Postcard from Brazil

Brazil is going through a turbulent political and economic period but it is still exceptionally strong creatively, says Alasdair Townsend, managing partner of Sherlock Communications.

Chat with the average Brazilian and you could be forgiven for thinking the country was entering a state of terminal decline amid recession, corruption scandals and, to some extent the root of all of these, political uncertainty.

Like other Latin Americans, Brazilians are emotional thinkers and positives and negatives tend to become exaggerated. Talk with older heads and you get a more measured perspective, with most expecting the picture to clarify after next year’s elections and a turnaround within two years.

The fundamental factors that make Brazil an attractive long-term investment have not changed and, as an agency, we are continuing to see demand from the consumer goods, technology, education and healthcare sectors in particular – to say nothing of the planning ahead of next year’s Olympics.

For comms professionals, there is no doubt these are challenging times, but it’s wrong to judge on emotion instead of facts. Like all recessions, this one is bringing as many opportunities as challenges. It also has the potential to bring a maturation of business practices that could have a profound impact on the comms landscape.

Brazilian agencies have always been exc­eptionally strong creatively, as a glance at any Cannes Lions will show, yet this creativity could euphemistically be described as more "unfettered" than in other markets. Brazilian business practices and timelines mean that strategic planning and measurement do not receive the same focus they would in London or New York, for example.

Part of the problem is that internal corporate hierarchies mean there is resistance to sharing between departments and unclear reporting lines.

‘Communications’ budgets also often fall under the purview of professionals from other disciplines such as HR, and an agency can find itself with a roster of clients that each have a different job title. In this context, outmoded metrics (the AVE is alive and well in Brazil) continue to be produced.

Procurement departments and executives are placing an increasing emphasis on efficiencies but, at the same time, squeezing budgets, access and hours required to effectively plan and evaluate success.

Above a certain age, businesses are typically slow-moving and hierarchical, but if younger than 15 years old, they are often innovative and agile. They succeed by having a clearly defined vision and streamlined management structure. It is the agencies that can harness more ‘creative’ and energetic approaches to planning and management that will achieve real cut-through.

While working on a digital brief with one of Brazil’s largest retailers, it was obvious that updating the wider business was going to be at least as important to success as any external impacts. We created an internal brand for the project, then ran internal content marketing campaigns showing what we were doing, why it was important and how the business and employees were benefiting. A far cry from a typical monthly report – but effective in its Brazilian context.

More than ever, the pressure is on to show that comms is an investment not a cost. Over the next two years, there is a sense the traditional Brazilian strength, creativity, could be focused to meet that challenge, with agencies producing bold new app­roaches to surmount Brazil’s bureaucracy.

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