Washington Olivetto's W/Brasil Merges With McCann

Legendary Creative Adds His Initial to Interpublic Agency, Becomes Chief Creative Officer for Latin America

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Reflecting Brazil's growing importance to the advertising community, Interpublic Group of Cos. has done two deals there this week, combining McCann Erickson's Brazil operation with iconic local agency W/Brasil and opening a Sao Paulo office for digital shop R/GA.

Washington Olivetto
Washington Olivetto
The merger to create a new agency called WMcCann was announced in a long, descriptive communiqué that could only have been penned by W/Brasil founder Washington Olivetto, a legendary creative who has played a key role in shaping the growth of Brazil's dynamic ad industry for more than three decades.

The deal, which has been the worst-kept secret in Brazil for months, brings Mr. Olivetto to McCann as chairman with considerable power to remake the agency whose name will now start with his own initial. He'll also serve as McCann Worldgroup's chief creative officer for Latin America.

Mr. Olivetto's communiqué says the new WMcCann aims to "produce a high level of happiness per capita" for everyone from clients to consumers.

Even in a country where top admen are treated like rock stars, Mr. Olivetto's high-profile status in the Brazilian media is unique. His simple announcement a couple years ago that he planned to retire when he's 65 -- seven years from now -- made headlines. There has been widespread speculation for years about which multinational agency network he might eventually do a deal with. This parlor game was sometimes fueled by Mr. Olivetto's own mischievous sense of humor, such as the time he was spotted wearing a Fallon T-shirt. So the WMcCann deal this week has been all over the front pages of Brazil's leading newspapers and even on the national TV news.

The first ad from WMcCann for longtime W/Brasil client BomBril.
The first ad from WMcCann for longtime W/Brasil client BomBril.
New No. 8 shop
Mr. Olivetto will have his work cut out for him. McCann, once Brazil's biggest agency, was ranked No. 11 in 2009, when the agency's media billings fell by 17%, according to Ibope Monitor. W/Brasil is smaller, at No. 43 in the rankings, but it was up 13% in media billings. Adding W/Brasil's clients to the new WMcCann agency would bump the shop up to No. 8.

So far this year, both agencies have posted strong new business wins. Luca Lindner, McCann Worldgroup's regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean, said he expects WMcCann to climb into the top 5 by the end of 2010.

The two agencies don't have any account conflicts and already share at least one major client, Nestle.

Last year Mr. Olivetto started signing ads with the letter W followed by the client's name as a sign of co-authorship. That will continue with the first WMcCann ad, running Saturday for longtime W/Brasil client BomBril, a steel soap pad that is a household staple in Brazil. The print ad is an homage to Sao Paulo soccer club Corinthians, one of Mr. Olivetto's passions, and will run in the inside cover of a special Corinthians-themed issue of leading newsweekly Veja.

Several of the 10 points outlined in Mr. Olivetto's communiqué are devoted to parties celebrating the new agency. The first, on May 1, is a "symbolic working Saturday" consisting of a lunchtime feijoada, Brazil's national dish, to be held on the same day at both the Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro agencies, with the agency's management attending both lunches.

For R/GA, the Sao Paulo office will be the digital agency's first in Latin America, and it is expected to grow to 10 or 15 people by the end of the year. The new office, opened to handle new global digital client MasterCard, will be headed by Paulo Melchiori as executive creative director and Paola Colombo from R/GA New York as group director, production.

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Contributing: Alexandre Zaghi Lemos from Meio & Mensagem

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