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International Small Agency of the Year, Silver: Don

Wide-Ranging Buenos Aires Agency Sells Presidential Candidate and Cable Packages

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Don CEO Papon Ricciarelli
Don CEO Papon Ricciarelli

Juan Manuel "Papon" Ricciarelli's 60-person Buenos Aires agency Don (Spanish for "gift" or "talent") does it all, very strategically and creatively, from presidential politics to boosting sales for cable packages and home improvement chains.

Under Don, presidential candidate Mauricio Macri asked Argentines on Facebook to invite him over to their house to chat. Mr. Macri's visits to ordinary people at home, posted on Facebook and YouTube, boosted his recognition and popularity. He visited 51 families in 18 provinces of Argentina, and made 136 phone calls to people he couldn't visit with in person. Mr. Ricciarelli said he saw a lot of potential in the idea that a politician, rather than addressing a big group, would instead actually listen to an individual.

"It was simple and austere and not pretentious," he said. "In Latin America, the idea that a politician listens to people isn't normal. [And] it was a great sociological exercise, to understand what people think, how they live, and what they want."

Don already worked for the city of Buenos Aires and Mr. Macri, who is mayor of Buenos Aires but needed to be better known nationally.

A passion for politics and deep involvement in a presidential campaign doesn't mean Don neglects other business. The agency recently won Nextel (Sprint in the U.S.), several Mondelez brands, and local consumer electronics retailer Garbarino.

Mr. Ricciarelli's background is in big agencies as one of Argentina's leading creatives; he was regional creative director at McCann and BBDO Argentina's executive creative director before starting Don in 2008 with Agustin Marques and Mariano Ricciarelli, who now leads a new unit started earlier this year called Don Connect.

Papon Ricciarelli with Ad Age editor Ken Wheaton at Small Agency Awards
Papon Ricciarelli with Ad Age editor Ken Wheaton at Small Agency Awards Credit: Aynsley Floyd/AP Images for Ad Age

To boost sales of a combo package of Cablevision cable and Fibertel internet service, Don conjured up the life-changing moments like a wedding or the birth of a baby when people expect profoundly meaningful advice. It turned out that the best, humorously delivered tip was to sign up for the combo cable and internet package. And people did. Sales went up 70%.

For Easy Homecenter, a Home Depot-like chain, Don's campaign featured people doing home improvement projects in the kind of outlandish but comfy clothes you wouldn't wear outside of your own home. Instead of just selling products like power tools, Easy was selling the freedom to enjoy your home in comfort, and sales went up 15%, along with an increase in brand awareness.

"We don't believe in categories, like cars and personal products, but in targets," Mr. Ricciarelli said. "It's important to understand consumer habits. How does the same woman drink a certain brand of coffee in the morning, then buy Reebok sneakers, and later choose Nextel phone service and then buy a particular brand of shampoo."

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