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The McCann Time Capsule: McCann’s Hispanic Leadership Heritage

The McCann Time Capsule: McCann’s Hispanic Leadership Heritage

From the time McCann opened its first offices in Argentina and Brazil in 1935, the Latin American region has been important to the global agency’s network growth and capabilities. It was in Latin America where McCann first began working with a number of its key worldwide clients, including Coca-Cola and Nestlé. And it is also the region where McCann has found global leadership that made us the first major network to name someone from Latin America to a top worldwide position, including atop the McCann US agency.

His name was Armando Sarmento.

In 1935, Sarmento was 22 years old and working as a copywriter at N.W. Ayer & Son in Rio de Janeiro when he heard that McCann was about to open a Brazilian agency. Ayer, which handled the Ford Motor Company, and J. Walter Thompson Co., which handled General Motors, were the only two multinational agencies in Brazil at the time. Although he had been working since he was 15 years old, Sarmento had only been in advertising for a few years.  Looking for a new challenge, he took out his advertising books to make sure he would be using the right terminology, as he would recall later, and typed out a 13-page letter on why McCann should hire him in Brazil. Henry Clark, who was the founding manager of McCann’s new agency in Buenos Aires, hired Sarmento with the title of assistant manager of the new McCann Rio de Janeiro agency, reporting to him. The Rio de Janeiro agency started with one account reflecting the Standard Oil-based expansion that had driven McCann’s internationalism, Esso Brasileira de Petróleo.

It was the beginning of an extraordinary advertising career. Sarmento became the McCann Rio de Janeiro general manager in 1936, and then opened nine new McCann agencies in Brazil in the next 14 years (including São Paulo in 1937) as he led McCann to becoming the No. 1 agency in Brazil by 1950. In 1957, he was named a Senior VP responsible for all of McCann’s 19 Latin American offices. He moved to New York in 1959 as president of McCann International, then became president of the McCann Erickson USA company in 1964, and then moved to the parent Interpublic Group from which he retired in 1975 as vice chairman in charge of international.

Sarmento was named Ad Man of the Year in Brazil in 1956 and in 1968, the first person to be so honored twice. In 1964, he was named the International Advertising Association’s Man of the Year.

Sarmento’s rise to the top of the global advertising business was significant on many levels. It reflected the growing importance of international advertising to the U.S.-based global ad agencies such as McCann. And just as he had been the first Brazilian to head a U.S. agency subsidiary in that country in 1936, he became the first executive from Latin America to achieve leadership positions at a major U.S.-based global agency.

But he also would not be the only or last person born in Brazil to achieve a global leadership position at our company. Marcio Moreira, who first joined McCann in 1967 in his native hometown Sao Paulo as an assistant TV producer, would also rise to the top. Before retiring in 2011 as Vice Chairman and Chief Talent Officer, he would hold a number of top positions, including as Worldwide Chief Creative Officer, Director of Global Brands, and Regional Director of McCann Asia Pacific.

Moreira would also be recognized in a major way in the country in which he was born--as Brazil’s Advertising Professional of the Year (1988), of the Decade (1990) and even of the Century (2003). 

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