How Univision is Evolving Its U.S. Brand

by Carmina Balaguer  |  03.30.2017

With 60 years under its belt, the United States’ most-watched Spanish language network, Univision strives to “inform, entertain and empower Hispanic America and the growing young and diverse audiences that make up the American mainstream,” says Adrian Santucho, EVP, Univision Studios.

That mission is backed by carefully planned programming, such as the 2016 launch of Narcos on the channel in an unprecedented partnership with Netflix, and extends to other projects coming down the line.

Univision does not broadcast in Latin America, but it has a strategic partnership with Mexico’s Televisa that allows the network to leverage Televisa’s content in the U.S.. Both partners believe it is critically important “for Latinos to play a leading role in participating in and shaping the media industry in the United States,” says Santucho.

In January, Univision and Televisa expanded their relationship after the FCC relaxed its restrictions on foreign ownership of domestic broadcasters. Univision also is looking to return to the public sector this year after going private in 2007.

At Univision Communications Inc. Agency, the in-house agency that handles cross-channel promotions, Joni Fernandez, SVP of creative services, says the goal is “to create campaigns that reflect audiences’ experiences, where they will be inspired to consume our content in addition to empowering them with information.”

The channel’s campaign for Narcos is a perfect example of what the network is trying to accomplish.

Using ‘Narcos’ to Update Univision’s Identity

Fernandez describes the campaign as “a unique opportunity in which we integrated a new type of content that was different from what Univision had done in the past. Every promo spot is very distinct from every other spot, showcasing the story with different angles and creative approaches, all while keeping a suspenseful and dramatic tone and style.”

“Our team developed the campaign with a fresh and new approach, including art and design, music and audio and post-production,” as shown in the promo below, where gunshots are used to create a rhythmic sound that builds suspense.

The campaign focused on uncovering the contradictions of Pablo Escobar, “displaying the double standards and the cruel interplay between his words and his actions, in a world where values become blurred,” says Fernandez.

So much so that “what is morally objectionable begins to show traces of ‘liberation’ under the promise of working for the people, all while violence, murder and the violation of the most basic human rights are the true protagonists taking over the whole continent,” he says.

All of this is captured in the spot below. Overlapping voices cry out to “tell them no”—meaning “don’t accept drugs”—leaving viewers baffled but immersed. A voice-over finally declares: “Pablo Escobar, the other side of the story” confirming that this story will be told from a different point of view.

In the same piece, captions that read “what you did not know about the most feared criminal who stirred a continent” appear alongside a map of Latin America outlined in cocaine. This is swept away by the wind, just before revealing the figure of Pablo Escobar, implying that it would only take one exhalation for him to destroy an entire continent.

Looking Ahead to ‘El Chapo’ and More

In terms of upcoming projects, the network plans to launch El Chapo, a co-production by Netflix and Story House, Univision’s development and production arm, scheduled for 2017 on UniMás. The series tells the story of the life of Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán. Promotional pieces, such as the one below, show the image of Mexico’s revolutionary leader Emiliano Zapata fading away and evolving into the face of “El Chapo.”

Another new project is La Piloto (The Pilot), the first production from an alliance between Univision and W Studios that debuted in February on UniMás.

According to Fernandez, the release campaign focuses on “highlighting an empowered woman and how she manages to take control of her life while living in the two very separate worlds,” of airlines and drug trafficking.

Univision also collaborated with Televisa on El Hotel de los Secretos (The Hotel of Secrets), giving Univision access to production teams and talent in Mexico. This sharing of resources turned the series into “one of our largest and most successful campaign launches of 2016,” says Fernandez.

In 2017, Univision will increase its reality TV content with the new season of Pequeños Gigantes (Little Giants), a children’s contest produced by Univision studios, and the debut of La Reina de la Canción (The Queen of the Song), a multimedia musical talent competition.

Banking on Original, Digital Content

The network also is launching original projects to complement both existing productions and independent series. CNCO Evolution is a reality series about the group which won the musical competition La Banda and how they have dealt with sudden fame as they prepare for their first album release.

As for digital development, the group is committed to “be wherever our audience is, with quality offerings and content,” says Santucho. That is why exclusive platforms were created such as Univision NOW, allowing users to watch Univision and UniMás on their mobile devices wherever they are. This includes productions such as multi-platform news program Noticiero Univision, Edición Digital.

“The list of initiatives and efforts is long,” says Santucho, highlighting activities such as exclusive content created with actors Angelique Boyer and Sebastian Rullí for Hulu and and the fact that DirecTV Now will offer Univision content.

Another example is the #Telenovennials web series—broadcast on the short-form video platform Udisea—which is also available on YouTube, Univision.com and Univision apps.

Univision’s goals for the future are to “remain competitive while facing changes in the industry, given the large quantity of content and options that audiences have today,” says Santucho. Digital initiatives and collaborations with partners such as Netflix are important, “in addition to continuing to create content, that reflects the lifestyle and issues that our community is passionate about.”

RELATED: En Español: Cómo Univision está Desarrollando su Marca en Estados Unidos

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