Latin America; Computers Tap A New Market In Latin Region; Acer, Digital And Competitors Seek Business, Consumer Users In America

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The computer field is heating up in Latin America, as locals are showing a zest for hardware.

The region accounted for 3.2% of the world's $514 billion information technology market in 1995, according to International Data Corp., but it has 8% of the world's population and 6% of its gross domestic product.

ACER PLANS AHEAD

Last year Taiwan's Acer Group built a Miami-based operation to oversee Latin marketing. The company is losing no time getting established, using local marketing partners and regional coordination shop Daniels & Roberts, Boca Raton, Fla.

First on the 1996 Latin America agenda: rolling out the Aspire multimedia computer for the home market, outfitted with 486 or Pentium processors to meet various regional price points.

Scheduled for rollout this month, Acer's marketing plan shows a "decentralized" strategy of letting joint venture partners and distributors choose local agencies, said Brenda Noah-Navarro, Acer's Miami manager-marketing and communications.

Acer's Latin American effort, including ads in PC Magazine, America Economia, Time, Newsweek, Business Week and The Wall Street Journal Americas, will expand in 1996 from core business to broader titles.

Latin America is home to Acer's hottest competition, Compaq Computer Corp., but it does not follow rivals who stick to product message and execution.

"We don't have manuals and procedures with advertising guidelines," Ms. Noah-Navarro said. "Acer does a lot of regional advertising, and in-country they do a lot of product advertising, because at that level, they want to advertise price."

DIGITAL MARKETING

Digital Equipment Corp. began pushing PCs in 1994, from its Deerfield Beach, Fla., office. Digital's distributors move product and select agencies in each market, said Andres Carvallo, president-Personal Computer Business Unit, Latin America/Caribbean.

Young & Rubicam Latin America, Miami, centralizes regional TV, print and outdoor for all products and institutional messages, except for Brazil, handled by Y&R, SÌo Paulo.

Digital's Latin American PC division is autonomous, with managers controlling channels and generating demand from Florida, and in each market works the brand and handles media relations to "evangelize at the corporate account level."

Digital markets locally, using localized ads retaining the regional "attitude of the message," said Mr. Carvallo. When Digital opened a Bogot  office in late 1995, it used localized ads.

"Any office can pick and choose what to promote," he said. "Local countries have the freedom to make the message appeal to their market."

Digital targets corporate sales but uses retail techniques for business-to-business PC sales. Its ads change every three months, and it will introduce 35 new products in the next year.

IBM, APPLE GO FOR REGION

IBM operates a worldwide marketing team, including a Latin America division, using the global "Solutions for a small planet" campaign by Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, New York. Each market translates the campaign locally, said Linda Stack, director of marketing communications for Latin America IBM.

IBM splits Latin America into Brazil, Mexico, the Andean region (Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and Bolivia), and the south (Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay). O&M uses a parallel structure, and its Coral Gables, Fla., office handles all Latin America adaptation except Brazil, she said.

Local IBM and O&M offices also handle below-the-line activities, including sales promotion, lead generation, merchandising and point-of-sale collateral, she said.

Apple Computer Latin America/Caribbean works with BBDO to create and place a regional ad message, said Todd Rowe, group product manager, and local distributors place local messages, he said.

When Apple created its Miami base, the ad message from distributors was fragmented. Subsidiaries and distributors now use Apple's brand message to keep the message "tight, but flexible," said Mr. Rowe. Such will be the case in the second quarter, when a new Apple campaign breaks.

Mr. Rowe called the message "solutions, not just boxes," and hopes the campaign promotes a "plug-and-play strategy," with distributors using ads for local markets and piggybacking their messages upon them.

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