Frida on their in-flight entertainment systems.

The treat is part of Air France’s “las fiestas de Frida,” a marketing initiative that kicked off earlier this month and will run through September 30.

Oh… I forgot a petit detail: the special Frida treatment –launched to celebrate the centenary of an artist whose ideals were mostly on the left of the political spectrum– is reserved for First Class passengers only.

¡Wonderful enchiladas!

Macy’s apologizes for racist T-Shirt


Here’s a good one. Macy’s department this week said it will no longer sell a T-shirt that turned out to offend the same people it was intended to please: Latino shoppers.

Such offending T-shirt, which sold for $24.95, reads “Brown is the New White,” which was deemed just too much for Latinos to take. In a statement, the company did not mention such an item by its name but said “We apologize if customers have found some of the merchandise offensive and have removed the style that they found objectionable.”

Macy’s may have pulled the “objectionable” T-Shirt but the controversy goes on at a dedicated FoxNews blog with Latinos seriously divided over the issue: while some are calling on a general Macy’s boycott, others claim the T-Shirt is actually pretty cool (and don’t get them started on Black Power-labeled clothing.)

As for myself, I’m still stunned… $24.95 for a crummy Made-in-El Salvador T-Shirt? you gotta be kidding me!

Disney targets smelly little Latinos


You know how smelly children can get –especially if they are Hispanic. But thankfully there are marketers out there who never stop working to bring us the best of their market research translated into products we didn’t know we needed so bad.

So now, and after what seems to be yet another research breakthrough, Disney is launching Pirates of the Caribbean and Buzz Lightyear fragrances, targeting –who else?– Latino boys ages 4-11.

According to Brandweek, the new Disney fragrances will retail between $9.95 and $19.95 and will hit the shelves by September (mmm, just in time for Hispanic Heritage Month). And as it happens so often with these product launches, they are expected to fill an untapped market with “huge potential.” Or, as a Disney executive herself put it: “U.S. males are slower to get into the men’s fragrance arena than European, Latin [sic] and South American men.”

I don’t know about you, but I still remember the smell of my male companions in my Mexico City elementary school: a delicious blend of chalk, pencils, sweat and Pan Bimbo sandwiches. I am not sure my childhood memories would be as strong had they worn a Disney fragrance.

Arizona immigrants snub the Super Bowl

It’s only 198 days until AZ Super Bowl XLII, so if you are already working on your travel arrangements to visit the Grand Canyon State, be prepared to make your bed at the hotel and clean your table at the restaurant: A group of Arizona Hispanic immigrants is planning a major worker walkout and a complete financial boycott of Arizona businesses during the week of the 2008 NFL Super Bowl this February.The group, Inmigrantes sin fronteras, says the boycott is in response to the passage of anti-Hispanic legislation in Arizona by the Governor and Legislature of Arizona. This includes severe sanctions to local businesses found to hire undocumented workers.

The Super Bowl walkout is only one among other measures taken up by the organization, which is asking Arizona immigrants to abstain from practically buying anything. Claiming anti-immigrant legislators in the state are committing economic suicide, the organization is asking undocumented immigrants in Arizona (which number 500,000) not to spend any money except, of course, on essentials: tortillas, frijoles y arroz.

What about guacamole?

Hispanic marketing 101: what do to with “Chi-chis”

Hormel Foods has enrolled a bunch of marketing students from Chicago’s DePaul University to help find answers in how to market to Hispanic consumers.

According to –who else?– Pork News, 12 DePaul students were enlisted to analyze a dozen of Hormel brands that are not currently active in the Hispanic market and identify “growth opportunities.” This, of course, to give the kids a chance to prove their marketing skills. “We easily could have assigned this project to an established research company, but we wanted to see what these promising students could discover,” a Hormel executive said in a statement.

I have no idea what these kids came up with, but I can only hope they could talk the company into reconsidering the name of one of its most popular “ethnic” salsas: Chi-chi’s. Or, at the very least, recommend a more spicy –and suitable– pitch to make the most out of such a kinky brand. How about a celebrity spokesperson? (think Lorena Herrera, Verónica Castro or La Tetanic) And don’t worry if they are not real; the salsas are also pretty fake.

(And in case you don’t know what Chichis are, you can always click here).

I just write the stuff, don’t expect me to watch it

Ever wondered why Telemundo telenovelas have such a hard time beating those of Univision? For starters, Univision’s fare is mostly comprised by novelas imported directly from the mero-mero del drama, the so-called dream factory, her highness Grupo Televisa. But there’s also Telemundo’s insistence on producing its own shows, or as the network’s president likes to say (quite often) to control its own destiny.It was with this in mind that the NBC-owned network launched Taller Telemundo, a six-month program in partnership with Loyola Marymount University to “inspire, discover, recruit and train the next generation of fiction writers.”

Well, this week the workshop graduated its Class of 2007, a group of eight lucky hopeful writers. Among them, according to a story in Los Angeles Times, is Liliana Hung (right), a 35-year old Colombia-born mortgage banker who was selected from 1,500 applicants from around the world to write a 10-page telenovela script. Graduation doesn’t guarantee Liliana a writing gig at Telemundo, but her chances are obviously greater than the rest of us. Funnily enough, and as my friend from Clemenseando smartly pointed out, Hung admits to not watching a lot of Spanish-language television.

In fact, she says her favorite TV shows are Law and Order and Nip/Tuck. She grew up reading Mark Twain and watching M*A*S*H and The Streets of San Francisco.

Ay dios! I cannot wait to see what a Hung-authored telenovela will be all about.

At last! market research that makes sense


I never thought I would ever be thankful to a market research firm, but this time I am … truly. So, thank you, E-Poll Market Research for giving curvy Latinas in our late (very late) 30s something to live for.

According to research released this week by the Encino, Calif.-based polling firm, Hollywood’s 15 sexiest celebrities are all curvy (very curvy) and over 36.

And, perhaps not surprisingly, topping the list is 40-year-old pregnant Mexican beauty Salma Hayek. (Truth be told, the average age was severely loaded given the fact that Raquel Welch was also among the top 15).

The polling company provides so-called “appeal rankings” for more than 3,000 celebrities (both men and women), and the results showed 65% of the U.S. population would use the term “sexy” to describe Salma, beating out Beyonce, Pamela Anderson, Hally Berry and other not-so-young beauties.

See? Maybe we’ll never be able to beat Brazil or Argentina in a soccer competition, but when it comes to beating anorexic white celebrities, Mexicans are a class of their own. And don’t get me started on the multimillionaires (Slim vs. Gates).

¡Sí se puede! ¡Sí se puede!

Mexican food for the uninitiated


Funny things happen to Mexican food when it has to be explained to “unacculturated” gringos. And I can only applaud the creativity (I would even say, the poetry) behind some of those efforts.

The owners of Santa Fe restaurant in tiny Tarrytown, NY, pitch their eatery as the only place in town serving “authentic Mexican food” (i.e. no burritos, chili con carne and your Taco Bell-type fare). But serving the real thing has its challenges, especially when you have to deal with an overwhelmingly white crowd.

The owners of Santa Fe found a way around it and left things in a nondescript manner for the uninitiated: cochinita pibil becomes “Mayan Barbecue,” in the English-language portion of the menu, while menudo is merely described as a “delicious Mexican spicy soup” (no word on the tripes.)

After all, if you want to try the real thing you’d better be ready to venture into grasshopper territory. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck with the usual tasteless Tex-Mex food, such as the one served at The Alamo (in the picture) whose owners at least have a sense of humor … and history! (Click on the picture to read the restaurant’s slogan)

P&G’s next marketing frontier: “la tiendita”


Procter & Gamble has a big problem in Mexico: poor people and their insistence on buying things in small packets and in little tienditas –those small stores that refuse to disappear despite Wal-Mart’s best efforts.

An article in today’s Wall Street Journal tells us the story of Martina Perez, who makes 120 pesos a day ($11) sewing by hand, and who instead of buying a full-size bottle of Head & Shoulders shampoo, settles for a 0.34 ounce single-use packet which cost about 19 cents. (What is it with poor people and their shopping habits?)

But worry no more. According to the article, P&G has an army of marketing experts and researches who have spent the last 6 years working on how to deal with the popularity of over 600,000 tienditas, or as P&G likes to refer to them: “high-frequency stores.”

The result is a series of amusing marketing techniques that the consumer products giant is employing to stay ahead of the curve and convert elusive store owners:

– Lobbying for better shelf space: company personnel regularly visit the tienditas and offer to tidy the shelves

– The launch of specialized business magazine Tu negocio (Your business) targeting store owners (will they also teach them how to read? I wonder)

– Offer them management tips, such as how to calculate their profit margins

– Employ “reverse engineering” techniques: rather than create an item and then assign a price to it, P&G first consumers what consumers can afford and my personal favorite:

– Populate the ceilings: following a technique that P&G says has been a tremendous success in Asia, the idea is to have the most hanging products from the ceilings. Dangling items, “research shows” can catch shoppers attention more than products sitting on the shelves. “The ceiling is still a virgin location,” said a P&G executive.

Got pesos? Go shopping in Texas


Got some cash left over from your last Spring break in Cancún? Go shopping in Dallas! they will happily take your pesos.

Only a few months after Pizza Patrón announced it would accept Mexican pesos as payment, another Dallas-based retailer has followed suit. Value Giant is now taking pesos as payment in all of its stores and to kick off the promotion, this weekend launched a promotional event in one of its stores to introduce the new policy, according to a local Fox affiliate.

Maybe my fellow Mexicans will want to reconsider all the trouble they go through to get here and earn those coveted greens: why bother, I mean, if they can now get their pizzas and their groceries in pesos.

Ah, the wonders of globalization!

‘La fea más bella’ a plot to overthrow Fidel Castro?


Don’t pity the Cubans too much. It turns out a lot of them (and I’m talking about the ones living in the island) are just as “lucky” as the rest of us: they tuned in for the grand finale of La fea más bella; watch their sports on ESPN; their music videos on VH1 and even tune into Univision’s nightly noticiero for a “fair and balance” news coverage.

An article this week in the Christian Science Monitor follows several Cubans in Havana who own satellite TV services (which are banned in the country) paying sometimes as much as $20 for a service that can get them into jail.

In the article the Cuban government states that it has stepped up efforts to crack down on these service providers, but almost 40 percent of households in Havana were connected to the service when the police began the raids in March.

Asked about a media report in which the Cuban government said satellite TV is a U.S. plot to overthrow Fidel Castro, a researcher at the University of Havana simply said that was an overreaction. “Watching La fea más bella is not an act of opposition against the state. It is not a political attitude. It is a phenomenon of free time.”