While Spreading Itself Out, La Comunidad Coalesces

Meanwhile, DraftFCB, SCPF Continue Pursuit of U.S. Hispanic Market

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- At the prestigious Art Basel fair in Miami last week, La Comunidad's tiny mobile art gallery booths made their first U.S. appearance to showcase client Converse's new global ad campaign, and the agency also got an artist to design a Converse-sponsored map of the art fair.

ARTISTIC VISION: La Comunidad's work for Converse touts rebellious expression.
ARTISTIC VISION: La Comunidad's work for Converse touts rebellious expression.
Separately, La Comunidad is putting the finishing touches on a campaign featuring 40 irreverent art and video pieces reflecting optimistic rebellion that will appear on Converse's websites in Latin America.

These days La Comunidad does it all. Based in Miami and Buenos Aires, the 75-person La Comunidad is Best Buy's U.S. Hispanic shop, the general-market agency for Remy Martin, and handles Sony Cybershot cameras, Walt Disney Co. and Coca-Cola Co. brands Burn and Epika in parts of Latin America.

The agency was founded in 2001 by brothers Jose Molla, based in Miami, and Joaquin Molla, based in Buenos Aires, but it's just in the last year that the agency has begun to function more as a single company. Antoinette Zel, who joined a year ago from Spanish-language network Telemundo, is the worldwide president, and the agency this year has appointed a director of worldwide strategic planning and hired a director of interactive creative, Tom Rodgers, from Crispin Porter & Bogusky. The agency also opened a division called La Comunidad Summer in Buenos Aires' chic Palermo Hollywood neighborhood. Summer, which includes the mobile solar-powered art gallery booths and the site www.thisisnotagallery.com, is meant to keep the agency tethered to the art world.

And the Molla brothers are becoming more interchangeable. Joaquin, for instance, is leading a U.S. general market pitch.

"We believe the world today requires flexibility, and agencies that can react quickly," said Jose Molla. "We like that the phone rings for U.S. Hispanic and Latin American and worldwide projects."

The Converse project, for instance, began with a trip to the Nike-owned company's Boston headquarters to show videos the agency made about popular culture in Latin America.

"We didn't separate U.S. Hispanic as a different market, but one of the conditions is they wanted the campaign to appeal to U.S. Hispanics, so we dipped into Mexican popular culture that would resonate with Mexican Americans," he said.

While La Comunidad isn't your average agency, other shops are also re-inventing themselves in ways that include U.S. Hispanic as an important piece but not the whole picture.

Moving into U.S.
One of Spain's top creative agencies, WPP-owned SCPF, started its international expansion with the U.S. Hispanic market, opening in Miami four years ago. Then SCPF set up tiny offices in Buenos Aires and Mexico City as it found like-minded talent that could work across borders and business opportunities. The next stop is the Dominican Republic, where SCPF will start working in January 2010 with Mike Alfonseca, the founder and creative director of independent agency Kraneo in Santo Domingo.

Within the general market, DraftFCB last week hired Ken Muench, a bilingual former copywriter who became one of the top planners in the U.S. Hispanic market. Most recently director-planning at leading Latino shop Grupo Gallegos, as DraftFBS's new senior VP-multicultural planner, Mr. Muench will be one of 53 people working on multicultural business at the agency, and more hires are planned.

"Cross-cultural marketing is where the future is," said Simon El Hage, who joined DraftFCB a year ago as its first VP-group management director, multicultural marketing.

Mr. El Hage said DraftFCB does some kind of multicultural work for 50% to 60% of the agency's clients, including State Farm and Kmart, even if they have their own multicultural agencies. Last month, his unit won the Hispanic assignment for Blue Cross, Blue Shield of Florida, already a DraftFCB client, from Siboney USA.

For some agencies, U.S. Hispanic and Latin America are being run by the same person. DDB united both markets, plus Spain, in DDB Latina, headed by Juan Carlos Ortiz. And in January 2010, Monica Gadsby will become CEO-Multicultural/Latin America of Starcom MediaVest Group.

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