Why Total by Verizon updated 'Suavemente' for its TelevisaUnivision Super Bowl spot

(Photo credit: Total by Verizon / YouTube)
(Photo credit: Total by Verizon / YouTube)

Leaders from Total by Verizon and creative agency partner Ogilvy didn’t know the song, but trusted the Latinos on their teams who knew its cultural significance.

Total by Verizon is one of a handful of brands opting not to advertise during CBS’ Super Bowl LVIII broadcast and instead airing a Spanish-language spot on Televisa Univision’s first big game telecast. 

There’s a huge disparity in media spend — 30-second slots on CBS went for up to $7 million, while Televisa Univision charged about $250,000 — but there was also an opportunity to authentically reach the Hispanic American population. 

Both were factors that went into Total by Verizon’s decision, says Cheryl Gresham, CMO and VP of marketing for Verizon Value, Verizon’s portfolio of prepaid brands which also includes Visible and Straight Talk.

“We have to operate in a value mindset, so we've got to make sure our marketing hits exactly who we need and hits them the right way,” she notes, adding that the Univision Super Bowl broadcast presents a great opportunity to speak to its core customer base while reaching a broader audience.

Total by Verizon launched in 2022 and has undergone rapid growth, opening hundreds of physical stores in less than two years. According to Gresham, most of these stores are located in areas with large Latino populations, and a large portion of the brand’s customers are Hispanic.

In order to “make sure that we're clear on the community that we are serving and that we are here for,” Gresham says the team opted for a creative concept that spoke to all the Latinos in the room — despite Gresham herself not understanding the connection.

The resulting campaign, called Totalmente, features a brand-focused update of the beloved 1998 merengue song “Suavemente” by Elvis Crespo, rewritten to talk about the brand and its plan features. 

Scenes from the 30-second spot recreate the over-the-top visuals and dance moves from Crespo’s music video. It follows a couple dining out at a restaurant, when the woman tells her date she doesn’t know how to talk to him. 

He responds that he’s switched to Total by Verizon, then bursts into song, and his partner watches with confusion as he recreates scenes from Crespo’s music video. Only the waiter, played by Guatemalan actor Arturo Castro, seems to enjoy the performance.

The community-first opportunity

In previous years, advertising to the Hispanic community during the Super Bowl was “always a bit of an afterthought,” notes Samira Ansari, chief creative officer at Total by Verizon’s agency partner Ogilvy NY. The ads are almost always English versions dubbed for a Spanish-speaking audience, and therefore lacking in cultural resonance.

John Kozack, SVP at Televisa Univision, notes that this approach is not the best way to reach Spanish-speaking audiences: “You could just run your English language ads, but in-language, in-culture work is the best.”

“The strategic choice here of Total to say, ‘we actually really support and champion voices of color, and so why not do that in one of the world's biggest stages in a really impactful way?’ is super exciting to us as an agency,” says Darla Price, president at Ogilvy, which created the ad. 

Why Latino-led creativity is thriving

According to Anibal Casso, Ogilvy’s chief strategy officer, North America agrees that it’s not the best way to “derive both brand and business results.” Plus, the Super Bowl experience is different for Latinos, for whom the commercials are not the big event. 

In order to grab their attention during breaks, “brands need to be there in a culturally engaging way — because the moment there's a break, you go to the bathroom, you go to grab dinner.” 

The value in trusting diverse talent

According to Gresham, the work would not have been created without the insights of the Latinos on both the brand and agency teams. She admits that she was not familiar with Crespo’s “Suavemente” or the cultural significance of the song before the campaign. 

“In the pitch room, when the team shared this concept, it was the one that scared me the most,” she says. “But everyone in the room who had a better awareness of the culture lit up when they saw it.”

This speaks to the importance of having a diverse leadership team — and listening to them, she adds. “We have Latin leaders on the teams in our value group and I trust them implicitly, I follow their leads, and it makes the work better. If it had just been me and a lot of other people that had a background like myself in that room, I don't know that this idea ever would have gotten off the ground.”

Ansari says that even though she also didn’t have the personal connection to the song, the music video “had all the bells and whistles you need for a Super Bowl spot already embedded in it.” 

Casso, referencing “Suavemente” intentionally speaks to Hispanic culture rather than simply casting a mainstream Latin celebrity, leaning into a cliche or being reactive to a trend.

“Total is tapping into something that absolutely every Latino that ever danced or was into music will say, ‘ah, I get that,’” he says. 

Latin music boom reflects growing influence of Hispanic market

WIth this approach, Ogilvy and Total by Verizon aim to prove that the brand is making an effort to truly understand its core customer base. 

“We’re establishing the brand from the get-go as a brand that speaks to Latinos,” notes Casso. 

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