By James Hamilton, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 28 October 2005 12:00AM
In Argentina, the third Sunday of October is Dia de la Madre - Mother's Day. Fittingly, this year it was also the launch date of Madre, Mother's third office. Unlike the staff at the agency's London headquarters, however, none of the staff in Buenos Aires were given the following Monday off: there's work to be done.
To some in the UK, Argentina is an odd choice for the latest Mother outpost, not least because of the economic situation in the country after the devaluation of the peso and subsequent collapse of 2002. But, in the Argentinian ad industry at least, Mother is a brand with strong currency.
And Madre gives Mother's London and New York offices the chance to work once again with Carlos and Gabriela Bayala, two of the agency's three founding partners. As a creative team at Mother in London, where they worked in 2000-2001, the Bayalas produced consistently good work for clients including Coca-Cola, Kiss FM and Super Noodles.
The decision, the Mother partner Robert Saville says, was always about talent, not geography:
- "We didn't choose Argentina, we chose some Argentinians." The Mother partners, he says, jumped at the chance to work with the Bayalas again, and were prepared for them to determine the location. They chose to return to the city they last called home in 1999.
Interest in what Mother was planning in Buenos Aires had been growing since Carlos and Gabriela Bayala, a husband-and-wife team, announced they were tendering their resignations in Amsterdam. Carlos was Wieden & Kennedy's executive creative director and Gabriela was a freelance art director at StrawberryFrog.
Carlos and Gabriela Bayala, joint creative directors, are joined by the third partner, Alejandro Dominguez, a strategist who left his job as a Lowe Argentina vice-president to be part of the start-up. There are three more creatives and all six follow the Mother tradition of working around the same table.
"The Mother brand is very well-known here, especially among agencies and industry figures," Dominguez says. "Everybody has a lot of expectations about the work that we'll do. It'll be great."
Advertising occupies a special place in the average Argentinian's heart.
The trade's more famous practitioners are almost national heroes and there are two weekly TV shows dedicated to new ads.
"Brazil and Argentina are kind of weird in that sense," Carlos Bayala says. "Advertising is a big deal here, and advertising people are revered. As a nation, we're proud of the output of this industry. My mum was asking me the other day why I hadn't been on Reporte Publicidad yet."
While Mother has fans in the industry and among big international clients that have worked with the agency in London and New York, local clients still need convincing of the Mother/Madre philosophy.
"The rest of the industry - the whole of South America, not just Argentina - knows less about Mother," Carlos Bayala says. "We are having to have quite a lot of conversations about our culture and what we are about."
So what are they about? Are the Bayalas simply importing the Mother model (emphasis on creativity and direct access to creatives for clients) or will Madre offer something different?
Gabriela Bayala explains that the clue to the agency's philosophy is in its name. Madre might be bankrolled by Mother in London, but it's 100 per cent Latin American in its thinking.
"The most important thing that we were discussing with the partners is that, as Mother grows, it understands the culture of where it's going," Carlos Bayala says. "This isn't a McDonald's - we're not opening franchises all over the world and cloning the way of working." His dream, he says, is to emulate on a global scale the famous Mother "table", around which some of the agency's first ads were conceived, with agencies in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas all throwing ideas at pitches.
Madre aims to work with a mix of local, national and regional clients.
The agency has already won its first account: a 130-year-old local business, the identity of which the partners are keen to keep close to their chests.
They say they'd prefer to make that announcement with work, rather than a bland press release followed by two months of radio silence. But the partners' reputation, and Buenos Aires' position as a regional advertising hub with tentacles that spread beyond Latin America and into the US Hispanic market, means Madre's horizons are anything but local.
"The Hispanic market (in the US) is directly related to the Latin American market - we've got offices in Buenos Aires and New York, so it would be silly not to aim for that," Gabriela Bayala says.
"A Spanish-language office obviously offers a back-up to any American office because the Spanish-language market in America is huge and increasing," Mark Waites, the Mother partner in London who'll be keeping the closest eye on the Argentinian operation, says. "A lot of our clients are looking to do work for the Spanish market, and not just translation."
But what of that legendarily tough Argentinian market? Dom-inguez concedes that, while adspend is predicted to grow by up to 24 per cent this year, business is still tough in Argentina. However, he argues that the Madre offering will help the agency differentiate itself from a host of similar small creative shops in the country.
"It is difficult, but the past two years have been better here. Clients have started to increase their ad budgets and spend is growing. And clients are starting to do things in a different way - while they've changed, agencies in general haven't," he says.
"In order to get through the crisis, customers needed to be incredibly creative and very fast in the way they reacted," Carlos Bayala adds. "The companies that actually got through that, know they still have to be creative in every area of their business.
"I think that's what we offer really well - sitting down with them, talking about what they can do to push the business creatively long before we start talking about communication with them."
And if clients buy that model to the same extent that they have in other Mother offices, Madre will soon need a bigger table.
This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk