As of Wednesday, August 22, the S&P 500 had gone a record 3,452 days without a 20 percent market decline, capping off an impressive 9 ½ year bull run. However, it was during the last bull run when the S&P experienced a 417 percent increase from 1990 to the early spring of 2000, that public relations firms began expanding South of the Border during the Dot Com Era.
“Four years ago, we forecasted that the public relations business would become very important in Latin America in some ten years,” said David Drobis, the former chairman of Ketchum PR, speaking in 2000. Drobis’s words certainly seemed prophetic.
That same year Ketchum opened offices in Mexico, Costa Rica, Brazil and Argentina. More notably, Edelman, one of the largest marketing and PR agencies in the U.S., moved its regional headquarters from Miami to Mexico City in 1999. The firm also added locations in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Venezuela, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Panama. From 1998 through 2000, the PR industry expanded by 40 percent in Argentina alone. The uptick was further buoyed when an American publicly traded advertising company, called the Interpublic Group of Companies, purchased the Argentinian owned Nueva Communication for an estimated dollars 23 million dollars in 2000.
The Dot Com Boom, or the accessibility of the world-wide web, coupled with the emergence of strong Latin American economies helped fuel the expansion of American PR companies. Richard Edelman, the President and CEO of Edelman said of the Dot Com Era, “thanks to the Internet boom, both Web companies and traditional companies in the region need PR services in the US.”
Other notable PR firms that expanded their operations to South America, included Hill & Knowlton in Mexico, Argentina Brazil, Chile and Guatemala, and the agency Porter Novelli opened an office in Argentina. The global relations firm Burson Marsteller also opened locations in Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Venezuela, Colombia, Guatemala, Panama and Puerto Rico in 1996, and Fleishman Hillard added locations in Mexico, and Puerto Rico.
Most American PR agencies were slower to open locations in Venezuela and Peru, primarily due to economic and political issues. Still with the rise of internet startups and an economic boom, PR firms expanded greatly in the Latin American region during the Dot Com Era.