TV Azteca, Oster Kitchen Appliances, and Mexico's Privileged
by Chad Thomas Beck — Indiana University
October 16, 2009 – 18:29
My approach to integrated (in-program) advertising is to analyze how its presence in a text alters cultural representations. The curated video is a compilation of the Mexican broadcaster TV Azteca’s product placements in its telenovelas and orients us to the general style of its integrations, while I focus on two specific examples.
In Spring 2008, TV Azteca integrated Oster kitchen appliances from the U.S. corporation Sunbeam. In the morning magazine show Venga la alegría, the chef demonstrates how Oster’s blender can be used for making salsas. As she mixes traditional ingredients, she communicates the product’s uses, its quality steel parts, and its three speeds. Although adapting the blender to Mexican taste buds, the chef avoids time-honored cooking methods. Traditional cuisine could have been presented thus: the chef would have mashed the ingredients along the surface of a mocajete, a bowl and hand-held grinder made of volcanic rock. The blender alters Mexican cuisine as it renders the ingredients less chunky and less richly-flavored. The chef sells the blender to an urban middle-class audience and excludes Mexicans of lower classes and rural regions. To compare, the folk song “Cumbia del mole” celebrates the mocajete in the state of Oaxaca, a rural state with a large indigenous population and widespread poverty. Too traditional and not consumerist, the mocajete and many of its users have no place in Venga la alegría.
A scene of TV Azteca’s telenovela Vivir por ti (To Live for You) dramatizes family fun with the maid who uses an Oster blender to make licuados (a milk beverage with fruit and sugar). In Mexico, maids are disparagingly called muchachas. Literally “girl,” the term refers to a lower class or indigenous woman; it may signify an ignorant and untrustworthy person or a beloved (though subordinate) member of the family. The scene plays on the beloved muchacha as she gives aunt-like advice, communicating to the children and to the viewer the product features, such as its reversible function. Conforming to Mexican television’s racial stereotypes, and in contrast to telenovela stars, the mestiza (mixed race) maid is representative of Mexico’s majority. The parents and the children are white, upper-middle-class urbanites and the melodrama’s protagonists. Illustrating a race- and class-based division of gendered labor, the maid takes care of the kids and cooks with Oster appliances, and wealth allows the mother to pursue other interests. The muchacha sells the Oster blender by playing the foil to the status and the lifestyles of the protagonists and of TV Azteca’s and Oster’s higher socioeconomic target audiences.
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