Alcantara Machado Publicidade Ltda., or Almap, was founded in 1954 in São Paulo by Caio de Alcantara Machado, a lawyer and businessman, and his brother Jose. The brothers believed an ad agency should sell creative advertising to other businesses, focusing both on the creative and business sides of the industry. The concept was novel in Brazil at the time, when other agencies focused almost exclusively on the creative side.
The agency's first clients were in real estate, but the success of its initial campaigns attracted various others: Lion, a Caterpillar dealer, Shaeffer Pens, Anderson-Clayton and Sirva-se, the first supermarket chain to open in Brazil. In 1960, the agency was chosen by Volkswagen to handle advertising for its first Beetles and Kombis imported from Germany.
In 1960, in what proved to be a fateful move, Jose de Alcantara Machado hired Alex Periscinoto, then advertising manager of Mappin Stores, São Paulo's leading department store. As retail ad manager of a major store, Mr. Periscinoto had visited Ohrbach's stores in New York and had worked with Bill Bernbach of Doyle Dane Bernbach. With his move to Almap, Mr. Periscinoto forged a new tie to DDB in the VW account.
Brazilian advertising professionals agree that DDB has been the one major outside influence in the country's style of ad creativity and that Mr. Periscinoto and Almap were the decisive force in introducing into Brazil the style of daring text and illustrations—and the humor—that were hallmarks of DDB in the 1960s.
Mr. Periscinoto established the system of creative teams (one art director and one copywriter) at Almap, which was then adopted by all major Brazilian agencies. Although Almap was not at the time associated with any of the big international ad groups, it routinely brought to Brazil many of the great names in creative, design, research and media from Madison Avenue and Europe to train Almap employees.
By the early 1970s, Almap, then called Alcantara Machado/Periscinoto Comunicações, ranked among the three largest ad agencies in the country, with blue-chip clients such as Gillette, Xerox, Polaroid, General Foods, Groupe Danone, Rhone-Poulenc, R.J. Reynolds and NEC Electronics, as well as Volkswagen.
In addition, it had important local clients, including Banco Real and Antarctica beverages. The agency ranked among the biggest prizewinners, both in local contests and in the international arena.
In 1993, the agency established its first official tie with an international ad group, selling a share in the shop to the Omnicom Group's BBDO.
Jose de Alcantara Machado died in 1996; in 1997, Mr. Periscinoto retired. Alexandre Gama, Jose Luiz Madeira and Marcello Serpa—all from rival agency DM9—were hired to form the new management team for the renamed Almap/BBDO. Mr. Gama soon left; Mr. Serpa became chief creative officer, and Mr. Madeira, management supervisor.
In 1997, Almap became the No. 9 agency in Brazil, with billings of more than $200 million, almost a 10% increase over the previous year. The agency managed to keep its existing clients and also acquired new accounts, including Samsung, CPC, Iberia, Texaco, Embratel (telecommunications) and UOL (Internet). The agency also set up a new company, NoMedia, specializing in design, merchandising, visual identity and new media.
In 2000, Almap/BBDO was selected as Agency of the Year at the International Advertising Festival in Cannes, France. The agency won several Silver Lion awards at Cannes: six in 1996, six in 1997, 12 in 1998, four in 1999 and 10 in 2000.
In April 2000, Almap/BBDO was named International Agency of the Year by Advertising Age International and was tapped for the Hall of Fame of the Ibero-American Advertising Festival as the agency with the most prizes and for having been the first agency, in the 29 years of FIAP, to win two Grands Prix.
In 1998, 1999 and 2000, Almap/BBDO was the agency with most prizes from the Year Book of the Creative Club of São Paulo, considered the benchmark of creative quality in advertising in Brazil. In 1999, Almap/BBDO was the Brazilian agency with the largest number of Clio awards; it also won a Golden Pencil and a Gold on Gold from the One Show.
In 2000, Almap/BBDO was elected Agency of the Year for the third consecutive time by the Advertising Columnists Association of Brazil. It also won, for the third time, the El Ojo de Iberoamerica prize, awarded by art directors from the Latin countries of Latin America and Europe.
In 2001, Almap/BBDO ranked No. 9 among Brazilian agencies, with gross income of $36.1 million, down 15.7% over the previous year, on billings of $240.6 million.