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Agency Profile: LatinWorks

Posted on April 18, 2011 and read 5,781 times

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ignaciocreditpic Agency Profile: LatinWorksIgnacio Oreamuno

“Van a haber tacos?”

“Ahhh si mi amigo! Tendremos tacos!”

It’s a beautiful, sunny day in Austin, the capital of Texas, both politically and in the advertising world. Austin is home to the famous SXSW Festival, which seems to draw more agency creatives and techies than music fans these days. Last year when I attended the festival, Sergio Alcocer, President and Chief Creative of LatinWorks, invited me over for some tacos at a social the agency was holding. Unfortunately, by the time I got there, there were no more tacos left, just an empty tray. I was so heartbroken that I told Sergio that I wouldn’t visit the agency again unless they bribed me with some Tex-Mex.

A year later, it’s SXSW again, and I call up Sergio to see if we could visit to profile the agency. He agreed, and assured me there would be tacos waiting. And sure enough, the tacos and tamales were plentiful; I was one happy Latino.


Founded in 1998, LatinWorks has spent the last thirteen years building a great reputation as one of the best multicultural agencies in the U.S., servicing such renowned clients and brands as Anheuser-Busch (their 2007 Super Bowl ad for Bud Light was one of the most popular spots of the game) Chevrolet, Domino’s and Starburst. Currently ranked #9 on Advertising Age’s A-List, LatinWorks has also received Multicultural Agency of the Year accolades from AdAge and AdWeek in 2010.

I can guess what you are thinking, what’s a multicultural agency? A phenomenon that mainly occurs in America, multicultural agencies are ones that specialize in advertising to minorities. The massive pool of Hispanics in the United States has forced advertisers to not just make custom campaigns for this increasingly important demographic, but to hire specialized agencies such as LatinWorks on top of their traditional Agency of Record. The speed of Hispanic integration in the US is reflected in agencies; LatinWorks is an absolute mash of people from pretty much every Latin American country, along with some native US staff (referred internally as “the gringos”) thrown in for good measure.

“We are a multicultural agency creating multicultural work for a multicultural society,” says Sergio. “Most of us are bilingual and can think bilingually, something other agencies can’t do.” With this in mind, I wondered if what defines a multicultural agency was becoming blurred; since the famous great American “melting pot” would eventually make everyone into the same, would there even be a need for specialized agency? I was told that a decade ago, the Hispanics that were coming into the US were speaking Spanish, but the language has so many fluctuations and differences across all of the Latin American countries and regions that it was hard to talk to all of them. A surefire way to speak to a Mexican might not be as effective to a Puerto Rican, and might completely befuddle a Colombian. And today it’s even harder, since a lot of the Hispanics living in the US are losing their use of Spanish as their primary language. It’s a challenge to speak to all of these different people, but it’s a challenge that LatinWorks tries to meet each and every day.

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As mentioned before, many of the creatives at LatinWorks are not American, but rather came from agencies in Latin America. As such, many of their personal lives revolve a great deal around work lives. One of the Latin Americans best explains it when he says “All my Facebook friends are right here in this room. A lot of the creatives come from outside Austin and move here to work at LatinWorks, the agency becomes the hub of everyone’s social lives.” These creatives also tended to be younger than I’ve observed at most agencies in North America, and they definitely bring the warm Latin vibe from their home countries to the workplace each day.

One work habit that many of the Latin Americans at LatinWorks are new to is the spirit of collaboration that permeates the office. “Back home in Argentina, it is normal for creatives to run to the printer to make sure no one else sees their ideas before they are finished,” says one creative. “Here, people are far open about showing their ideas.”

With all of this talk of Hispanic and Latin American culture, you might think that you’d have to be named Carlos or Juan or Maria to fit in at LatinWorks. In reality, I had a chance to meet a number of English-only “gringo” creatives who were working hard to improve their Spanish. One of the senior “gringos” partnered with an Argentine jokes “I have no idea what he says when he talks in Spanish, and in fact I have no idea what he says when he speaks English either!” Well, if that’s not a reality of that actual market, I don’t know what is.

If you happen to get a gig at LatinWorks, you’ll likely be working with a lot of traditional media, such as TV, print and radio. The eternal struggle multicultural agencies face is that an advertiser’s general AOR generally determines a significant amount and type of media that the Hispanic agency has to do, and they unfortunately have been slow to allocate digital non-traditional media to multicultural agencies. “We are always hungry for more digital opportunities,” said many of the creatives.

The city of Austin itself, a relatively progressive metropolis in a mostly conservative state, is a big attraction for everyone that works at LatinWorks. “Austin is awesome. Film, art, music, we have it all,” says Sergio. “We borrow from Austin’s personality and we give back to it.” The agency is located just a few blocks away from 6th Street, the city’s entertainment district, with lots of live music in bars and even the occasional mechanical bull. SXSW is centered on this area, and there are lots of other festivals throughout the year that will keep the average advertising creative full of inspiration. But you might be surprised to learn that although Austin has a buzzing ad scene, people tend not to associate with other agencies. A few CDs we met around town told us that attending Portfolio Night 8 Austin – hosted by LatinWorks – was the first time in ages that they had all seen each other. Glad to know ihaveanidea is helping Austin connect!

LatinWorks is young agency that will see itself grow and transform in the coming years as much as the Hispanic market it serves. It’s hard to predict just how much the agency will change. Like life in Latin America, the long term and short term don’t really exist; today is what matters most.

Thanks for the tacos, amigos.




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