Manny Gonzalez Named New Head of Abece Agency

Founder Jose Lopez-Varela Leaves After Dispute With Owners

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Jose Lopez-Varela, who started Hill Holliday's Hispanic ad agency Abece three years ago, has left the Miami agency. His successor as managing director is Manny Gonzalez, a well-known U.S. Hispanic marketer who moved from Diageo North America last November to join Zyman Group as a managing consultant in the firm's Marketing to Hispanics (M2H) practice. Mr. Gonzalez left Zyman last week and started at Abece this week.
Manny Gonzalez has left Zyman Group to become the new managing director of the Abece agency.
Manny Gonzalez has left Zyman Group to become the new managing director of the Abece agency.

Mr. Lopez-Varela, who arrived in New York today for the U.S. Hispanic upfront presentations, said he is considering a couple opportunities and expects to be able to talk about a new position within ten days.

'Drastic differences'
"We had differences of opinion on where Abece was going and what I had in mind," he said. "They weren't slight differences, they were drastic differences."

Mr. Lopez-Varela, 37, is also vice-chairman of the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies, scheduled to take over ias chairman n April 2008. Mr. Lopez-Varela said that if he joins a Hispanic agency that is a member of AHAA, his role at AHAA would probably not be affected.

Mr. Gonzalez takes over at Interpublic Group of Cos.-owned Abece after spending most of his career on the marketer side, most recently as brand director-Scotch at Diageo North America for both the Hispanic and general market. Earlier he was national brand manager for Miller Brewing Company. At Abece (pronounced Ah-Bay-Say, or A-B-C in Spanish), a 10-person agency that was called Hill Holliday Hispanic until this year, Mr. Gonzalez will be running his first agency.

Bilingual, bicultural segment
Mr. Gonzalez is best known for his work with the growing bilingual, bicultural segment of the Hispanic market.

"We want to continue addressing the unique needs of Hispanic consumers, but increasingly we're going to have to be much better at marketing to them in a way that recognizes their dual identities," he said.

Abece works with Hill Holliday clients like Dunkin' Donuts and CVS Pharmacy, and Mr. Gonzalez said there is interest among other Hill Holliday clients in working with the Hispanic market.

More sophisticated marketing
"Clients are demanding a much more sophisticated way of marketing to Hispanics," he said. "Given my experience at Diageo, Miller and Zyman, it's a nice combination to bring to the table."

Back at Zyman, the consulting firm is seeking a new head for the multicultural practice that will formally open in Miami in July. The firm hired Marco Vega, the VP account planning at New York-based Hispanic agency Ole, in January and is seeking several more consultants to join the Miami office.
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