DM9 opened in Salvador, Bahia, in 1975, under the initials of its founder, Duda Mendonça, a successful real estate salesman, added the number nine to his shop's name "just for kicks," as he explained. But the agency was to become the brainchild of Nizan Guanaes, considered to be perhaps the most prominent advertising man of his generation not only in Brazil but in all of Latin America.
Mr. Guanaes, who was born in Bahia in 1958, joined DM9 as a teen-age trainee after the other agencies in the area turned him down. He quickly outgrew DM9, which in the late 1970s was still a small, regional agency, and moved to Rio, where he drew attention for his work for the agency Artplan Comunicaoes. He later worked for DPZ and W/Brasil in São Paulo.
In 1989, he startled the industry by quitting his job at W/Brasil and returned to DM9, where he set up a partnership with Mr. Mendonça. Soon after, Mr. Guanaes bought the agency, with the help of the Icatu financial group; Mr. Mendonça went on to become one of Brazil's chief experts in political campaign advertising.
Under Mr. Guanaes' leadership, DM9 became the fastest-growing agency in the country, reaching billings of $300 million in 1998 and the first agency not headquartered in the U.S. or U.K. to be chosen Agency of the Year at the Cannes International Advertising Festival. By 2001, DM9 and the U.K.'s Bartle Bogle Hegarty were the only agencies that had won the title twice. DM9 is also one of only two Brazilian agencies to win a Cannes Grand Prix (Almap/ BBDO is the other).
In 1997, in what was billed as the biggest deal in Brazilian advertising, DM9 joined with DDB Worldwide, and Mr. Guanaes gained a seat on the DDB Needham board. However, he again surprised the industry by quitting DM9/DDB in May 2000 to become CEO of IG, an Internet service provider.
Between 1989 and 2000, Mr. Guanaes and his agency were the recipients of numerous advertising awards. In 1992, Mr. Guanaes became the first Brazilian to be president of a jury at the Cannes Festival. He is among the few Brazilians ever to be designated a "Marketing Superstar" by Advertising Age (in 1993). He also won the important Brazilian market award Cabore, as Best Entrepreneur/Communications Leader in 1997.
Among its many awards in its nine years under Mr. Guanaes, DM9/DDB garnered 43 Lions (in addition to the Grand Prix) at the Cannes Festival and two Grand Prix at the New York Festivals and FIAP (Iberian-American Advertising Festival) as well as a Clio award. It also was elected best Iberian-American Agency of 1994-98, receiving El Ojo de Iberoamerica (The Eye of Iberian America).
After Mr. Guanaes’ departure in 2000 to head Brazilian Intenet group IG, DM9/DDB was hit hard by the defection of both clients and creative executives. Two years later, in March 2002, DDB negotiated Mr. Guanaes’ return as a partner with a minority stake. He also set up his own holding company with other investors, including other properties such as a new agency he started called Africa.
In 2001, DM9/DDB had gross income of $43.1 million, down 18.4% from the previous year, on billings of $227.8 million.