Argentines targeting Hispanic market in U.S.

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In his own country, Fernando Vega Olmos is an ad industry leader and founder of a successful hot shop that clients like Unilever dote on. But the economy in his native Argentina is collapsing, and Mr. Vega Olmos, like much of its cutting-edge creative community, is eyeing the U.S. Hispanic market as an escape route.

While many U.S. Hispanic agency executives said they are bombarded with letters and e-mails from Argentines desperate to flee Buenos Aires, few are as enterprising as Mr. Vega Olmos. He hopes to persuade Lowe Lintas & Partners Worldwide, which owns a minority stake in his Buenos Aires agency VegaOlmosPonce, to back him in a new Miami shop for the U.S. Hispanic market. Although Lowe Lintas' holding company, Interpublic Group of Cos., owns stakes in no less than four U.S. Hispanic agencies, three are linked with McCann-Erickson Worldwide and one to Interpublic's new Advanced Marketing Services unit.

As one of the few networks left without a presence in the U.S. Hispanic market, Lowe Lintas has been looking around. One deal fell apart due to fast-food client conflicts. "Lowe is taking an active interest in the U.S. Hispanic market," said a Lowe Lintas executive.

"Opening an agency in a different country isn't easy," said Mr. Vega Olmos. "I'm in the middle of preparing different numbers and alternatives to talk with the Lowe guys."

Mired in its fourth consecutive year of recession, Argentina saw ad spending plunge by 11.5% last year, according to local statistics. For 2001, Zenith Media predicted 2.5% growth in the market to $3.2 billion in a June forecast, but now is having second thoughts.

"Since then the market in Argentina has completely bombed," said Tim Jones, Zenith exec VP in New York.

Mariano Favetto made a rare transition from Argentina to a U.S. Hispanic agency to general market agency. He's now senior VP-group creative director at Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi, New York, and said he hears from job-seekers back home "from chief creative directors to junior art directors."

"It's a lot to do with the economic situation, and clients cutting budgets and agencies having less and less money to hire people," he said. "And ageism is very strong in Argentina. Agency owners and top creatives are under 40. A lot of 23-year-old creative directors are very good and keep pushing people out."

Argentines entering the U.S. Hispanic market bring the best creative reputations in Spanish-speaking Latin America. The 2000 Gunn Report, a measure of how agencies perform at international award shows, ranked Buenos Aires fourth in the world after London, Sao Paulo and New York in creative awards won. The influx of creative talent from Argentina and other Latin countries is helping to improve the quality of U.S. Hispanic work.(See Ad Age's Hispanic Creative Advertising Awards at

In his bid to crack the U.S. Hispanic market, Mr. Vega Olmos is diligently doing his homework. In April he chaired the jury at Latin America's most prestigious ad festival FIAP, and this summer in Miami he gave a well-received presentation about his agency to the Circulo Creativo, a group of U.S. Hispanic creative executives. Two weeks ago, he was a huge hit as a speaker at the conference of the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies in New Orleans. Besides showing stunning creative work, he exorted AHAA to hold its meetings in Spanish.

Contributing: Charles Newbery in Buenos Aires

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