Fire Advertainment Toasts Argentina's Bicentennial Through Its Brands

Mini-Documentaries Showcase 30 Companies' Stories

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BUENOS AIRES ( -- To celebrate Argentina's bicentennial, Latin America's leading branded-entertainment agency, Fire Advertainment, is telling the country's story through 30 of its strongest and most beloved brands -- from Aceitera General Deheza olive oil to Zanella motorcyles -- in exactly 181 seconds each. Every history of a business pioneer in the 181:0 project is a mini-documentary, airing this week on Fox cable channels and in movie theaters in Argentina.

And with three other Latin American countries commemorating later this year the anniversary of their own independence from Spain in 1810, Fire founder and President Rodrigo Figueroa Reyes plans to replicate the 181:0 project with their best local brands.

"Negotiations are very advanced in Colombia and we are only now selling it in Chile and Mexico, but there is no doubt that it is going to be done in all four countries," he said.

Fire is working with Havas Entertainment and the Endeavor Foundation, a nonprofit group that promotes cultural activities in emerging markets. Each mini-documentary is introduced and narrated by popular Argentine actor Ricardo Darin, and follows a timeline that weaves the company's evolution into the history of Argentina, using newsreel-like footage and old photos.

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181.0: Quilmes

The 181-second story of Quilmes beer opens with German immigrant Otto Bemberg arriving in Buenos Aires in 1852 and settling in a working-class neighborhood called Quilmes, where he starts making Argentina's beer at a brewery whose familiar morning whistle becomes the locals' alarm clock. Over more than a century, electricity arrives as Argentina and the brewer modernize, Quilmes does its first print ads, TV is invented and Quilmes is among the first advertisers, and Argentina wins the World Cup with Quilmes' sponsorship of the national soccer team. (The documentary doesn't mention that AmBev now owns Quilmes).

"In the films, we never refer to sales volume or numbers, but to the ethics of the visionary that built up the company," Mr. Figueroa Reyes said. "Their dream was deeper and nobler than a mere business plan. These people dreamed of a different country and each one of them contributed to its creation."

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Americans, for instance, understand what a central role business plays in a country's daily life, "but in Argentina people are reluctant to assimilate that," he said. "But the truth is that the engine of the economy lies in the business world."

Fire and Havas approached selected companies with a package for an undisclosed price that includes creating and producing a mini-documentary about their brand, including Mr. Darin's narration, and the media buy. Each brand's story will air a total of 150 times over four months on Fox, which has about a dozen cable channels in Argentina. By pitching the documentaries as content, they negotiated a favorable media buy with Fox and the 200 movie theaters that will air the stories before films.

Other stories include leading mineral water brand Villavicencio, bottled since 1903, initially as a medicinal water sold in pharmacies; La Nacion newspaper; Aerolineas Argentinas; Banco Provincia; and heating equipment maker Eskabe, whose founder, Juan Celestino Nasi, sold heaters door-to-door from his car in the 1950s. One brand, Peugeot, is actually from France, but was included because the car maker has been in the country since the 1930s and played a big role in bringing the automobile to Argentina.

The brand story's final sentence is always "The history of a country is the sum of many stories."

"There are a few marketers that aren't traditional brands," said Mr. Figueroa Reyes. "Software developer Globant deserves to be there because, in only seven years, it already has 2,500 employees and Argentinians already consider it as the local Google. We chose bigger and smaller brands, older or younger, but all of them have somehow become part of the nation."

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