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ABC and Omnicom | A Dissenting View

nizan

Nizan, Nizan, self-reinvented as a marathon man.

Topíc: Sale of ABC to Omnicom [1][2][3][4]

Source: Paulo Moreira Leite| Brasil 24/7

In an analysis of the sale of Brazil’s ABC Group (headed by Nizan Guanaes) to the  U.S. agency holding Omnicom, journalist Paulo Moreira Leite [5]  points out that “when we look back on the influence of publicity on the media of any country, including Brazil, we must ask whether the «de-nationalization» of publicity will not deepen the «de-nationalization» of the Brazilian media as well.

Citing such examples as Última Hora, O Pasquim and the Correio da Manhã, which suffered or did not suffer to varying degrees with the influence of business executives on their editorial line, the 247 columnist comments: “Although it would be mistaken to view advertising agencies as mere chains of transmission for economic and political interests, it would be even more ingenuous of us to believe in the opposite proposition, that of absolute independence [of the press]

What is curious about this essay is what it leaves unstated: the roster of big advertisers used to pressure the Brazilian media during the dictatorship, and the parallels of contemporary media with conditions 50 years ago.

The only instance is a mention in passing of “Mack” — possibly referring to the chairman and CEO of PepsiCo.

The sale of the ABC group — the largest advertising holding in Brazil and the 25th largest in the world — to the U.S. group Omnicom can be viewed from two different angles.

From the point of view of ABC, the deal reinforces a growing tendency among other major Brazilian agencies, including the traditional DPZ.

The principal shareholder in ABC, publicist Niza Guanaes based his successful career in the commercial area as well as the political marketing arena, where he was esteemed by President Cardoso and the Social Democrats in general. This did not prevent one of the group’s agencies from landing an important client during the Lula and Dilma governments. In 2014, as the opposition was engaged in the shameful anti-World Cup campaign, Guanaes contributed to the success of the games with his slogan “The Cup of Cups.”

There is another aspect to the deal, however. Reflecting on the influence advertising of has on the media in any country, Brazil included, it is essential to ask whether the «de-nationalization» of advertising will not deepen the «de-nationalization» of national media in general.

Although it is not correct to view advertising agencies as mere channels of transmission for the economic and political interests of their clients, it would be even more ingenuous to imagine the contrary condition, a state of absolute independence.

Communications professionals and journalists do not normally talk openly about their relations with advertisers, which remain veiled in mystery. Having this conversation is both necessary and instructive, however.

The sale of the ABC group — the largest advertising holding in Brazil and the 25th largest in the world — to the U.S. group Omnicom can be viewed from two different angles.

From the point of view of ABC, the deal reinforces a growing tendency among other major Brazilian agencies, including the traditional DPZ.

The principal shareholder in ABC, publicist Niza Guanaes based his successful career in the commercial area as well as the political marketing arena, where he was esteemed by President Cardoso and the Social Democrats in general. This did not prevent one of the group’s agencies from landing an important client during the Lula and Dilma governments. In 2014, as the opposition was engaged in the shameful anti-World Cup campaign, Guanaes contributed to the success of the games with his slogan “The Cup of Cups.”

There is another aspect to the deal, however. Reflecting on the influence advertising of has on the media in any country, Brazil included, it is essential to ask whether the «de-nationalization» of advertising will not deepen the «de-nationalization» of national media in general.

Although it is not correct to view advertising agencies as mere channels of transmission for the economic and political interests of their clients, it would be even more ingenuous to imagine the contrary condition, a state of absolute independence.

Communications professionals and journalists do not normally talk openly about their relations with advertisers, which remain veiled in mystery. Having this conversation is both necessary and instructive, however.

The finances of a newspaper, magazine or Internet portal supply the necessary material support for reaching the public. In this sense, they are an indispensable part of freedom of the press.

Última Hora, the leading popular newspaper of the 1950s and 1960s would not have survived without the direct support of business owners who supported the Vargas government and the later governments of Kubitschek and Goulart.

The finances of a newspaper, magazine or Internet portal supply the necessary material support for reaching the public. In this sense, they are an indispensable part of freedom of the press.

Última Hora, the leading popular newspaper of the 1950s and 1960s would not have survived without the direct support of business owners who supported the Vargas government and the later governments of Kubitschek and Goulart.

A major newsstand success of the 1970s, the unforgettable Pasquim never received a corresponding result from ad sales. Produced by the leading comic talents of a generation and selling 200,000 copies per week, it was ignored by corporate advertisers and ad agencies without the least interest in taking on the military dictatorship. In an interview with this column, attorney Carlos Araújo revealed that Pasquim even received economic assistance from VAR-Palmares, one of the leading organizations of the armed resistance, of whom Araújo was a leading figure.

In a deposition published in the book “Assassination of a Newspaper” (by Jefferson de Andrade …), the journalist Luiz Alberto Bahia provides a panoramic view of this situation inside the Correio da Manhã in the early 1960s. Bahia was the paper’s opinion editor and one of the most influential editorialists in Brazil at the time.

He describes an elitist turn on the part of Brazilian newspapers provoked by the growing power of advertising agencies in determining the earnings of domestic newspapers, making it clear that this economic shift naturally implied changes to the editorial line.

According to Bahia, the independent style of the Correio, “with its angry, outspoken … editorials” was undermined by the influence of a new dynamic in advertising  …

While before this time the paper fed on classified advertising from small advertisers … the industrialization and modernization of Brazil beginning in the 1950s witnessed the emergence of “advertising agencies, prestigious advertisers, banks, the auto industry.” In Bahia’s view, “all of this led to a change in the relation to opinion, as its income profile shifted. The newspaper was increasingly influenced by ad agencies and prestige advertising.”

According to Bahia, the factor that assured the future of editorial independence — the one-time advertisement — was diminished. Sections lacking advertising support, once published purely for the sake of journalism, were cancelled permanently.

Bahia also explains how it is that “the power of an agency, its relationship with the newspaper” functions. The newspaper is valued by the multiplication of its advertisers.” In this way, when a news report affects “a certain interest, that of a given ad agency in a product it represent,” the agency questions the publisher, “arguing that it is speaking not on behalf of one advertiser in particular but on behalf of all of its advertisers.”

In such a climate, the editorial line of a newspaper suffers changes that reflect the growing influence of the ad agencies that finance it.

Thanks to its democratic tradition, when Quadros resigned in 1961, the Correio appeared to have no alternatve but to support the swearing in of Jango, something the military wished to avoid at all costs. Bahia recalls that the family that owned the Correio was divided and the impasse broken when Paulo Bittencourt, the owner of the Correio, who was abroad at the time, sent a telegram defending the legalist view.

Beginning in February 1962, however, when the U.S. government decreed the economic embargo of Castro’s Cuba and worked to expel it from from the Organization of American States, “I began to experience violence pressure from U.S. advertising agencies,” he says, among them [Walter?] Mack.

Bahia says he lost his job 48 hours after a conversation in which he was pressured to adopt “the American position.” (This version of the incident is contested by an executive who worked at the Correio at the time. In his view, Bahia left over differences in opinion of a professional, not a political, nature.)

In any event, two years later, in the 48 hours it took to unleash the 1964 coup d’etat, the Correio ran two editorials favorable to the ouster of Goularet, titled “Enough!” and “Down With [Goulart]!” The first editorial ran on the same day General Mourão’s tanks rolled out of Minas Gerais on their way to Rio de Janeiro.

The second editorial appeared on the day Goulart left Rio en route to Brasília, with no chance of resisting the uprising. The two editorials, influenced directly by Niomar Muniz Sodré Bittencourt, heir to the company and the newspaper, caught the government by surprise: they had viewed it as an ally, favorable to the fundamental reforms, and agrarian reform in particular.

Years later, in explaining the journal’s position, editor in chief Oswaldo Peralva, who assumed his post months before the coup, said that “our goal was to provoke the government into stepping down or to impeach Goulart so that the crisis could be resolved in a constitutional manner.”

In the years to come, as it cemented its critical posture toward the consolidation of the regime, the paper was abandoned by its principal advertisers and lost its economic viability. Niomar and Oswaldo Peralva were jailed under AI-5. Sold and resold, with an immense amount of debt, the Correio managed to survive the worst years of the dictatorship, closing up shop in 1974, the same year in which the generals suffered their resounding defeat in the congressional elections, a development that revealed the end of the regime lurking just over the horizon.

The common view is that in its open opposition to a regime that it had helped to install, the collapse of the Correio was all but signed, sealed and delivered. Not everyone agrees with this view, however.

One of Brazil’s most well-rounded journalists, Janio de Freitas worked as superintendent of the Correio from May to November 1963, working on both the editorial and the business side.

In a conversation we had in 2012, Janio acknowledged that “the dictatorship pressured the paper hard,” but made it clear that he believed that the paper could have survived.

He admitted that the Correio existed in a state of siege but insisted that it had accumulated a unique degree of prestige for its courageous resistance to the dictatorship, in which the articles of Carlos Heitor Cony “played a fundamental role.”

In the course of our conversation, and consistent with his arguments in the book “Assassination of a Newspaper,” Janio said it would have been “necessary” to create a “strategy for confronting” the siege, but that this was never done.