Even while news of political unrest in Chile and Venezuela led the news headlines in early fall, marketers south of the U.S. border were busy expanding their efforts.
The Latin American advertising market is growing at rates faster than both Europe and North America, thanks to fast growth in digital engagement and the rising middle class across various countries. Latin America is among the world’s fastest-growing advertising regions, according to Magna Global’s annual ad spending forecast. The reports states that Latin America is expected to grow 7.3 percent by the end of 2019, just short of Asia’s 7.4 percent growth.
Latin America has spawned a number of global campaigns for major advertisers, most notably the award-winning “Beauty Sketches” for P&G, which originated at Ogilvy Brazil. None of this has gone unnoticed by the major global networks, which have made a number of acquisitions in recent years. But indie agencies are also thriving in the region; two of the finalists in last summer’s Cannes Lions for independent agency of the year were Brazilian.
“Mexico is an indie paradise,” said Jorge Martinez, CEO of Adlatina Group, the regional marketing portal that organizes the Latin American Effie Awards, CMO Summit and other industry events.
Raúl Cardós, CEO of (anónimo), a 10-year-old Mexican independent shop and president of the Mexican Academy of Creativity, said that Latin America has seen a “boom” in indie agencies in the last 10 years.
While Brazil and Mexico are first and second in size among Latin markets, Argentina is also home to a busy creative community. In spite of the recent elections and economic difficulties, the local advertising community remains strong, noted Martinez, who is based in Buenos Aires. Magna’s report estimated Argentina will tie Ukraine as the world’s fastest-growing ad market, with spending up 22 percent in 2019.
Raúl Cardós had recently left his post as president of DDB Mexico when he was one of “three guys in a coffee shop” opening an agency in 2009. The trio managed to convince Nike to hire them to execute a campaign supporting the Mexican 2010 World Cup soccer team, which helped put them on the map.
Today, (anónimo) has 90 staffers in Mexico City and a satellite office in the business center of Monterrey. The agency works with clients such as Pernod Ricard, AB InBev, Suzuki and Hasbro, and has won a number of awards, including several finalists at the Cannes Lions and a bronze Pencil at the 2018 One Show. It recently went viral with TV spots for Mexican dairy Lala featuring Avengers star Chris Evans and made the Cannes Lions shortlist with an environmental effort for Absolut Vodka.
Jose “Pepe” Montalvo was already a veteran of the Mexican advertising industry when he founded his own agency in 2015. Montalvo, who had been most recently VP of creative at Y&R Mexico, had also spent time at Saatchi, Ogilvy and Leo Burnett. He also worked briefly at (anónimo) on his way to launching his own shop; Cardós remains a fan.
One company that followed him to his shop, Mexican bookstore chain Librerías Ghandi, has been a client for 22 years, across seven agencies. Other clients include brands such as telecom Virgin Mobile, Subaru, Facebook, as well as several P&G and PepsiCo brands.
For a small shop with one office, Montalvo tends to punch above its weight. It has made a good show at several national and regional awards, including the Latin American Effies and IAB Mixx Awards. Jose Montalvo, who has won multiple international awards (including a Cyber Lion at Cannes), was recently appointed president of one of the juries judging El Ojo de Iberoamérica, the longtime Latin creative awards
Two years in a row, Circus took the top prize, Agency of the Year, at the IAB Mixx awards in Mexico. This summer, the agency took home a bronze at the Cannes Lions for its World Cup campaign for Lala dairy. After launching in 2005 in Mexico City, Circus has grown to open eight offices, including Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Costa Rica. It also expanded to Los Angeles in 2013, and Madrid that same year by buying into the Spanish agency Bungalow25.
In its latest expansion, Circus opened a Brazilian office in Sao Paulo in October, led by Caio del Manto, an agency veteran with a 19-year track record agencies, including Ogilvy and JWT Brazil. The new office opened with clients such as Netflix, Spotify, Uber, Havaianas and Nomad.
Nómades made waves in the U.S. market when it was appointed to take over the account for Tecate beer in the states, replacing Saatchi & Saatchi New York. It was a first for the Mexican agency, which didn’t have a U.S. office. It soon corrected that situation, opening in Austin, Texas to service Tecate and other Mexican brands seeking to expand in the U.S. market.
The agency was born as a cross-border partnership between Argentine Creative Pablo Battle, former executive creative director of DDB Argentina, and Mexican Miguel Mendoza, formerly the CMO at Tecate brewer Cervecería Cuauhtémoc-Moctezuma. It opened in 2013 with offices in Mexico City and Buenos Aires, and Tecate as its launch client. It opened a new office in Bogota, Colombia this year to expand its presence in the central region of South America, as well as its digital marketing operations.
In 2017, the barely three-year-old agency won a Gold Cannes Lions in the Glass category for itsTecate work against domestic violence, holding its own in what was the year of “Fearless Girl.” This year, Battle was named to the Cannes Lions Film jury, one of a small number of Latin independents in the mix.
Founder Jose Manuel “Papón” Ricciarelli is considered the dean of Argentine indies, having launched his agency into the chaos of the 2008 global financial crisis. It has managed to thrive in spite of Argentina’s continuous financial woes.
Ricciarelli, who had previously launched BBDO in Argentina and was later McCann’s regional creative leader, has helped build Don into the largest independent agency in Argentina with clients such as Air New Zealand, Heineken and several General Mills food brands. The agency has won a number of awards, most recently the Best Independent Agency in the Latin American Effie Awards.
As the agency has grown, holding companies have come calling. Management came close to an agreement to merge with Grey in 2018, but as the stock of Grey’s parent WPP dropped sharply in the wake of chief executive Martin Sorrell’s fall and departure, the deal was put on hold and eventually called off.
It is the largest independent in Brazil with offices in Sao Paulo, Rio and Brasilia, and a long-time fixture in the country, since 1967. The agency has a long roster of awards, including Clios, One Show Pencils and Webby awards. Most recently, it was (along with Tech and Soul) one of two Latin American finalists for the Independent Agency of the Year at the Cannes Lions.
Artplan’s client list includes international names such as Metro newspapers and Hotels.com, as well as Brazilian brands like furniture retailer Etna, but the agency’s big claim to fame is its connection with Rock in Rio, the massive Brazilian music festival. Artplan’s president, Roberto Medina, founded the festival in 1985 and the agency has led the promotion efforts there, most recently when its ArtplanNow unit organized a 200-person real-time content warroom at this year’s festival where brands such as Facebook and Heineken participated.
Jose Andrés “Guga” Ketzer had made a name for himself as chief creative at independent Loducca Publicidade and later president of the agency, renamed LDC. After leaving LDC (now part of Omnicom Group’s Tribal network) in December 2016, Ketzer started Suno with partners from across the marketing, media and event spaces, such as film producer Rodrigo Texeira; Lica Bueno, former media head of Facebook in Latin America; Ronaldo Severino, Loducca’s former CFO; and Benjamin Young, the former Creative Director of AlmapBBDO.
The agency launched with offices in Brazil and New York and a major launch client, Santander bank, which put the new shop in the map immediately. In the year since, the agency has grown to over $120 million in billings and landed additional clients, including Brazilian brewer Eisenbahn and food delivery startup iFood. Santander also gave the agency its first awards win, a Brazilian Grand Effie for its Black Week promotion. This helped catapult Suno to became the most awarded agency in this year’s Brazilian Effies.
The Brazilian agency scored big at the 2019 Cannes Lions, with seven wins (two silvers and five bronze) and was among the top three independents in the Cannes Reach and Entertainment track awards, side by side with names such as Droga5 and Wieden+Kennedy. Not a bad show for a two-year-old agency that boasts a data-driven approach to creativity in its name.
Founders CEO Claudio Kalim, chief creative Flavio Waiterman and COO Fernando Amino had worked at Brazilian agency Africa before launching the new venture in 2017 with institutional investment bank BTG. In the last year, it signed up its first international client, Chilean multinational Athena Foods, and handled the launch campaign for Brazilian online bank C6.
But it was the 2018 “Distracted Goalkeeper” effort for Uber that has really drawn attention to the fledgling shop. In the execution, a popular player for the local soccer club kept checking his phone on the field, only to reveal later to critics that he was illustrating the dangers of drivers doing the same behind the wheel. Besides the Cannes Lions, the campaign won a Silver Pencil at the One Show, as well as prizes at the D&AD New York Festival and Clio awards.
It may be headquartered in the U.S., but this two-year-old agency’s roots go deep into Latin America. Founders Anselmo Ramos and Gastón Bigio, who formerly led the award-winning agency David and also created Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches” while working at Ogilvy Brazil, opened GUT with offices in Miami and Buenos Aires simultaneously. Since launching, several David executives have followed, most recently the chief creatives of David’s Buenos Aires office and David’s chief client officer.
While the founders say they are aiming for Europe next, Gut’s recent growth has headed south, most recently opening a Brazil office in Sao Paulo. It recently won the Brazilian accounts for Domino’s Pizza and Ambev’s Skol, the largest beer brand in Brazil, and earned kudos for its latest campaign for Mercado Libre, the Argentine-based Latin e-commerce platform.
The agency gained notice early with its “The Children Notwork” 2013 pro bono campaign against child labor. It took its name from an Argentine-made Torino that smoked the European cars in a 1967 race. When Pablo Gil, the executive creative director of Grey in Latin America, opened his new shop in 2011, it had a coupe in the lobby as a symbol of agility.
In the years since, the shop has grown, leaving the car behind as it moved offices and expanded to add clients such as LoJack, Puma and Oracle. In the last year, it has expanded its digital offering and recently hired a content director to add to its content marketing operations.
In 2019, Gil, along with Ricciarelli, Bigio and three other top Argentine creatives, launched Ai, the country’s first independent agency association. The group aims to spur creativity among the country’s independent agencies.