I love the title of this blog, but I can’t take credit. Our Leading the Change novela panelists – Director of Innovation at Televisa and 16-time novela Executive Producer Rosy Ocampo and her daughter Montse Gomez, who created the transmedia strategies for our 8PM novela Antes Muerta Que Lichita (I’d Rather be Dead than be Ordinary) – came up with it. It was in response to a challenge from University of Georgia Professor Carolina Acosta-Alzuru, also the moderator of our panel: what would you title the novela that focuses on marketer’s futures with the genre? (Some other contenders were Your Product and Novelas: Endless Love and The Affair that Never Grows Old.)
So, what is that “something” about novelas that make them Hispanic America’s – and the world’s – #1 genre? That’s what we got to the heart of during the discussion, and here’s what marketers should take away.
Novelas are about shared experiences. Simply put, novelas go beyond a format or a specific show. They are community. At Leading the Change, I told personal stories about watching nightly as a child over cafecito with my mom and neighbors in the Bronx. Gomez added how her university class spontaneously broke out singing a childhood novela theme song. In her words, “novelas marked a generation. They mark every generation.”
Novelas have universal appeal. As Professor Acosta-Alzuru said: “Nobody is immune.” It’s because novelas are about emotions and everyone understands emotions. It’s also because of smart storytelling techniques employed by Ocampo and other executive producers. Every novela has subplots designed to engage family members no matter the gender or age – a big reason the same title performs well in regions as diverse as Spain or the Middle East.
Novelas are the equivalent of producing 75 movies. That’s because every story is told in about 150 episodes. This beginning-middle-end format is not the only production element that sets this genre apart from the English-language soaps with which they are often confused. Novelas are told in weekday, primetime installments, often shot on location, and fuel the A-list star system across Latin and Hispanic America alike.
Everyone knows how the novela will end. But it’s the middle that gets viewers hooked. Professor Acosta-Alzuru called it the “long heartbreak – the obstacles, misunderstandings, lies, villians, etc.” All of that is what keeps fans watching and fuels the daily water cooler conversation.
Novelas and sports have more in common than you might think. There aren’t many other genres that have mass, live audiences. Ocampo made the connection: “You must watch today because tomorrow will be a whole other story, and nobody wants to be out of the loop. Novelas also provide a similar ‘break’ from reality that sports do.”
Novelas have the power to mobilize audiences. Professor Acosta-Alzuru told the story of a Venezuelan novela that made an impact when they introduced a storyline about a 35-year-old woman getting diagnosed with breast cancer. She moved from denial, to treatment, to recovery – while the number of women who got mammograms in the country increased. Ocampo added that brands have benefitted in the same way. In her popular novela Por Ella Soy Eva (Because of her I’m Eva), a major character was developed with Avon’s brand messaging in mind and woven across the storyline. Avon Mexico saw a significant lift in sales as a result. “We work in a personal way with brands because each has its own strategy, and we create tailor-made plots [for them],” shared Ocampo.