Spotlight: Buenos Aires

Gustavo Averbuj, regional director, Latin America, and CEO of Ketchum Argentina, discusses how comms plays a key role in politics in the city.

What is the business climate in Buenos Aires?
Growth in Latin America – and Argentina is no exception – has slowed down in the past year.  

After a decade of small, but incremental growth, this year and next will probably be flat or lose a couple of percentage points in the GDP. Inflation and devaluations are two of the main problems facing consumer companies in Argentina.

The political climate is ever-changing. The recent default and the economic turmoil that followed created a bit of unrest, but Argentineans are used to sailing on a rocking boat.

How has the change in the political climate affected the PR industry?
During the last decade, Argentina has seen a return of the government to a very active – sometimes interventionist – role. That has meant that the articulation between private companies, the social sector (NGOs), and the government has grown exponentially.

Hence, there has been a growing need for public affairs, government relations, sustainability, and CSR services. Also, due to some restrictive laws on the media, many companies have chosen to have a carefully managed low profile. Understanding the current political scenarios is crucial, not only for government relations, but also to brand communications.

What characteristics are unique to the city that make it different from the rest of the country?
Argentina is like a malnourished body with a huge head. Of the 45 million inhabitants, about half of those live in Buenos Aires and its outskirts. The capital is a huge megalopolis, but as you head into the interior of the country, there are vast landscapes where you cannot find a person for hours and many of the smaller cities have very different lifestyles. 

Buenos Aires has a great culture with a variety of media and a huge community of immigrants that come to study or live.

How developed is the PR and communications industry in Buenos Aires?
It is on par with most developed markets. Many of the global agencies have a presence in our country and the services provided are at the same level of what is offered in Europe or the US.

Unfortunately, fees are not at the same level and the market is smaller than other Latin America countries such as Brazil. The weakest area might be investor relations as our stock exchange is not as developed as the New York Stock Exchange.

How are PR professionals using social media as part of the communications mix?
As in the US, social media in Argentina is key. No serious brand manager or PR professional would have a marketing plan without it. There has been a strong reallocation of budgets from traditional advertising into new media.

Bloggers are the new objects of desire for brands, yet there are practically no dad or mom bloggers, just fashionistas or political bloggers.

Is PR considered a key tool for business growth?
Marketing executives definitively consider PR part of the marketing mix. But more and more PR and public affairs directors have a seat in the C-suite. In an economy with strong government participation, corporate and public affairs is critical to survival.

What advice would you give a client or agency looking to break into
the market?

To clients, I would say choose your agency wisely. Having a well-experienced, seasoned firm may cost more than your two-person boutique, but it will save you a lot of time and money in mistakes and liabilities. To agencies: Take the time to research and know the market well. And meet prospects and industry analysts.

What is the talent situation like in Buenos Aires? 
Even though PR is one of the most attended university careers, there is a permanent battle for talented professionals. Human resource hires are a constant challenge for companies and agencies.


 Check In

Professional Council of Public Relations of Argentina Av.
Pueyrredón 1089,
C1118AAA, Buenos Aires
www.rrpp.org.ar

Grupo Clarin (media group, owns largest circulation newspaper)
Piedras #1743, C1140ABK, Buenos Aires
(54) (11) 4309-7500
www.grupoclarin.com.ar

International Chamber of Commerce Argentina
Leandor N. Alem 36,
C1003AAN, Buenos Aires
www.iccwbo.org

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