Quiero Mis Quinces (“I Want My 15”)—one of the toprated programs on MTV’s Hispanic network, Tr3s—follows the tribulations of young Latino-American women as they prepare for their 15th birthday celebration, or quinceañera. In one wrenching episode, Jiselle, a single teen mother, is laid off from her job and, as a result, decides to cancel her quince. Most viewers will rightly guess that the tale can only have a happy ending. Still, what’s telling about the plot is how identifiable Jiselle can be to an audience that, at first blush, appears paradoxically diverse. The reality, though, is that they share an important commonality.
“Whether they’re Colombian, Mexican or Puerto Rican, all Latino families have experienced coming to a new country and forming new relationships,” says Jessica
Pantanini, chief operations officer at Bromley Communications, one of the nation’s largest Hispanic ad agencies. She also cites the Latino community’s shared values and its common language as ties that bind.
Tr3s knows this. The principals behind Tr3s know the different Latin flavors and—more importantly—the common shared tastes. Latino viewers, say the principals behind Tr3s, want programming that speaks to them as Latinos in the U.S.—in both Spanish and English. Shakira and Ricky Martin, yes, but reality shows, too. And we’re not talking ab-obsessed kids partying on the beaches of Jersey. No, the focus for Tr3s is on celebrating what it means to be a proud member of the pan-Latin community in the U.S.
For this reason, Quinces, now in its sixth season, is “a staple franchise for the brand,” says Charlie Singer, senior vice president of content and creative for Tr3s.
Tr3s, born in 2006 and relaunched last July, is still a mere bebe compared to its older sibling, and yet it’s already acting like an adolescent ready for adulthood. Delivered into six million Latino homes in the U.S. and (roughly half the number of Latino households with television sets), the MTV spinoff has quickly made it past the gangly stage to post its best ratings quarter (Q4 2010) in the network’s history.
Along with the viewers, of course, comes greater respect and interest from advertisers. In her two decades with Bromley, Pantanini—who is also chairman of the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies—acknowledges that getting corporations to accept Latinos as a demographic worth targeting hasn’t always been easy. “When we started out, advertisers would say, ‘Soon enough, they’ll all be speaking English anyway, so why should we bother?’”
And yet, the acculturation among Latinos has not been anywhere near as linear as those Fortune 500-naysayers predicted. “In the same household, brothers might speak English to one another, but Spanish with their parents,” says Jose Tillan, general manager and executive vp of Tr3s.
This is why Tr3s—watched primarily by viewers aged 12 to 34—decided to infuse a stronger Latino identity into its programming. “The original Tr3s played a 50/50 mix of Latin to English music, now it’s more like 80/20.” Puerto Rican reggaeton duo Wisin y Yandel are among fans of the change: “They offer the best in Latin music and entertainment—which is not available on mainstream TV; Tr3s entertains and contributes.”
So where will Tr3s be in 2022, when it celebrates its own quinces? “I hope the brand is ubiquitous with the Latino audience,” says Tillan. “Where it’s not only a place for them to see shows, but a part of their lives, a place where advertisers know and feel that they are reaching an audience directly with impactful programming.”