Argentine Ad Agency Santo Hands out Coveted Award

The White Moccasins Have Become Much Sought After Among the Country's Creatives

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It was the night of nights for the Argentine ad business. Everyone who's anyone was there. Not only to dive into the ocean of mojitos, vodka tonics, champagne and salted shrimp, but to receive what is now one of Argentine advertising's most coveted and least-expected awards.

The award is a pair of hand-crafted, white leather moccasins with an image of two half-naked, smiling girls printed inside. According to the award's creators, Maxi Anselmo and Sebastián Wilhem, owners of ad agency Santo, the moccasins are a living homage paid to those who, in their view, walked the extra mile in the business. Or as they say: "Los que se animaron a dar el paso" -- those who dared walking the walk and not only talking the talk.

And there they were, some of Argentina's most renowned ad creatives, some old, some pretty young, some living here, some abroad: Ramiro Agulla, Fernando Vega Olmos, Carlos Perez, Carlos Bayala, Jorge Schussheim, Rodrigo Figueroa Reyes, Alberto Ponte. Assembled was a advertising pantheon and the only one absent was its Zeus, Hugo Casares, the father of Argentine creativity, who passed away some months ago.

One of Mr. Casares followers was Maxi Anselmo. "One year before his passing away, Hugo and I met at his place. He shows up in the living room with his impeccable suit, handkerchief and lock ties. He says: 'You take a whisky cowboy-style, right kid?' A cowboy is an ice-free whisky, it's 10 in the morning, and here I am, sitting next to the most glamorous guy in the ad business, a thousand times more glamorous than our generation," Maxi wrote in a requiem piece published by local magazine Mercado.

Hugo Casares
Hugo Casares
Santo also created a white book filled with odes to the winners.

"Had he chosen to be a garbage dump worker, today he would be the King of the Scavengers, Argentine garbage cans would be respected in the world and we would be exporting garbage to Europe," the book says about JWT's Fernando Vega Olmos.

"While most of us work from anguish (you can't think, ideas won't come, you're not good enough), Kepel works from happiness," it says about Damian Kepel.

It's a rare tribute, different from those given by a jury of peers or professional organizations. This is given out by a sole agency, based only in the subjective criteria of the owners.

Santo's point of view was the only factor to determine who would earn a pair of moccasins. And based on the acceptance the honor has had in the advertising and marketing community, their criteria is all they needed.

"Will we get one of these someday?" said a young female brand manager, head of one of the country's most coveted, most award-winning, most consumer-accepted brands. Whether she was talking about "we, advertisers" or "we, women" was unclear. While Argentina's marketing managers have already embraced creativity as a value creator for their brands, none of the persons celebrated in Santo's white book are women because the local ad business stills lacks females in top-management positions.

It's a situation that will surely change in the coming years, and one that Santo's book unwittingly has brought to the spotlight, proving it's not only about peer recognition but also a snapshot of our times.

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