Agulla & Baccetti

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Founded by Ramiro Agulla and Carlos Baccetti, 1994; won Topper footwear account, 1995; won Renault account, 1996; sold 20% of the agency to Lowe Group Worldwide, 1997; won Telecom Argentina and Levi Strauss & Co. accounts, 1997; awarded HSBC Group business, March 2000; Lowe Group increased shares in agency to 40%, July 2000.

Agulla & Baccetti was founded in September 1994 in Buenos Aires by Ramiro Agulla and Carlos Baccetti with a single client, JCA, a private postal service. Messrs. Agulla and Baccetti wasted no time in shaking up the formal, rather stuffy relationship traditional between clients and agencies in Argentina. The unconventional and irreverent way they began to pursue new clients soon became the talk of advertising circles.

Mr. Agulla, the agency president, courted Topper, an Argentine marketer of leather footwear, by challenging the potential client's marketing staff to a game of basketball. The move helped persuade Topper that the start-up possessed the freshness and audacity necessary to reposition its brand's tired image. The ensuing campaign was controversial: two athletes facing off on a tennis court wearing literally nothing, except for their Topper shoes.

A growing number of established advertisers wanted to work with the agency but were hesitant at first. For instance, Renault approached Agulla & Baccetti in 1996 but initially gave the agency only half of its business (the rest was with Grey Advertising). Eventually, the agency acquired the whole account.

As the agency's billings continued to grow, reaching $20 million by the end of 1996, so did its creative reputation abroad. Several multinational agency networks, keen to get a foothold in the growing Latin American market, began to knock at Agulla & Baccetti's door, including Ammirati Puris Lintas and FCB Worldwide.

The ideal partner came in the shape of Frank Lowe, chairman of the Lowe Group. In June 1997, Lowe bought a 20% stake in the Argentine shop as part of its regional expansion. To round out a momentous year for the agency, the Buenos Aires-based industry group Circulo de Creativos named Agulla & Baccetti the best agency of 1997.

In the next two years, the agency won more prestigious accounts, such as the newly privatized telecommunications company Telecom Argentina; the country's No. 1 beer brand, Quilmes; and, most significantly, Levi Strauss & Co.

Amid the awards, however, the agency suffered some disappointments. These included giving up the Quilmes beer account over "creative disagreements" and losing its hold on oil giant YPF, Argentina's biggest company, after it merged with Spain's mammoth Repsol. (Repsol insisted on keeping its lead agency, Young & Rubicam, for work in Argentina.)

Offsetting those losses were major gains in the new century, including HSBC Group in March 2000 and in December 2000 a regional advertising account for DirecTV Latin America-DTLA, a leading provider of satellite TV, previously with J. Walter Thompson Co. For the latter business, though, the agency was forced to resign its local business with DTLA's archrival Sky.

For 2001, Agulla & Baccetti had gross income of $12 million, down 11.1% over 2000, on billings of $66 million.

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