Contrapunto

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Founded in Madrid, 1974; sold a 30% share to BBDO Worldwide, 1988; won Grand Prix at the Cannes International Advertising Festival and was named International Agency of the Year by Advertising Age, 1989; BBDO ownership stake increased to 75%, 1993.


Contrapunto was founded in Madrid by Teófilo Marcos, Rafael Sarró, José García, and José Luis Zamorano, all of whom left ad agency Tándem to open the new shop in 1974.

Messrs. Marcos, Sarró and Garcia worked together at Danis Advertising Agency, but left in the early 1970s to establish Tándem, where they were joined by Mr. Zamorano. The four subsequently left Tándem and opened Contrapunto.

Among Contrapunto's notable efforts in the 1970s were campaigns for Riazor's lobsters, Apis' foie gras and Trinaranjus beverages. In 1979, Contrapunto began working with the Spanish Public Administration and launched a campaign concerning government debt. This effort inaugurated a long period during which Contrapunto created both institutional and informational advertising for the administration.

In 1980, Juan Mariano Mancebo joined the agency, and José María Lapeña joined the following year. In 1983, the two were appointed creative directors when Mr. Zamorano, the agency's creative director, left. Messrs. Mancebo and Lapeña, working as a team, created campaigns that many observers believe to be among the finest in the history of Spanish advertising.

In 1987, Contrapunto won the account of Televisión Española, the Spanish public TV corporation. In 1989, Contrapunto's "Learn to use television" campaign, created by Messrs. Lapeña and Mancebo, won more than 30 awards, including the Grand Prix at the Cannes International Advertising Festival. It was the first time a Spanish agency won the award.

In 1988, Contrapunto sold a 30% share to New York-based BBDO Worldwide, gaining access to overseas markets through its alliance with the international agency network. In 1989, the agency's gross income hit $11.8 million while billings reached $78.8 million, each up 15% over 1988.

Mr. Marcos resigned as president of Contrapunto in 1991 and was succeeded by Mr. Sarró. By that time the Contrapunto Group, formed in 1988, consisted of six companies: Contrapunto S.A., an advertising agency in Madrid; Contrapunto Sellarés S.A., an ad agency in Barcelona; Núcleo de Investigación S.A., a consumer research corporation; M.B.O. Difusión S.A., a public relations company; C.P. Servicios de Comunicación S.A., a direct-marketing company; and Media Services S.A., a media buying service.

Economic prosperity in the 1980s was followed by financial crisis in the early 1990s in Spain. A recession affected the ad industry and resulted in salary freezes, personnel reductions and the closing of agencies. Contrapunto also suffered as a result of the crisis, losing several significant accounts.

In 1993, BBDO increased its stake in the shop to 75%, providing additional financial backing. In the reorganization that followed, two founders, Messrs. Sarró and Garcia, left the shop, and Contrapunto entered a period of transition. Tomas Corominas, a mining engineer and sociologist who had joined the agency in 1984, succeeded Mr. Sarró as president.

Between 1996 and 1997, the Contrapunto Group consolidated its holdings into four companies: Contrapunto, direct-marketing shop CP Comunicación, CP Interactive and CP Data. In 1999, Contrapunto began expanding internationally, opening offices in Lisbon, Santiago and Buenos Aires. Some of Contrapunto's chief accounts in 2000 included Agencia Tributaria, Airtel-Vodafone, Canal+, Canal Satélite, Chrysler/Jeep, Mercedes-Benz and Wanadoo.

Contrapunto Group expanded significantly internationally in 2000 and 2001. Although BBDO held a majority of Contrapunto, the two remained distinct in Spain, working independently and competing in the Spanish market.

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