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Meet Brazil's Rising Female Marketing Stars From Pepsi, Unilever and Google

Ad Age and Brazil's Meio & Mensagem Induct Country's First Class of Women to Watch

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Advertising Age's Women to Watch franchise reached a fourth continent with the celebration of the inaugural class of Women to Watch Brazil, in partnership with Meio & Mensagem, Brazil's leading trade publication and Ad Age's longtime partner in Brazil.

The luncheon event, held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Sao Paulo on Aug. 30, honored 8 women in Brazil's marketing and advertising community from Google, PepsiCo, Santander bank and Unilever, and two Brazilian brands -- Alpargatas' Havaianas and Brazilian airline TAM. Two agency execs, from DM9 DDB and Naked Brasil, were honored.

The honorees:

  • Maria Luiza Askar Lopez, media director, Unilever
  • Fernanda Romano, partner and chief creative officer, Naked Communications
  • Carla Schmitzberger, director of sandals division, Alpargatas
  • Andrea Alvares, general manager-snacks business unit, PepsiCo Brazil
  • Paula Nader, head of branding and marketing, Santander Bank
  • Polika Teixeira, partner and president, DM9 DDB Rio
  • Flavia Verginelli, products and solutions director, Google Latin America
  • Claudia Sender, CEO, TAM Airlines
Fernanda Romano, Maria Luiza Askar Lopez and Paula Nader
Fernanda Romano, Maria Luiza Askar Lopez and Paula Nader Credit: Eduardo Lopes

"It's a privilege to be part of this group, and I'd like to thank Meio & Mensagem and Ad Age," said Maria Luiza Askar Lopez, Unilever's media director in Brazil. "I'd like to dedicate this prize to the woman who taught me everything and is here today, my mother."

Ms. Lopez, 38, had a tough decision to make a few years ago, when she left a life she enjoyed in New York as director of strategic planning at Interpublic Group of Cos' Initiative to return to Brazil for the Unilever job. Now she is a power player as media head at Brazil's second biggest advertiser with a $500 million budget, but it's also a unique and complicated role. Brazil is the only major market that prohibits specialist media agencies, requiring media to be planned and bought through full-service creative agencies. That means Ms. Lopez deals with about ten different ad agencies in Brazil.

"The key is really co-creation and collaborative work," she said. For example, the recent creative blockbuster for Dove -- the "Real Beauty Sketches" campaign that uses an FBI sketch artist's drawings to show women they are more beautiful than they believe -- was developed by Ogilvy in Brazil and activated in multiple markets, including the U.S.

Citing other top female executives at Unilever as role models, Ms. Lopez said, "We have an important role to set an example. The first step is to discuss it. We have a network at Unilever (for that) and a mentoring program."

Andrea Alvares, Carla Schmitzberger and Polika Teixeira
Andrea Alvares, Carla Schmitzberger and Polika Teixeira Credit: Eduardo Lopes

"It's hard to be a man these days; I feel sorry for them," said the irreverent Fernanda Romano, 38, who rose through the male-dominated agency creative department ranks as she became a leading digital expert working in her native Brazil, the U.S. and Europe. Currently splitting her time as a partner and chief creative officer between Naked Communications in New York and the Brazilian operation she helped launch, Ms. Romano is the only person to be named a Woman to Watch in two countries. Ad Age honored her in the U.S. in 2007 while at Lowe Worldwide, and included her among the 100 most influential women in advertising in the last 100 years in a special issue of Ad Age in September 2012.

"I hope this first group of 8 will be followed by many women in the future," said Carla Schmitzberger. The German-born globetrotter and former Procter & Gamble exec leads one of Brazil's best-known international brands, Havaianas, as director of the sandals division of shoe giant Alpargatas. In the domestic market, Brazil's population of 190 million averages more than one new pair of Havaianas a year but Ms. Schmitzberger, 51, sees the real future growth coming from abroad, as Havaianas opens its first U.S. store this fall in Miami, with a New York store to follow.

In 2011, Andrea Alvares, 42, became the first woman to lead a Pepsi division in Brazil as general manager for beverages, following several years in Buenos Aires as marketing director for South America. This year, she took over the snacks business unit for Brazil as general manager.

A rare high-ranking woman in Brazil's financial services industry, Paula Nader, 42, is head of branding and marketing for Spain's Santander bank, a challenging position as Santander has grown into one of Brazil's biggest financial groups through acquisition of multiple bank brands. She noted that although 80% of her 50-person team is composed of women, only five of Santander's 60 directors are female.

Polika Teixeira, 42, is a carioca, the Brazilian word for a native of Rio de Janeiro. After years working in the ad capital Sao Paulo, most recently as VP-account service at DM9 DDB, she fulfilled a dream by returning to the smaller but upcoming Rio market less than two years ago to open DM9 DDB there. As partner and president of the thriving new office, located in chic beach neighborhood Leblon, she describes her role as "getting Rio to the place it should always have occupied."

Flavia Verginelli, 42, became products and solutions director last year for Google in Latin America. In the region's biggest market Brazil, consumers increasingly live online and marketers and agencies have a fast-growing interest in working with Google and Google-owned YouTube.

PepsiCo's Andrea Alvares and her mother at Women to Watch Brazil
PepsiCo's Andrea Alvares and her mother at Women to Watch Brazil Credit: Eduardo Lopes

Also honored was TAM Airlines CEO Claudia Sender, who in May 2013 at the age of 38 became the first woman to run an airline in Brazil. The former Bain & Co. exec and VP of marketing at Whirlpool joined TAM in December 2011 as VP of the Brazil domestic business unit and increased occupancy and market share for the airline, which controls 42% of Brazil's domestic airline market and 85% of international flights.

The Sao Paulo event's main sponsor was Johnson & Johnson's Neutrogena brand; others included Fiat, McDonald's Corp., wireless company Vivo and local TV channel GNT.

Women to Watch, an annual event in the U.S. for 16 years, started in Turkey in May 2013 and is celebrating its second year in China. Women to Watch recognizes -- in editorial profiles and a local event -- women who are changing the industry now and should be "watched" as they continue to be innovators.

Ad Age will celebrate the second class of Women to Watch China, in partnership with Thoughtful China, with an evening event on Nov. 7 in Shanghai. This year's Women to Watch China profiles -- featuring honorees from companies including Chinese search engine Baidu, Cadillac, Nike, Dell, Pernod Ricard, Omnicom Group and BBH -- were published in Ad Age on Aug. 19.

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