Accuen, Omnicom Media Group's trading desk, is officially opening trading desk operations across 20 markets in Latin America, giving the programmatic unit coverage in 60 countries.
Much of the focus on the nations that comprise Central and South America has tended to revolve around the rise in consumer spending by Hispanics in the US and the World Cup and Olympics coming to Brazil in 2014 and 2016, respectively. But Accuen Global CEO Josh Jacobs said the building of its Latin American operations reflects the wider desires of Omnicom's global clients to exercise greater reach via programmatic channels.
Second, Jacobs pointed to local and regional increases in digital ad spending within Latin America, opening up a relatively new frontier for the ad holding companies, as shown by the entry of WPP Group's programmatic buying arm Xaxis into the region last month.
"We started looking at Latin America at the start of the year after we started getting more internal requests from Omnicom clients in the region," Jacobs said. "We built an account overlay team in Miami to oversee the operations, but this is not a 'hub' strategy, where countries are outsourcing trading to central locations. We're going to be establishing teams on the ground locally in those 20 Latin American markets so that programmatic can be part of the day-to-day strategy of Omnicom's offices. We've seen tremendous success with that strategy across Europe and Asia so far."
As Accuen constructs its Latin American presence, Brazil, which is enjoying a high profile as one of the fast-growing "BRIC" countries that include Russia, India and China, will not be the primary focus of the company's programmatic operations. Instead, Jacobs said the company initially will concentrate on Mexico, which still has the largest amount of ad spending among Latin American countries.
According to figures released in May by IAB Mexico, that country's digital ad market grew 38% in 2012 to $492 million (6.4 billion Mexican pesos). In terms of the state of programmatic advertising, Jacobs cautioned these are still early days.
"From our vantage point about the reasons for launching in Latin America now, we see investment going on, we see inventory available," Jacobs said. "There were skills sets that we could hire. The region is catching up very quickly. I don't think the wider ad-tech industry has made the same commitment to Latin America. But enough people and companies have."
As for the general business climate for programmatic in the region, Jacobs downplayed aspects such as Brazil's comparatively less restrictive privacy laws as to why there's so much promise there.
"When you consider programmatic advertising on a global basis at this point, privacy regulations are a patchwork quilt," Jacobs said. "One of the funny differences in the way startups view that issue around the world is, 'Ugh, how do we get our heads around this?' But as a holding company, one of the reasons we exist is to help big clients understand the landscape and put a comprehensive strategy together around things like programmatic. So regulation is not really a special concern."
Elaborating on his thoughts about privacy and regulation in Latin America, Jacobs said he is careful to remind clients that programmatic is not synonymous with real-time bidding and cookie-based targeting. In that sense, privacy is not a primary matter. Clients are much more interested in analytics and understanding the various audience segments in a particular market as opposed to worrying about regulation, he said.
The job of figuring out the details of Accuen's Latin American business will be placed mainly on the shoulders of Andres Puentes. A digital veteran on both the client and agency sides, Puentes joined Omnicom Media Group in 2011 after serving in interactive advertising positions at Nokia and WPP's Wunderman. He will head Latin American operations from Miami.
Accuen has roughly 200 employees worldwide. In Latin America, it is starting with 15 staffers based in Miami, Argentina and Colombia, with "aggressive expansion" into Mexico and Chile by the end of the year.
Looking ahead at Accuen's wider global strategy, Jacobs said that in addition to rolling out its Latin American operations over the next few months, the company will turn more of its attention to growing its business in Russia.
"There are still a number of countries that we're working on and we will have more to say about Russia in the next few weeks," Jacobs said. "While we have local operations in most of the 60 countries we serve, we're doubling down on filling in the blanks that remain. North Africa is a perfect example. We operate in two or three different countries there with a team in Dubai covering that work. So we're going to be working on investing in creating a daily, on-the-ground presence in those countries."