WORLDWIDE ADVERTISING: International outlook - South America's international advertising, aimed at winning awards, may be bad for its industry, writes Lisa Campbell

FIAP (Festival of Latin-American Advertising) is South America's

most important advertising festival. Held every April in Buenos Aires,

the event rewards creativity from a region encompassing 23 Spanish- and

Portugese-speaking nations. This year it attracted a record 5,615

entries spanning TV, print and internet advertising.

Speaking last year as Cannes jury president, Marcello Serpa singled the

region out as one to watch. Comparing the work with Cannes entries from

Europe and the US, the creative director of Brazil's Almap/BBDO noted

that standards had improved dramatically and predicted that in two to

three years, Hispanic-American advertising would really flourish.

So my hopes were high, until I discovered two things. Firstly, that

there is a special category for the best non-sexist ad. I took this to

be a depressing sign that hot-blooded macho Latinos weren't simply a

stereotype and that creatives' attitudes towards women would be

traditional to say the least. Secondly, that the Lonely Planet warns

women travellers that unwanted physical contact is common. It advises:

"If you're physically confident, a slap or a well-aimed elbow should

discourage any further contact. If not, a scream can be very


Fears about the latter evaporated quickly. The city was modern and

beautiful, as were the people. The combination of soaring hotels,

majestic landmarks, bustling theatre district and non-stop nightlife

means the city justifies its nickname, "Paris of the South".

The sexism question took longer to fathom - a result of somewhat chaotic

organisation which saw the absence of a press officer, not to mention

screens collapsing on viewers' heads and a frenetic table-swapping

awards evening.

Initial impressions after viewing the longlist weren't entirely


Like other festivals' longlists, it suggested mediocrity rather than

brilliance and, at times, it did feel more like a breast-fest than an

ad-fest ...

It gradually became apparent however, that this has more to do with the

abundance of beautiful beach locations than sexist attitudes and,

typically, these ads amused rather than offended. It also emerged that

the non-sexist award, which went to Mexico's Leo Burnett/Garcia Bross

for Tampax, is run by the UN's Centre for Women's Studies. It has been

presented at FIAP for the past three years.

The standard of the shortlist was encouraging (the judges sweated it out

from 8am until midnight for three days to reduce more than 1,600 TV

entries down to a shortlist of just over 200). Award-winners, meanwhile,

proved extremely creative (see panel) with many of the campaigns

demonstrating an international flavour rather than being specific to

local cultures and nationalities.

"All of the winning work is international, I can't think of any

specifically Latin winners. Because we are surrounded in all media by

the English language there is a strong influence from the US and

Europe," jury president Fernando Vega Olmos, president of Argentinian

agency Vegaolmosponce, says.

However, opinion was divided as to whether this was commendable. In

terms of awards, it is certainly beneficial, making it more likely for

the work to succeed at festivals: "The quality of work was outstanding

and I have no doubt that much of it will go on to win at Cannes and the

Clios," adds Vega Olmos, and in this respect the 18-strong jury was


Wieden & Kennedy founder Dan Wieden is among the few arguing that the

work should not emulate US or European work to such an extent.

Addressing FIAP delegates, he stressed that advertising should have its

own personality and reflect the region's rich culture. "Don't get too

enamoured by advertising being done in the US or anywhere else. Take

what you want, chop it up, twist up, but hold fast to what's fundamental

to this place. Ideas come from the people you see, the people you work

with. That's where the inspiration has to come from."

It wasn't exactly a crowd-pleasing comment, but Wieden has some


Sebastian Wilhelm, creative director of Argentina's most creative

agency, Agulla & Bacetti, believes the desire to win international

awards makes ads less relevant to local people. His agency therefore

avoids the awards circuit: "The trend is to do more global advertising

that everyone understands but I think that's bullshit. This region has a

strong personality, the people are more intense, warmer and emotional,

none of which has come through in the advertising yet."

Carlos Bayala, a former creative director at Y&R Argentian and now

heading up the Latin division of W&K Portland, agrees: "Work shouldn't

be universal.

The rule of communication should be to talk to people. Hispanic-American

advertising shouldn't try to be Western-style to be more acceptable to

awards' juries. It should reflect the local culture of film, music and

art, which is very strong."

Enrique Garcia Siedner, a director at one of Argentina's hotshop

production outfits, Peluca Films, admits that Latin America has been

what he describes as a "copy-paste" culture. "The problem historically

has been trying to express our European heritage at the same time as

conveying our South American identity. But things are beginning to

change and we are now demonstrating more the Latin trait of 'Viveza

Criolla' - thinking on our feet."

Argentina is at the forefront of creativity, according to Marcelo

Szechtman, a director at Flehner Films. "After the UK and the US it's


The work is more original now, scripts are strong and clients are much

more open to new or controversial ideas than in other parts of the



Winning work at FIAP 2001 was of a high creative and international

standard with the jury predicting Cannes winners among the entries.

The automotive category proved unusually strong with Audi and Pirelli

both contenders for the Grand Prix. The prize eventually went to

Barcelona-based agency Tandem Campmany Guasch DDB for its Audi "dreams"

ad. Melancholic and beautifully shot, it asks us to imagine that

inanimate objects have feelings. The jury felt this ad, like many of the

winners, demonstrated a global rather than local aesthetic. "It's an

excellent film that would run as easily in the US as it would in Spain.

It's a unique vision and a unique way to sell cars," jury member and DM9

DDB's executive creative director, Erh Ray, says. Pirelli's "braking" by

Y&R Argentina was a product demonstration with an original twist, and

won a gold award. DM9's "blow" for Honda motorcycles won a gold while a

black and white spot for VW gave Uruguay's Slogan DDB a bronze.

The best performers in the TV category were Spain and Argentina, each

winning six golds. Brazil's performance was disappointing, according to

Claudio Carillo, judge and director of Brazil's Carillo Pastore Euro


"We did much better in print. There was perhaps too much local influence

and local language in TV." Ray's agency won the print Grand Prix for

insecticide product Clorox. Production values let the country down, he

says. "There aren't that many good directors plus our movie culture is

not as strong as in other parts of Latin America. Films have become

popular here only recently."

Other notable trends include the use of emotion rather than humour - a

theme common to the automotive, finance and telecoms categories. And

unlike many UK charities, which are embarking on more comedic

advertising, charities here tugged the heartstrings. Spain's Cathedral,

The Creative Centre, won a gold for its Red Cross "positive" ad, moving

the audience with a clever endline and images filmed in negative.

Laughs were in evidence however, particularly when addressing

embarrassing problems. Y&R Argentina, for example, scooped a gold by

using talking turds to advertise Scholl's foot deodorant. Humour was

also used in traditionally dull sectors such as insurance, as

demonstrated in Almap/BBDO's Banco Mercantil "note" ad. It features an

arrogant male assuming that a telephone number left on his windscreen is

from a desperate female. After screwing up the note that he notices his

dented car.

Comedy was also used to alleviate the tedium of product


Mexico's Garcia Bross/Leo Burnett used it to great effect to sell Sealy

matresses. It depicts a child bouncing annoyingly on a bed. When he

leaps to the opposite (Sealy )bed, he immediately sinks into a deep


Brilliantly simple, it's a perfect example of great ideas and comic

timing winning out over big budgets.

There were some ads centred on local themes, most notably football.

One of the best examples was gold-winning Pepsi "Ronaldinho" ad, by

Spain's Tiempo BBDO. Beautifully directed by the late Jhoan Camitz, it's

an amusing tale of a boy who dreams of becoming a referee, until an

incident with a Pepsi can changes his future career path.

A selection of winning work can be viewed in Issue 20 of Campaign