Advertisers must strike while the opportunity exists. When the tourist season ends in March, Punta del Este's average daily population drops from 250,000 to around 10,000.
So advertising blossoms in the summer. Ad revenues for the city's Canal 11 TV station triple or quadruple those in the off-season, said General Manager Nelson Martinez. Radio blooms as FM radio stations from Buenos Aires and Montevideo broadcast their signals, or set up temporary broadcast centers in this Atlantic coast community 85 miles east of Montevideo.
Retail stores open up solely for the summer. Seasonal program sponsorships of sporting events, fashion shows, and seasonal magazines thrive for marketers of tony products.
Rolex, for example, sponsors polo matches broadcast on Canal 11, as well as a nightly magazine show broadcast during the summer called "At Nine in Punta."
And promotions-from car stickers to Industrializadora de Maiz's beach side biplane advertising for Hellmann's mayonnaise-abound.
The tourists are a lucrative and responsive target. The exclusive enclave initially became popular among wealthy Argentineans and Uruguayans who built summer cottages here in the 1920s and '30s. And prices here yearround reflect the have-money-will-spend attitude of tourists. A cup of coffee goes for $2.50 and a hamburger fetches $7.50. Renting a two-bedroom apartment with maid service for two weeks in January costs $3,500.
The Gianni Versace boutique opens in Punta del Este only for two months in high season, and expects to bring in $200,000-with only minimal advertising-during that time.
"This is a select public with a lot of money-the jet set, politicians and businessmen. It's the Versace clientele," said Sandra Kachuk, owner of the Versace franchise in Argentina and Punta del Este.
She said Punta del Este sales to the South American upper crust vacationing here will enable it to rake in double what it would in its Buenos Aires store during the months of January and February. That's with only a smattering of print ads in local women's magazines and a summer fashion show sponsorship.
Credit cards get their share of use here as tourists tend to go on spending binges. American Express Co., Diner's Club, MasterCard International and Visa International make themselves known to spenders with their logos on everything from road signs to umbrellas.
MasterCard, for one, lets travelers charge up to a year's worth of real estate rentals in Punta del Este. The real estate service is advertised in Argentina's large-circulation newspapers and magazines in ads from Ratto/ BBDO, Buenos Aires.
Comparatively unglamorous consumer goods and services also take part in the summer promotions blitz, sponsoring soccer and beach volleyball tournaments.
The Bank of Boston, one of the five largest banks in Argentina, dubs a stretch of oceanside property "Boston Beach," in a campaign by Ratto/BBDO. An estimated 100 yards of sand is decked out with enormous "Boston Beach" signs as is a pool, snack bar, gym and restaurant.
Some "media buying" is dirt cheap: Marketers hire teen-agers to place removable stickers with brand logos on car windows for Coca Cola de Uruguay, Pepsi Cola Uruguay and Agfa Gavaert Argentina's Agfa film.
Tourism to Punta del Este has increased markedly with the region's economic growth. The city registered 352,611 visitors last year-a 37% increase from 1991, according to the Uruguayan Tourism Ministry. About 80% of the tourists come from Argentina, with the rest, in descending order from Brazil, Paraguay, Chile, Europe and the U.S.
Uruguay promotes itself heavily as a tourist destination in neighboring Argentina, spending more than $1 million annually via Ogilvy & Mather, Buenos Aires. Print ads for Punta del Este running in Argentina, for example, maintain the city's upscale image.
"It can't look like an `advertisement,'*" said Jorge Heymann, O&M creative director. "You have to talk to the people in their own language. You can't use slogans or logos."
Hence, one print ad for Punta del Este reads, "Not everyone here wears a Rolex. Some don't even have to worry about the time."
The city is expanding its tiny airport to handle direct flights from Brazil and other neighboring countries, and in the future possibly intercontinental flights.
"Someone coming here from the States or Europe has to be willing to spend at least $5,000 .*.*. It's not a middle class destination," said an American investment adviser visiting Punta del Este on the recommendation of his Argentinean wife.
There are slightly lower brow establishments also moving in as tourism breeds urbanization. Two shopping malls are in progress. The Edel Shopping Center, being built by a group of Brazilian, Portuguese, Uruguayan and U.S. companies, will have 208 storefronts and two movie theaters. And in December McDonald's Corp. opened a restaurant.