Business Monday

Carlos Gutierrez of McCann Worldgroup: Engineering the creative path forward

The year was 2004 and Carlos Ernesto Gutierrez had just completed a two-year MBA program at the London Business School. It was a world away from his native Chile, where until a couple of years before, he had worked as Coca Cola’s new products brand manager and media manager.

“I had just finished my MBA from London Business School in England, when I got a phone call from the man who is today the president of McCann Worldgroup in Europe, inviting me to join the agency,” said Gutierrez of Pablo Walker.

“I had had the pleasure of working with McCann as my agency back in Chile, when I worked for the Coca-Cola Co., and was well aware of the amazingly great work they did,” said Gutierrez, who is today the CEO Miami and Chief Growth Officer for Latin America and the Caribbean for McCann. “Pablo had always been a mentor to me, but before that call, we had never actually worked together. It was impossible to refuse, and that’s how an incredible journey with McCann started. One that has taken me through Peru, Argentina, Mexico and, since, 2009 Miami.”

McCann Worldgroup is part of the New York-based Interpublic Group of Companies, one of the “big four” diversified marketing holding companies that have resulted from industry consolidation. The others are Omnicom, WPP and Publicis.

Within IPG, there are dozens of advertising, public relations and other companies as well. That includes related but distinct companies like McCann Erickson, McCann Health, MRM and FutureBrands, all housed under the McCann Worldgroup banner.

Among McCann Worldgroup’s competitors are such well-known agencies as Young & Rubicam, Ogilvy & Mather and DDB, all of which have Latin America offices in South Florida.

Between London and Miami, Gutierrez held a succession of increasingly important positions within the McCann family of companies. But it did mean casting aside a teen-age dream. “I had a rock band when I was a teenager,” he recalled. “We were really pathetic so I make every effort to hide it.”

At McCann, Gutierrez has gone from international media director for McCann Erickson, a position he held less than two years; to a three-year stint as president of Mexico and Latin America for Universal McCann; to 3 1⁄2 years as vice president and regional integrated communications director for McCann Worldgroup Latin America; into his current two positions, as both the CEO of the Miami office and the chief growth officer for Latin America and the Caribbean, posts he has held for slightly more than two years.

In its Miami office, McCann Worldgroup has 20 people, but as is the case for so many of the more than 1,200 companies in WorldCity’s Who’s Here database of multinationals with offices in South Florida, that is but the tip of the iceberg.

“Our model is to create marketing communication solutions to service both U.S.-based clients that require support in Latin America and companies of Latin origin that are trying to break into the complex U.S. market,” said Gutierrez in explaining the company’s rationale for being in Miami.

“McCann Worldgroup is one of the largest organizations in the advertising and marketing communications space. It is comprised of eight different agency networks, each one with its own area of specialization,” he said, giving as example advertising, digital communications and brand identity. “We have a total of 75 agencies in Latin America, across 21 countries. We have over 2,300 employees in the region.

“We tap into the almost bottomless pool of talent ... that compose the organization throughout the Americas. The projects are led from Miami, but actually crafted in the appropriate geography, as per the client’s needs,” he said.

One challengefor Gutierrez, as is the case for most executives today, is finding more time to think strategically, particularly about the future. That’s important because, since Gutierrez joined McCann in 2004, the industry has undergone significant change, not unlike so many other industries. His undergraduate degree from the Universidad de Chile included a focus on engineering, which has equipped him well for the increasingly important role of Big Data and analytics in the marketing field.

“The pervasive digital revolution is fundamentally changing the way our clients need to engage with consumers,” he said. “That forces us to move away from merely creative messaging into the creation of experiences and even products and devices that consumers should interact with. The participatory nature of almost every serious marketing effort is now a given.

“This requires a massive effort to hone the agency digital IQ because we have to be able to provide modern, cutting-edge communication solutions for our clients while separating the hype from what’s actually useful,” he said. “What make matters even more complicated is the mind-boggling speed with which something that could have been conceived as a wild dream becomes a useful and very real marketing opportunity.”

“We live in amazing times,” he said. “I would not change them for anything.”

Gutierrez is also bullish on the Latin American and Caribbean regions, and the revenue it produces from the region is in line with other multinationals based in South Florida, according to WorldCity research. “Even though our region is relatively small in terms of the contribution to the global revenues — less than 10 percent — Latin American talent is unanimously praised in our industry for its creativity and innovation capacity,” he said.

In the local office, “our employee base is as diverse as the population of Miami,” he said.

“We have naturally a significant representation of employees of Latin origin, either by birth or by background, due to the geographic focus of our business. In terms of professional background, the big bulk are marketing, business and advertising majors, complemented with professionals from a more creative background such as photography or the arts. There are an increasingly large number of individuals with a quantitative background, such as engineers, statisticians and the like. Most of our senior managers hold a master’s degree.”

Talent is one of the challenges, locally, Gutierrez said. When asked to answer the question: “South Florida would be a more attractive site for multinationals if...,” he answered, “It was easier to recruit talent.”

“It is very difficult, and on many occasions, you have to bring somebody from out of state or abroad. In my humble view, one of the first items in the South Florida to-do list is a better partnership between educational institutions and companies/ recruiters.”

Sounds like just the challenge for an executive with the mind of an engineer working in a creative industry.