Trends and Insight in association withSynapse Virtual Production

Tiago ‘Tito’ Ribeiro on the State of Digital in Latin America

London, UK
Why the former director of innovation at Biederman McCann, Paraguay is particularly excited by the industries of Mexico and Peru

Tiago Ribeiro, also known as Tito, is a digital transformation expert with experience all over Latin America. Most recently working at Biederman McCann in Paraguay, he has left his post as director of innovation and is back in his homeland of Brazil. From a poor and humble background, he has faced many challenges in life but is now becoming a strong voice in the Hispanic-Latin-American market as well as a prominent business leader when it comes to digital marketing, innovation, engagement and new technologies.

His career began in 2007, working in the content department at a Brazilian magazine dedicated to the creative market. In 2015, he started a research project in different countries across Latin America and Europe aiming to become a global professional. During that time, he became a specialist in digital transformation, strategic planning and social media.

His first experience abroad was in Peru, where he worked as a digital director for companies from the WPP group, such as Y&R. He also worked as a teacher at the Miami Ad School. Then, he went to Europe where he spent some time working in the Hispanic and global market, as well as spending some time in cities like Istanbul, Lisbon, Madrid, Amsterdam, and London. After that, he returned to Latin America, where he found himself in Montevideo, Uruguay, developing projects for the whole Latin American and Caribbean region. He soon moved to Mexico City, Mexico, and finally to Asunción, Paraguay. 

We caught up with Tito to find out more about the state of digital in Latin America...

LBB> Why did you decide to build a global career focused on Latin America?

Tiago> I have always noticed a lack of specialised professionals in the Hispanic-Latin-American market. Despite being part of the same continent, we - Latin Americans - have many cultural differences, as well as economic and political discrepancies. Apart from that, each country is in a very peculiar stage in terms of digital transformation.  

Just to have an idea, in the last 15 years the Latin American economy grew considerably - 2.9% on average per year. It has grown faster than in developed countries. This scenario has brought real business opportunities to the region. However, to acknowledge where the right opportunities are, you have to live and experience these places. The decision I made to spend the last four years living in different countries around Latin America came with the need to become a professional with deep knowledge of this area, capable of pointing out good business opportunities, as well as contribute to the success of great companies which aim to develop in a sustainable and innovative manner.

LBB> What stage of maturity is digital marketing at in the region?

Tiago> The Latin American digital marketing industry is one of the most important in the world, and is considered of extreme value to the largest global companies. However, it is good to keep in mind that each country is in a very distinct stage when it comes to maturity in digital marketing, though the developments are taking place at a very rapid pace. Big brands are increasingly investing in digital transformation.

I believe that one of the greatest challenges in every country I have come across is the lack of specialised labor as well as the courage to make necessary changes. This challenge is not only from the advertiser's point of view, but also from the advertising agencies.

In some places, digital transformation is still very shy, particularly in most advertising agencies. Many of these agencies are afraid of innovative ideas and more device processes, resulting in the increased demand for communication consulting. Today, it is absolutely essential that we change the culture of our industry, define more agile processes, and make agencies more appealing to great talents, otherwise I believe the current model will soon come to an end.

Another big barrier I have noticed is regarding the content production for digital media. With rare exceptions, the investments allocated to content production and creation is still very low in every country in Latin America. Advertisers must reconsider this urgently.

Finally, another major challenge is the advertisers’ pace of migration from traditional media to digital media, which in most countries in Latin America is far from ideal. Nowadays, an average of 43.5% from the total media budget is invested in digital marketing. In Latin American countries, it is 24.4%. In other words, there is still a lot of room for improvement.

LBB> What are the major differences among the Latin American countries and where are the best business opportunities in the region?

Tiago> Brazil is with no doubt the most relevant market in the region, where the digital industry has already very matured and the creative industry stands out for being among the largest in the world. No wonder Brazil has tradition and is recognised in the biggest festivals in the world such as Cannes. Mexico, I believe, would take second place, where the level of average investment is already very high, even higher than Brazil. However, the market lacks creativity. The Mexican industry has everything to become one of the brightest in the world, but what is missing is the belief in more innovative and provocative ideas. What is missing for Mexico is more creative boldness.

Creatively speaking, Argentina is an excellent market. There are big video producers, which attracts attention from all regions. However, due to its crisis, the local investments are very low. In Uruguay, the domestic market is very small and most local companies try to work with regional projects in order to make profits.

Chile and Colombia have been strongly reinventing themselves in the last few years and becoming very attractive to both creative workers and brands, which are investing more and more in digital. Other countries like Panama, Paraguay and Bolivia are still very shy in terms of investments and their industries are still carrying out a very traditional vision. Countries like the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Costa Rica have been growing a lot but it is necessary to invest in educational platforms and the strategic look for those markets.

I particularly believe that after Brazil, Mexico and Argentina, Peru comes as one of the highlights of Latin America’s best business opportunities. The country is culturally amazing, has iconic brands and I am positive that in the next few years it will consolidate as one of the big highlights of Latin America. I am very proud to have started my international career in Peru - I have learned a lot from Edurado Grisolla, CEO of Y&R.

LBB> After this fruitful time in Latin America, what are your next steps?

Tiago> I believe I matured a lot during this process. There is the Tito before and the Tito after this experience. Living like some kind of digital nomad over the last four years was like a big MBA. Moreover, it was necessary to spend some time in these countries to become the ‘specialist in LATAM market’ that I am today. The difficulties I faced were part of the learning process and important to understand the culture of each country. When I started this project to become a global professional focused on the Latin America market, I was very young, in my early twenties. Today, a lot has changed. I have matured a lot since I had to lead such diverse teams and with some very distinctive cultural formations. I was always working towards the education process as well as motivating my team to pioneer projects’ construction. So you end up building great negotiation and performance skills.

Today, I am 32 years old and more mature. I see myself as very capable to strategically contribute to the development of business cases for companies in need to increase their income in Latin America, the Caribbean and the Hispanic market.

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