LATIN AMERICA: MEET THE EXPERTS - Being in control of an advertising or media network within Latin America requires a combination of endless patience, imagination, experience and a sense of humour

Lucy Aitken takes a look at the brains behind eight of Latin America's largest networks.

JENS OLESEN - President, Latin American/Caribbean regional director, executive vice-president, McCann Worldwide

"There are lots of agencies doing well in Latin America, but we have done better than anyone else because we have always stuck to our own strategy and philosophy. I've been with McCann for 36 years and came to Latin America as one of the advertising pioneers when things were taking off. Right now we need stability and balance in the economy and the political situation in the region to stop the turmoil. The only bright light right now is Mexico as it's the only market where we have some confidence in the president - Vicente Fox seems to have things under control. Creatively, Brazil has high standards. I see great campaigns from Saatchis and DDB and admire those agencies for their creativity."

Profile: Jens Olesen comes from Denmark and supervises 74 agencies in 34 countries. He has been the regional director for Latin America/Caribbean since 1985.

In more than half of those 34 countries, McCann agencies are ranked first or second. Olesen has received a dizzying list of medals and awards as testament to his achievements, including the Anchieta Medal for "oustanding services to Sao Paulo, making him an honorary citizen of the city.

Born in Copenhagen, Olesen speaks fluent English, Danish , Swedish, Norwegian and Portuguese. His contribution to advertising and culture is recognised in Latin America and Scandinavia, as well as inside and outside the Interpublic Group.

JOHN HOLMES - Executive vice president of the J. Walter Thompson Worldwide Executive Group; president, J. Walter Thompson, Latin America & Caribbean region

"Latin America is chaos, and this is both good and bad. It requires tremendous flexibility as we have to upsize or downsize our organisations and manage them without destroying them.

"The region's advertising shows sensitivity to the consumer and has a great sense of humour. I've got examples of advertising which just would not have tested well in the development process. We produced finished commercials which were then tested and were wonderfully successful. We got courage from the client to ignore the kind of process which is so strong in the US.

"Argentina will be a major market again, but that's two or three years away. The country is in such dire straits that when England played Argentina in the World Cup, I told the Argentine office that I was truly prepared to cheer for Argentina because they need all the good news they can get."

Profile: John Holmes joined J. Walter Thompson in 1979 from Leo Burnett, Chicago, having previously managed Leo Burnett's offices in Spain. In his first post with JWT Chicago he was responsible for worldwide service to multinational clients.

In 1981, he became the general manager of the JWT office in Chile and took responsibility for Latin American training and development. He moved to JWT Mexico in 1988 as the president and general manager, and lifted the agency's ranking from tenth to second by 1992.

He became president of Latin America and Caribbean region in 1991.

LAURA DESMOND - Chief executive, Latin America, Starcom MediaVest Group

"Whenever I go to Brazil, I'm always amazed by the creative work I see. In some ways Brazil is a monumentally talented creative market and yet they are held back in terms of media. Yet legislation is slowly and surely happening; Brazil needs edgy media work as well as edgy creative.

"We're about to see an explosion of real media creativity in this region and the biggest challenge is to build capability. There is a lack of data and research, but you can always go out and mine the insights yourself.

There's a myth that there isn't much talent in this region, but agencies need to invest in the capability and grow it themselves.

"Latin America knows how to do a lot with a little. It is not handicapped by that and the US and Europe could learn a lot from the region in this respect."

Profile: Laura Desmond has worked for 13 years in media and became the chief executive, Latin America, Starcom MediaVest Group in 2000.

She joined Starcom - which was then Leo Burnett's media department - in 1987 as a media associate. She worked on McDonald's and Heinz and became the international media director on Kellogg in 1996, managing the client's media operations in 41 countries.

In 1998, she turned her attention to Coca-Cola, and helped to grow Starcom's revenue on the account by 400 per cent.

OTAVIO BOCCHINO - Chief executive, Universal McCann Latin America

"Clients are reducing investment in Latin America and this is directly affecting the health of media agencies. This will generate a change in the media landscape over the next one to two years. Some small media agencies will disappear, while multinational media groups will invest in media. The economic situation is by far the biggest challenge in the region. You have to decide a course of action quickly, and think month by month or even week by week, depending on the country."

Profile: Before joining Universal McCann, Otavio Bocchino was the regional director for MediaCom in Latin America, where his main role was rolling out media operations in different territories across the region.

He has worked for Grey for most of his career, including a stint as the media director for Grey in Sao Paulo as well as training in media in the UK, Spain and Germany. He is fluent in Portuguese, Spanish and English.

JEAN-CHRISTOPHE PETIT - Chief operating officer, Latin America, Initiative Media Worldwide

"Whatever you think is going to happen in Latin America never does. You have to move fast as there is a lack of predictability in the market. Europe could learn a lot from Latin America in this respect.

"Creative work from Brazil is indigenous, but work from Mexico follows a more US style. As far as Argentina is concerned, the economic crisis has affected all of Latin America, as everything is down by 20 per cent across the region. Nobody knows what's going to happen. The collapse in investment is just infinite.

There's no investment and even Coca-Cola has cut right back. Advertising doesn't exist there as an industry any longer."

Profile: Jean-Christophe Petit has come a long way from the beginning of his career in his native France where he was a TV researcher before working for The Media Partnership in Paris. He joined Initiative Media in 1992 and has had a number of roles including the client services director at Initiative Media Lisbon. He moved to Latin America in early 2000 as the managing director for Argentina. He was then promoted to regional director, opening agencies in Chile and Uruguay as well as overseeing development in Brazil. He became the chief operating officer for Initiative Media Latin America in January 2002.

PETER MINNIUM - President, Lowe Lintas & Partners Latin America

"I know that the creative talent is world class in Latin America and I need to make more opportunity to showcase that around the world. We are the kings of creating desire.

"I really believe that the bulk of the advertising and marketing professionals in North America and in Europe are over-evolved. As a result, information about the consumer is so rich and robust that it has replaced the art of advertising.

"Add in technology which takes using this data quite neat, and you miss out on this ability to create desire which is the most powerful part of marketing communications.

"The strategic infrastructure in Latin America is less sophisticated and we need to think of all the positive uses that we could bring to the table if we had that structure."

Profile: Peter Minnium joined The Lowe Group in 1997, working for Frank Lowe as the executive vice-president, The Americas, where he played a central role in Lowe's development in Latin America.

He continued in this role through the merger of Lowe and APL, and gained responsibility for Lowe's strategic development in non-advertising services.

In late 2001, he was appointed the president of Lowe's Latin American region. Before his stint at Lowe, Peter spent several years in Hong Kong in a regional account management role with Dentsu, Young & Rubicam, where he was schooled in the potential of international agency networks.

GUILLERMO DIEGO - President and chief executive, Y&R Latin America

"Creatively, there have been some good campaigns this year relating to the World Cup, including those for Pepsi and MasterCard. Latin America is incredibly rich in talent, in comparison to Europe and the US, although the advertising industry could learn from Europe and the US in terms of productivity and efficiency.

"As a regional network, our biggest challenge is to manage a portfolio in volatile markets as well as to maintain the pace of growth and to manage conflicts."

Profile: Guillermo Diego began his media career in his home country of Argentina and, via Y&R Brazil, he became the agency's first employee in Miami in 1991. His brief was to establish a regional client services operation to provide client management support to KFC, AT&T and Bausch & Lomb. Three years later he became the executive vice-president, Latin America, and launched Y&R in Colombia. Within two years Y&R was the second-largest agency in the country with offices in Bogota, Medellin and Cali.

In 1996, he became the president and chief executive of Y&R Spain, helping the agency to win Heineken and Telefonica, among others.

His current position is based in Miami.

MARCOS GOLFARI - Vice-president, regional director, Ogilvy & Mather Latin America

"Latin America is in crisis, but it's not serious. Every day presents new challenges and things happen fast. Budgets tend to be cut during the year and we don't know if we will finish the year with the same government or economies with which we started.

"Today the creative work in the region is among some of the best and is winning awards at all the best advertising festivals. Even though we don't have the resources economically speaking, creative work shines.

"I call my people here 'hunters' as they're hunting for new business all the time to make up the shortfall in budgets which will be cut from other accounts. The US is experiencing a similar situation now as budgets are not guaranteed and revenue, when it comes, is an Act of God."

Profile: Marcos Golfari began his career in Argentina in the 70s in Cicero/Bates and De Luca Publicidad. He worked in several roles at JWT offices in Venezuela, Argentina and Italy before joining O&M in 1995 as the managing director of Ogilvy & Mather Argentina and shortly afterwards he became the director of multinational accounts in Latin America. In 1997, he became the president of O&M Argentina and a year later, he was made the regional director of Ogilvy & Mather Latin America and the chairman of the Latin America Executive Committee.


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