Trends and Insight in association withSynapse Virtual Production

DDB Latina: How its Unique Setup Lead to Network of the Year Crown at El Ojo 2017

Advertising Agency
Miami, USA
Juan Carlos Ortiz discusses year-on-year growth since shifting the network to reflect culture not geography, and issues affecting the region

Eight years ago Juan Carlos-Ortiz had a vision for his new role as CEO of DDB Latina. Instead of categorising the region by geography – as done by the vast majority of businesses around the world – why not do it by culture? The Latino culture is a huge, global force. It spans all of South and Central America, Hispanic North America – which includes 52 million of the country’s 323 million citizens and is continually growing – and crosses the vastness of the Atlantic ocean to Europe via Spain and Portugal. (The shift by DDB is something we’ve previously covered here.)

Since then the region has encountered continuous growth for DDB. This year it was selected by consulting firm R3 as the agency in the region that had performed best in terms of winning new business, and was recently recognised for its creative performance by being crowned Network of the Year at El Ojo de Iberoamérica, the biggest award show in the region. 

So what better time to catch up with DDB Latina's President & CEO Juan Carlos again? LBB’s Addison Capper caught up with him to chat all things DDB, why Venezuela is in survival mode, how the political situation in Barcelona could affect business and more. 

LBB> Just to get started, can you give us a quick recap of what inspired the shift to DDB Latina? 

JCO> It’s very easy for people to talk about transformation but very few people are really doing it. Companies have always been structured by geography but we wanted to set DDB Latina up around human interests and culture. That’s totally different. So instead of calling the region DDB LATAM, we called it DDB Latina and structured it to reflect that. 

LBB> Fast forward eight years and you’ve just been awarded Network of the Year at El Ojo de Iberoamérica, which is the region’s biggest show. How does that make you feel?

JCO> Firstly, I’m extremely proud because this move has been successful. It’s not just a matter of doing it; it’s about doing it, executing it and succeeding. And when we first started DDB Latina we found a kind of virus – people not believing in the model, pushing for things to be done in the ‘normal’ way, etc. So we changed a lot of people because we needed believers – if you believe you have passion, and if you have passion you can succeed. 

This was also the perfect opportunity for us to start working in different ways. We knew that, as a company, we were very strong in storytelling, so we started to include data and technology. By adding these specialities we became like a big runner with two legs – one leg that’s focused on culture and storytelling, the other data and technology. Putting those together has been a big source of new creative work and solutions for our clients. It’s like a person running – fast and flexible. 

LBB> On top of the El Ojo success, DDB Latina is also experiencing a bit of a run with regards to new business. What can you tell us about that? How are you tackling that side of the business?

JCO> In the last few years we’ve won the bank BBVA – they’re from Spain but they’re also in Latin America and the USA, so the model is perfect for them. This year we won Seat and we’re running that out of Barcelona, the airline Avianca which is run out of Colombia, the Unilever haircare brand Sunsilk, on a regional basis. This is a powerhouse of Latino culture. The last year has been our best year ever, in terms of growth, new business and creative reputation. 

On top of the El Ojo win, R3, the consulting company, selected DDB Latina as the company in the region which has performed the best at winning new business. It’s been a beautiful year because it’s been balanced. As the great Elvis Presley said, “Taking Care Of Business - In A Flash” – we understand that it’s not just about planning, new business, creative. It’s about everything – but in a flash, in real time. There’s been a lot of evolution and revolution, and also a lot of inspiration. We are using life as a mirror and understanding that everything is related to human behaviour. 

LBB> Were there any pieces of winning work at El Ojo that you were particularly proud of? 

JCO> There’s the case we did out of Miami for Netflix’s launch of Narcos. It was amazing and also a big winner at Cannes this year. It won 10 Lions and was the Campaign of the Year at El Ojo. 

There’s also a case out of Brazil for Walmart called ‘Jerseys’. Football is really important in Brazilian culture and a big part of that culture is the jerseys – if you’re the number two you’re a defender, number 10 you’re attacking, number nine you’re playing right up front. But we used the jerseys and put prices on them – instead of nine, it was 9.99. This also won big at Cannes and El Ojo. 

Another out of Brazil was for AB InBev and about the best Brazilian basketball player ever. But he never played in the NBA because at that time if he played in the NBA he would have had to stop playing for the national team of Brazil. So for the campaign we created his introduction into the NBA, as if he was joining the league in 2017. 

Another I’m proud of is ‘Inequality Courts’ for ESPN which highlighted the difference of salaries between male and female athletes. And one last one I’d like to highlight is for Getty Images. It is gorgeous. I’m proud of all of these for winning at El Ojo but also because they’ve won internationally too.

LBB> Which markets are most exciting for you right now from the Latino region? Both from a business perspective and a DDB perspective? 

JCO> USA, Brazil, Spain. And the new markets coming in are Peru and Colombia – these are the new jewels in the crown. 

LBB> Why Peru and Colombia? I was in Colombia last year and there was a real buzz running through everyone I spoke to. Do you see them performing especially well in a certain medium? Storytelling, tech? 

JCO> They are putting them together. That’s why they’re interesting. If you think of a country like Argentina – they started as pure storytellers, but have since expanded into data and tech. The Colombians and Peruvians are starting out with both of these aspects. Also, their economies are emerging with the creative industries. 

LBB> Let’s talk about the USA, which you’ve just mentioned. The Hispanic community is constantly growing in the country, but tell us more about why it’s so interesting right now.

JCO> Before I moved to DDB, I was President of Leo Burnett USA so I was totally engrossed in that market. The Hispanic community has been changing a lot. You can see that Latin culture is becoming very popular through music, behaviours and other things, not just within the Hispanic community but amongst everyone. It’s becoming ‘cool’. Justin Bieber songs have Spanish lyrics in them. There’s a lot of stuff within the Hispanic culture that is melting into the whole US culture. Everything is getting mixed in an interesting way. There are insights that are totally universal but also other insights that can be focused and localised for the Latino culture. It’s a market that’s growing so much but also evolving into being a part of the ‘total’ USA market. There are big market agencies trying to get into the Hispanic market as one, and there are Hispanic agencies hiring ‘total’ market talents and trying to get into that work. And the best ones will be the winners. For example, Alma DDB, our Miami agency, has the Sol beer account for the whole of the US. Everything is crossing right now! 

LBB> And then, traditionally, Brazil and Argentina have been the big players in South America, but that’s obviously changing. You’ve touched on this all ready, but how do you see their position in the region today?

JCO> Brazil is suffering its worst political situation ever. The level of corruption there is out of your mind. But it’s such a big country with such resilience. It’s a culture that will stand up – the culture is bigger than the politicians and the corruption. The culture is always super creative so, even in the situation that it’s in right now, the country is moving and they’re putting in the right people to solve the problems. There are still a lot of problems in Brazil right now, but they will continue pushing and they will turn around the corner eventually. 

Argentina, they are great film storytellers – and that still stands. They’ve also been making some big switches in the country – they have a new President and there’s big hope of getting back to where they were. In 1929 it was the fourth largest economy in the world. It’s such a great country that needs to come back. But in both of those countries there is so much talent. The emerging countries that I mentioned aren’t quite on the level of Brazil and Argentina – but they are getting there.

LBB> DDB has a Venezuela office – I’d love to ask you about that. It’s obviously a country experiencing extreme issues right now. Is much / any business happening in terms of marketing and advertising? 

JCO> First of all, for at least seven or eight years – maybe more – we haven’t been able to get money out of the country. Every international company has that problem. Also, agencies and clients have been reducing a lot. 15-20 years ago Venezuela was one of the biggest markets in Latin America with regards to revenues… 

LBB> …Proctor & Gamble had their regional headquarters there… 

JCO> Yes, it was huge. Caracas was a super avant-garde city and lots of companies were putting their headquarters there. But lots of them left. Agencies are shrinking, not just because of the size of the business but also because of the currency. The mode is survival. 

LBB> Well I guess consumers don’t have much money to buy products either? 

JCO> They don’t have a lot but, also, they don’t have products to buy! You go to a supermarket in Venezuela right now and there isn’t anything to buy. It is such a tough situation. It’s a disaster and so sad. What is also really awkward is that Venezuela is one of the largest producers of oil in the world – and they’re in this situation. The way they’ve been governed and the level of corruption within that is shocking. I hope they can get out of this difficult momentum but it’s going to take time. As I say, it’s survival mode. Not just for us, everybody. 

LBB> Is the political situation in Barcelona affecting business at all?

JCO> Well, firstly we have to have to wait until the elections in December. But we have two offices – one in Barcelona and one in Madrid. We don’t want political difficulty in Barcelona because we have a lot of big clients there. If there’s a big problem and the client decides to move then we need to shift too. But we are optimistic that at the elections the people will decide that the best thing for the country and economy of Catalonia is to have the companies already based there to stay there. So we’re willing that people will do the best thing for the biggest economic moments of their lives. 

LBB> Hopefully, although I’m British, from the land of Brexit…

JCO> I know, I know. But, remember one thing – the world is evolving, from the day that these events unfolded in Barcelona, many things have changed. At the beginning they were just showing one side of the picture, and that’s not right. There are a lot of people in Barcelona who also want to be part of Spain. And in politics and democracy, you need 50% + 1 – and that’s it! 

LBB> What do you see for 2018 for DDB Latina?

JCO> Our primary attitude is that we never stop. We never stop moving forward and we are always trying to find a better way. Our plan is to have 2018 be even better than 2017. But every time you have a great year, the big problem is the next one. But we’ve had that problem every year since 2010. We have to follow the track of a better 2018 because we are believers, we are hard workers and we are obsessed with understanding human behaviour. We’re really optimistic. 

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