Hear That? Univision Experiments With Dynamic In-Show Audio Placements

You’ve heard of dynamic product placement. So, why not dynamic audio?

Spanish-language broadcaster Univision is experimenting with a new advanced TV product that dynamically swaps out the generic sounds in an episode and replaces them with a bit of branded audio.

T-Mobile is Univision’s first partner for the initiative, which debuted during the Monday night episode of prime-time telenovela “Rubi.” The show, which airs weekdays at 10 pm, reached roughly 3 million viewers during its premiere last week, according to Univision.

Univision plans to extend the placement to a second telenovela, “Ringo,” during the week of Feb. 17.

Every time a certain character’s phone rings in the show, viewers will hear the classic T-Mobile ringtone rather than the generic ringtone used during the original shoot.

At the same time the T-Mobile ringtone sounds, which will happen roughly 60 times during the two novelas in scenes where it makes sense, a little magenta T-Mobile logo will also appear in the bottom left of the screen to reinforce the association between the brand and the sound. A T-Mobile commercial will also run during the following break.

Normally, a brand might only get between seven and 10 product placements in a story arc, max. But Univision can up the ante with something as natural to the storyline as a phone ringing, which can happen multiple times in an episode.

Univision first floated the idea to T-Mobile, a longtime brand partner, at a meeting in Seattle last year before the upfronts, and T-Mobile was game to try it. T-Mobile has also worked with Univision to dynamically embed brand assets into contextually relevant scenes within a show.

“It was one of those eureka moments, like, why haven’t we done this before?” said Luis De La Parra, Univision’s SVP of partner solutions. “There’s a lot of competition in T-Mobile’s category, so they’re looking to do anything and everything they can to differentiate.”

But that doesn’t include doing something that could irritate or jar the viewer – or mess with the brand’s image.

Univision, for example, doesn’t play the ringtone every single time a phone rings; it’s only connected with one of the main characters. Univision also took pains to ensure that the character chosen is “brand safe,” aka, not one of the bad guys or villains of the show.

“The idea is to do this as authentically as possible, to weave it into the narrative where it makes sense, so it doesn’t feel forced,” De La Parra said. “We don’t want to be annoying, just a good reminder about the service.”

Univision will partner with Phoenix Marketing International to measure memorability, likability, awareness and purchase intent for the initiative.

Although in-show audio branding will likely only work for well-established brands that are already associated with familiar sounds, such as the T-Mobile ringtone, there are other ways to play around with dynamic audio.

For example, as more voice-command devices such as the Amazon Echo are embedded into shows, it may be possible to substitute existing snippets of audio with something more up to date.

“We know that not all brands are going to be keen on this sort of thing,” De La Parra said. “But for those that are, we see a lot of opportunity here."

"Rubi" airs weekdays at 10 p.m. on Univision.

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