A land of magical realism

Article by Gustavo Averbuj, Partner, Regional Director, Latin America & CEO, Ketchum, Argentina for the World PR Report 2016


A decade of populist governments in the region (Hugo Chavez & Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela, Dilma Rousseff in Brazil, plus the Kirchners in Argentina) created years of strong growth in public affairs – as organisations sought to connect with politicians, governments and other decision-makers. Now the political pendulum has swung back to right-to-centre, pro-market governments, demand for PR in Latin America is shape shifting again.  Today digital work, influencer relations, creative campaigning and new media is centre stage. Crisis management skills are also in demand, particularly in markets with significant political unrest like Venezuela.

The big hit that the Brazilian economy has taken recently has obviously impacted in the rest of Latin America.  Most of our economies now expect only moderate GDP growth in the short term.

Each market in the region is at a different stage of development and evolution. Some are close to what you might see in any global PR marketplace, whilst others lag behind – lacking the agencies that insist on global standards. However most global PR networks have some presence in the region.

Whilst Latin America represents between 8 and 15 % of income for most global Fortune companies, PR budgets are usually less generous than they might be elsewhere. The effect is that, unable to replicate bigger more comprehensive Western campaigns, agencies here have had to find new routes to success via creativity.  This approach has brought dividends at global award shows like the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity.

Several areas are at different development stages in the region : digital and mobile capacity, our approach to talent acquisition and training (where just a few of us offer global standard capabilities). Our collective investment in sustainability and CSR is high in a region where the majority of kids are poor and the majority of poor are kids.

Another reason for our creative success is that South America is a cradle of magical realism in literature. We are great storytellers. The lust for life here, and our sense of collective ambition means we naturally collaborate and imbue our work with an uncommon emotional intelligence.  We also bring plenty of passion to our profession and our businesses. It’s fun to work here.

There are global agencies , medium sized boutiques and lots of small specialist shops. With advertising experiencing an identity crisis, PR firms are getting a reputation for conjuring up campaign leading ideas that work across all channels.  Indeed we are also seeing some PR firms leading entire campaign execution across paid, earned, shared and owned media.

In Latam, creativity and imagination reign supreme no matter where ideas originate from.


Download a free online version of the ICCO/PRWeek World PR Report 2016 here.