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Beyond Borders: Latin America’s Emerging Creative Agencies

by Carmina Balaguer  |  03.13.2017

Solid growth strategies combined with unique productions are allowing a few small but talented Latin American agencies to grow exponentially while maintaining the personality that makes each one special.

Four creative agencies—Buenos Aires’ Pes and FAV!, Sao Paulo’s Trator Filmes and Costa Rica’s La Productora—are gaining global notice for their work while maintaining their unique creative identities.

Pes: Ignoring Boundaries

Lifelong surfer Pedro Estanga brought an explorer’s attitude to the agency he founded, Pes. He named his art and animation studio after himself, using his own initials. That also happens to be close to the Spanish word for “fish,” pez, a creature to which the water-loving Estanga relates.

“I’m still surfing when it comes to work,” says Estanga. “The idea of having no borders has to do with that too, with wanting to cross the comfort zone when you accomplish something. In the case of design, it has to do with always seeking new influences and being in constant motion with the technological [flow].”

Working with business partner and executive producer Paula Chapelo, Estanga says the true secret to Pes’ success is its creative team.

“[Our team] has the freshness, the youthfulness, the natural need to surprise, to be constantly changing,” says Estanga.

MTV, in particular, has given Pes the opportunity to show off its capabilities, offering the studio “a space to work professionally and transcend borders, like a laboratory,” says Estanga.

Pes creates the look for MTV Latin America’s annual Millennial Awards festival in Mexico City. That included promos, idents and brand animations, and all of that creative was transferred to the festival’s live stages.

“Conceptually, it was a very interesting project because it dealt with millennials’ constant need for change,” says Estanga. “Their language is closely connected to technology and exposure.”

Another project that highlights Pes’ creative spirit is a campaign the agency created for Nickelodeon’s Yo soy Franky (I’m Franky), which tells the story of the life of a robot girl. The campaign not only won PromaxBDA awards but also “gave us exposure and pushed us into wanting to promote ourselves a little more,” says Estanga.

Pes centered the campaign on the idea of humans operating in today’s technology-centric world, and then flipped that idea on its head. The above animated promo sends the viewer into Franky’s robot heart and back out through her eye until the viewer sees her in her entirety.

“We are in automatic mode,” says Estanga, “and [in this campaign] we rethought how to be human again.”

As it looks to grow, Pes is seeking more exposure in the U.S., says Estanga. The studio already has an office in Chicago that focuses primarily on traditional advertising.

Trator Filmes: The Spirit of Innovation

That spirit of innovation is also what motivated the Brazilian team of Alex Miranda and Gabriela Lemos to create Sao Paulo-based Trator Filmes ( The partners each had prior experience at other production companies and advertising agencies, and decided to come together to “create an all-in-one production house, mixing advertising with content, entertainment, music videos and all kinds of digital and multiplatform videos,” says Victor Lemos (who’s not related to Gabriela), executive producer at Trator Filmes. (Armando Ruivo is Trator’s third partner.)

Trator, which means “tractor” in Portuguese, represents “the idea of non-stop work, always thinking about new projects and new ways to overcome challenges. As a tractor does,” says Lemos.

The agency’s approach to the industry starts with “uniqueness itself, treating each project as unique, just as each of us is.”

Trator Filmes, which has six in-house directors, pushes video production to new limits thanks to two major influences: music and sports.

“This allows us to experiment with new techniques, to get in contact with new languages and to learn how to deal with the fear of the unknown,” says Lemos.

The agency’s portfolio includes such marquis names as Discovery Networks, Globo Filmes, GloboNews, Netflix, BBC, +Globosat, SporTV, FIFA Films, among others.

The first piece above, Brasil! (Brazil!), was the official documentary for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil. The second, 4 Estradas x 4 Histórias (4 Roads x 4 Stories), is a four-episode branded content series that was a co-production with Discovery Networks and JEEP, and won both PromaxBDA Latin America and Global Excellence awards. The short film explores four roads in Brazil, and the four real-life characters who took them.

“We accepted the challenge of identifying characters that would bring good stories, and that worked well with the channel and its brand identity. We had a different director and team work on each episode, in order to come up with four different perspectives, but one unique look,” says Lemos.

Other examples include documentary Pelada, Futebol na Favela (Pelada, Favela’s Soccer), licensed to Sportv in Brazil and Sporting TV in Portugal, that portrays how players from Brazil’s shanty towns have become international stars; or Expedição extraordinária (Extraordinary Expedition), a story produced for Samsung and meant to show off their high-definition TVs. In this case, an Inuit who lives in a cold, monochromatic climate dreams of traveling to warmer, more colorful climes and sharing that experience with his people.

Trator Filmes intends to continue to innovate with new ideas, new production designs and new business models in order to keep growing.

“We work with several platforms, from digital to TV and from traditional to mobile. We use different methods and languages, crossing over platforms, and always focusing on the viewer,” says Lemos.

La Productora: Imbuing Business Strategy with Creativity

Solid business strategy is also a goal pursued by La Productora, a Costa Rican production company that makes a point of incorporating business and communications strategy into all of its creative work.

Christian Bulgarelli—founder, partner and executive producer at San José-based La Productora along with Carolina Barquero and Jeffrey Salas—has nearly 20 years of experience producing TV series in Costa Rica.

“Costa Rica has very good infrastructure and connectivity and an interesting buying and selling capacity, but there are still very few of us. So any television efforts are subject to this small population and reduced budgets,” says Bulgarelli.

La Productora works closely with its clients to develop business and communications strategies, while also imbuing its work with creativity and beauty. Even though the studio’s roots are in advertising, it has worked in television, such as the below campaign produced with agency Porter Novelli for Teletica (Canal 7).

“We wanted to soften the fact that this was an advertisement. That’s why we focused on the people, casting real people that we picked along the way as we reached the different locations,” says Bulgarelli.

Consequently, the two major ingredients in the campaign were the people and the places, which are “what ends up defining a country,” he adds.

Another piece in which everyday people became the protagonists is one La Productora made the national brand of Costa Rica, Esencial Costa Rica, carried out jointly with ad agency Madison. The piece—“La Esencia Somos Todos” (“We Are All The Essence”)—portrays a series of real-life people, including a firefighter who is a national hero and Walter Rojas, the first Costa Rican to summit Mt. Everest.

According to Bulgarelli, the work did not center on the beauty of Costa Rica, but on the fact that “its people makes this paradise special. We focused on the people.”

La Productora has expanded its business by being more aggressive in terms of sales, and diversifying its resources among new clients. It’s currently focused on its digital efforts, producing content such as a series of documentaries on the Costa Rican national soccer team for Teletica’s multiple platforms.

FAV!: Tapping Into the Immediacy of Influencers

Digital is also a keyword for FAV!, an Argentine studio that has offices in Los Angeles. FAV! launched with a focus on original content production for multi-channel networks.

Max Goldenberg, FAV!’s CEO and co-founder, says “we firmly believe that the traditional media industry needs to tip over to the digital world without cannibalizing its content; on the contrary, digital should complement traditional.”

To accomplish this, FAV! often fuses native television with the immediacy of digital, tapping into the power of influencers to grab people’s interest.

“We think about the project and then we look for the ideal personality to carry it out. If it is an influencer, that’s great. I think they are authentic and that is their main asset,” says Goldenberg.

FAV! is willing to get involved in any part of the production or distribution process that its clients need. The studio’s portfolio includes several Latin American players, such as Viacom, Turner, Caracol, Telefe, AMC and Sony, among others.

“We believe live video is today’s game changer,” says Goldenberg, referring to projects like the one below currently underway with Sony. The project uses Facebook Live to engage its audience, as in the example below with Grey’s Anatomy.

FAV! did similar work with its initiative Colonyzados (Colonyzed), making a series of videos for TNT to run alongside the launch of its new series, Colony. YouTuber and digital influencer Nicolás Amelio-Ortiz narrated each episode live online.

Goldenberg believes that being based both in Argentina and Los Angeles “allows us to be in contact with the main companies around the world, without losing touch with the Latino that lives and senses what happens in their countries,” says Goldenberg. In this way, FAV! Is positioning itself for aggressive growth with new clients who want to build their digital presence with innovative concepts.

RELATED (English): YouTuber Nicolás Amelio-Ortíz Hosts TNT Latin America’s ‘Colonyzados’

(Spanish): ‘Colonyzados’: El Universo Online de TNT

All four of these emerging agencies—Pes, Trator Filmes, La Productora and FAV!—are carving out their own niches, which is helping them break out in their own regions and beyond. To get there, all four have successfully embraced the new technologies and techniques that are shaping both the Latin American and the global creative environment.

To read this story in Spanish: Más allá de las fronteras: Agencias creativas emergentes latinoamericanas

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