As the first anniversary of mun2 Television approaches, the Telemundo cable spin-off aimed at 18-to-25-year-old Hispanics will turn more of its marketing over to representatives of its target audience.
Through a national internship program known as "u>mun2," teams of college students are handing out flyers or sending e-mails touting Hispanic-oriented events and, in many cases, then showing up at the gatherings themselves.
The program began this summer with teams in New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Dallas, San Antonio and Houston, according to mun2 marketing director Laura Dergal.
Brand-building through guerrilla marketing was the sole purpose of u>mun2 when the effort was launched, but it quickly delivered far more than its originator had hoped for.
"It's evolved from building ourselves in places where we didn't have resources to a situation where the participants contribute on multiple levels, from offering feedback on our shows to conducting casting calls for them," Dergal said.
For example, in Los Angeles this week, mun2's team or "u crew" will promote a network-produced town meeting on how young Latinos are portrayed on TV and films. The event will be taped for air next month as part of mun2's first-anniversary lineup.
The students determine the marketing game plan for each situation and carry it out, using network-provided materials and coordination with local event staff.
In two cases thus far, the teamwork has yielded more extensive programming segments. Street Hacker, a feature on several mun2 series, presents local activities and interviews in an edgy, off-kilter manner. Meanwhile, the Miami group created Mochileando
(Backpacking), a series about students traveling off the beaten trail on shoestring budgets that will run this fall.
Balance helps the teams carry out their mission. "In each market, we look for someone who has more experience in research, someone in programming, another person with a strong public relations background and so on," Dergal said. A board of college professors helps Dergal and her associates to select team members and prepare attendant marketing materials.
After working with different numbers this summer, each team this fall will consist of 10 students, who will inherit the marketing strategies developed by their predecessors.
"That first team will also serve as mentors to the next team," Dergal added. "We're putting
together a communications-support network that could help these students in the long run, whether in developing skills or landing jobs after they graduate."
For 20 hours per week at minimum, each student earns college credits. Collateral preparation and distribution is the project's only budget item. Network officials won't discuss costs, other than to say that they pale in comparison to the expense of running a mass-media campaign.
Besides event duties, each team conducts focus groups on aspects of Latino lifestyle, including the role of cable at home. At least 250 people are involved in each focus group, with the survey updated each semester.
Until now, the u crews have not worked with cable operators that carry mun2.
"Our first semester was a trial, so that if there were any glitches in the system, we wanted them out of the way before the process was available to affiliates," Dergal said.
With the program running smoothly — and with NBC now Telemundo's owner — affiliate involvement will happen in a small way this fall, and figures to grow substantially during 2003.
"If the operators want collateral distributed, or some questions put in the focus-group survey, the teams can do that," she added.
Ultimately, the u crews can also work with operators to help sell video-on-demand, interactive TV and other advanced cable services to Latinos.
"The way to bring those services into the home are through the most tech-savvy people anyway, and that's who they are," Dergal said. "They are very influential on the buying habits of their families and homes."