Business in Brazil: DDB woos Guanaes back to agency fold

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[sao paulo, brazil] DDB Worldwide last week lured back Nizan Guanaes, the legendary Brazilian adman who sold his Sao Paulo hotshop DM9 to the Omnicom Group network, just as Mr. Guanaes was about to start his own agency again.

Mr. Guanaes' two-year contractual agreement with DDB ended this month and he was widely expected to open a shop in Sao Paulo called Bossa Nova. Instead, he said he returns to DM9 DDB Publicidade as a "partner and to lead the company" and reacquires a minority stake in the agency.

simple announcement

With the dramatic flair he loves, Mr. Guanaes broke the news to his former staff by simply turning up at the agency March 13 and greeting them. At the end of the day, he announced 60 layoffs, trimming the staff to 160, although a DDB executive said most of those were already in the works.

DM9 DDB, Brazil's sixth-largest agency with 2000 billings of $279 million, was hit hard by his departure, losing clients and creative executives. Although the agency was recovering, the emergence of Mr. Guanaes, a magnet for clients, with his own rival agency would have been another blow.

In a statement on his first day back, Mr. Guanaes said, "DDB is the majority shareholder. I am the commanding shareholder."

His new stake in the agency is the launching pad for a Brazilian agency holding company. In his statement, Mr. Guanaes explained that DM9 DDB (his stake at any rate) is the first agency in NGI, a holding company whose partners include himself and local bank Icatu, which backed the original DM9 agency he launched in 1989.

At the end of April, the agency he intended to call Bossa Nova will open, although another company currently owns that name. In January 2003, he plans to start an agency with expertise in political marketing. He likened NGI to Omnicom and Prax, a homegrown holding company started by Brazilian adman Washington Olivetto, who has added other agencies to his main agency, W/Brasil, under the Prax umbrella.

Steve Burton, president of DDB Latin America, said Mr. Guanaes' involvement is less in day-to-day management and more in the areas of leadership, creative direction and new business expertise. DM9 DDB's long-time president, Affonso Serra, quit two weeks ago and that post has yet to be filled.

In announcing his return, Mr. Guanaes, who has a deeply mystical side, said, "This profession is my calling, my north and my destiny. And there's no escaping from destiny."

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