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Coke has new deal in the can

Programming pact takes drink to shows

BUENOS AIRES — Hungry for revenue in a weak ad market and looking for fresh ways to promote their brands, Unilever and Coca-Cola are stepping up their role as producers of television programming in Argentina.

Coke has teamed up with Claxson, a media company backed by U.S.-based Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst and Venezuela’s Cisneros Group, to develop teen show “Sprite te ve” (Sprite Sees You).

The half-hour program, which airs four times a week on music cabler Much Music, was developed by Coca-Cola de Argentina “to get closer to the consumer,” says Guillermo Gimenez y Brotons, manager of flavored drinks and new products.

For the past two years, Coke has been beefing up its presence on TV programs, but not through the traditional product placement, he says. Coke prefers script placement and other methods that put its products into the context of a program.

Company worked with Pol-ka on the sitcom “Durmiendo con mi jefe” (Sleeping With the Boss), which aired on Artear. Set in an ad agency, series’ script featured the protagonists developing campaigns to launch a red-grapefruit version of Coke’s Quatro soft drink in Argentina.

Unilever de Argentina, a subsidiary of the Anglo-Dutch consumer products giant, is bankrolling five short films to air weekly in primetime on broadcaster Telefe, beginning Nov. 9.

The films, produced by Cuatro Cabezas and Wasabi Films, are part of a campaign to launch Unilever’s Sedal Pro-Color line of hair-coloring products.

Each of the shorts tells the story of a woman — played by thesps including Dolores Fonzi (“The Bottom of the Sea”) and Ines Estevez (“The Escape”) — with their hair dyed red with Sedal.

Unilever chose helmers including Paula Hernandez (“Inheritance”), Albertina Carri (“The Blonds”) and Ana Katz (“Musical Chairs”). The company’s ad agency, J. Walter Thompson Argentina, wrote the scripts.

“The idea is to create a richer experience for women than traditional advertising,” says Ricardo Martin, brand manager of Sedal.

He declined to say how much was being spent on the project.

The shorts are the latest example of the lively approaches advertisers are taking to market their brands. They demonstrate what broadcasters and producers are doing to rebuild their finances after last year’s 35% plunge in ad spending.

The ad slump and a 65% weakening in the peso against the U.S. dollar has limited production budgets, prompting companies to look for innovative ways to finance shows, says Hugo Imbrosciano, account director of media-buying firm Brand Connection. “One of the ways is to work closer with advertisers.”

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