TV or not TV: Making the most of your marketing dollars in Brazil

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Popular among young and old Brazilians alike, watching telenovelas ranks as one Brazil’s favorite national pastimes, up there with samba and football. Some of the most successful of these TV soap operas have gathered prime time audiences of up to 80 million people particularly as viewers watch the anxiously expected last episode.

Television watching has long had a central place in the lives of Brazilians, and marketers seeking to build brands in Brazil have leveraged this. The country’s media mix remains heavily skewed toward TV, which makes up 65 percent of overall media spending (as compared to 30 to 40 percent in France and Spain, 42 percent in Argentina, and 50 percent in Chile). Even global marketing champions, like Nestlé, Unilever, P&G and Coca-Cola, have surrendered to TV’s dominant role in Brazil’s media mix, allocating 80 to 90 percent of their ad dollars to it.

The problem with playing the TV game in Brazil is that it can gobble up many, many ad dollars. Brazilian TV prices are far above those in other Latin American countries. Brazilian CPMs are almost three times higher than those in Mexico, for example. Just one 30-second spot during the more popular telenovelas can cost up to R$400,000.

Our research shows that there is a better way—that marketers would benefit from considering a more innovative, cost efficient marketing mix. The bottom line is that while TV often needs to be part of the picture, it need not dominate it. There are other means with which to creatively communicate and connect with Brazilian consumers, leveraging both “old fashioned” and new media.

The world beyond TV


Listening to the radio still figures prominently in the lives of most Brazilians. Over 70 percent of people either listen to it in their cars while sitting in traffic (more common among wealthier A-class consumers) or at home (common among the middle class, or C-class). Over the past five years, radio advertising has grown in Brazil, which stands in contrast to the declines seen in countries like the U.S., Spain, the U.K. and Italy.

Radio offers not only significant cost advantages over TV, but also greater speed and flexibility. One ad agency director explained to us that a radio ad could be put together in just a week, while creating a TV campaign takes up to four months. Such efficiency allows for a more reactive approach to brand building. “We can change messaging on radio almost every day if we need to,” said an agency planner. “There’s no way to do that with TV or outdoor.”


Surfing the web and using social media has recently surpassed TV watching as Brazil’s most popular media activity. It is no longer exclusive to the upper classes, as Internet penetration in Brazil has reached 54 percent.

Despite this, online media is underleveraged by marketers, both in terms of the volume and quality of engagement. Internet spending accounts for just 5 percent of total media in Brazil, versus 22 percent in the U.S. Partly, this is due to the fact that many companies still lack the competence to fully execute online marketing—53 percent of digital budgets are still dedicated to basic banner advertising. Very little effort and money are going to new and important media like video and mobile.

And in a country where spending time with friends and family remains a centerpiece of modern life, social networking is on the rise. According to data from our iConsumer study, eight out of ten Brazilian internet users visited a social networking site in the past six months and some 64 percent maintain more than one profile. Brazilian iConsumers are also more welcoming of company participation on social media than their counterparts in peer countries—21 percent say they enjoy when companies or brands participate in their social networks, versus just 7 percent in France and 5 percent in Spain.

In order to meet consumers where they are, it is critical to be present in multiple online touchpoints. Let your customers decide which are the most important mediums, whether social networks, mobile apps or vertical communities, etc. The launch of Unilever’s liquid version of its successful Omo laundry detergent offers a successful case study in creating a wide online reach. The company created a maid character called Super Nice that was integrated throughout its media universe. A Super Nice mini-series was broadcast on the internet and the chatty, likeable character appeared in TV, radio and magazine ads, as well as on Unilever’s Brazilian Facebook page. Super Nice tweeted daily, wrote a blog, and had her own YouTube channel offering tips and answering customer questions. The result was an enormously successful campaign that boosted sales by 194 percent in four weeks.