The two major Spanish-language television networks are introducing telenovel-ads, product placement inside their extremely popular bodice-rippers like Telemundo’s “Mi Corazón Insiste.”

But the marketing comes with a twist, the New York Times reports:

While the idea of product placement, or as marketers prefer to call it, branded entertainment, is far from new, the campaigns are becoming increasingly sophisticated with elements that take the products from the telenovela to the Web and mobile devices.

In the Corazón campaign, viewers can watch what the network is calling “webvelas” featuring parallel story lines of original content starring Carlos Ferro, playing Camilo Andrade, and Cynthia Olavarría, playing Sofia Palacios. The mini-Web series, which will be called “Y Vuelvo a Ti,” features the characters doing things like paying for a meal using a Chase debit card or using a Chase ATM.

Now that’s entertainment!

[Point of clarification: Some would say – and by some we mean us – that this doesn’t qualify as branded entertainment. Branded entertainment is when the marketer actually produces the content; product integration is when you work the product into the storyline; product placement is when it’s just there. This Chase tie-in feels like product integration.]

Whatever you call them, these product tie-ins are becoming more elaborate and increasingly multimedia. According to the Times piece, “[v]iewers can visit a Chase microsite for the show, follow the series on Facebook, watch it on their mobile phones and get text messages prompting them to tune in to the show or to go online.”

There are also music downloads, contests for behind-the-scenes tours, and etc. A Telemundo exec calls the strategy “organic, but pervasive.”

Translation: It used to be that programming was a vehicle for ads. Now it’s the other way around.

John R. Carroll is media analyst for NPR's Here & Now and senior news analyst for WBUR in Boston. He also writes at Campaign Outsider and It's Good to Live in a Two-Daily Town.
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