Bates Latin America Expands

Bates Latin America has accelerated its network building in Central and South America.

Last week Miami-based BLA opened Bates Integrated Communications in Argentina under the management of Jairo Sanchez.

The Buenos Aires shop is the latest in a series of acquisitions and restructurings undertaken to upgrade profits and marketing communications for Latin American clients.

Over the last year, Bates & Partners was launched in Chile, and BLA purchased a majority interest in creative powerhouse Newcomm Bates in Brazil. BLA president Gary McBride confirmed negotiations are under way for an expansion into Mexico.

“Our first step is to build an equity-based business focusing on key countries,” said McBride. “Then start working our way through the others.”

Bates Latin America, which has offices—typically affiliates—in 15 Latin American countries and Puerto Rico, oversees U.S. Hispanic advertising and marketing.

The moves in Latin America mirror the strategy of BLA’s parent—Cordiant Communications in London. Cordiant has been moving away from “ad-centric” operations into a broad range of communications that include e-commerce, promotion, direct and sports marketing, merchandising and sponsorship. A subsidiary, Zenith Media, handles media planning and buying.

“We’ve built a strong portfolio of services to give clients a broader dimension to their marketing mix,” said Judy Torello, Bates’ communications director. “With the vast changes in the media environment, Latin American clients are looking for other ways to talk to the consumer.”

In Brazil, under chairman Roberto Justos, Newcomm Bates’ billings grew 800 percent in two years after it expanded services.

“The agency once consisted of separate companies—advertising, sports, integrated, and political and institutional marketing,” said McBride. “Now it’s the model of what we’d like to build in Latin America.”

BLA is meeting with similar success in Chile, according to McBride. The shop, operating since the first of the year, has landed business from British American Tobacco, Allied Domecq and Roche Laboratories’ consumer health division.

Bates group president Bill Whitehead recruited McBride last June. He had been president of GEMS International Television, a Spanish-language cable channel in 12 Latin American countries.