Networking Bolivia

22 Sep, 2011 | Robbie Macdonald

Enterprise & Industry

So you have your product. It’s going to be the next big thing for sure, but how do you get people to buy it? Welcome to the world of marketing. It may be something you associate with New York or Buenos Aires. If this is the case you may be surprised to find a thriving marketing industry here in La Paz.

Like any city, when walking the streets of La Paz advertisements, branding and promotions can be seen everywhere. Flawless models flaunting the latest piece of technology beam enthusiastically from their billboards placed across highways and tower blocks and every shop window eagerly invites you to ‘find them on facebook’. If there is a medium which can communicate information, then you can guarantee at some point that information will be telling you to buy something.

I wanted to investigate this world of marketing first hand. How does it operate? What’s the secret to vast exposure? How do you relate to a target audience? My first port of call took me to the company ´Toolbox Communications ´. If you have a business and want to get it off the ground this is where to start. They specialize in getting you recognised, in every and any way they can.

They work in every media you can think of. Cae Pelenque, the young director explains that there are two kinds of media, the more formal methods of television, press and radio, and the more original methods, such as social networking, viral advertising and most importantly, interaction with people. Toolbox’s first port of call may be the more tradition methods, but Cae explains that Toolbox takes a 360 degree approach to working with brands. No stone is left unturned when searching for the right way to promote a company. He stressed that this was his favorite type of promotion is actually talking to people and getting them involved personally. The better experience they can give someone the more they will remember it and associate it with the product or brand they are promoting. He gives one example where they staged a fake protest in the street for Beldent chewing gum. The joke was that people were protesting that the flavor was too intense and lasted too long. Onlookers watched upon this eccentric skit with confusion and humour. One thing was for sure, come the evening Beldent chewing gum was the topic of conversation.

Now Toolbox has forged alliances with companies in Argentina, giving them a truly international reputation. The progress of their expansion is staggering, having achieved all this in only a few years. Cae’s enthusiasm for marketing was infectious. Listening to him talk so passionately really inspired me. It was certain Toolbox was going in all the right directions. If half of Bolivia’s communications companies work as hard as Toolbox, then the competition is as healthy and cutting edge as any other country in the world.

My investigation into forms of Bolivian marketing next took me to a more hands-on experience: casting for the production of Bolivian television advert. The reason was to meet Jose Arispe, directing assistant to home grown talent Juan Carlos Valdivia who was shooting the advert. With Juan Carlos’ directing pedigree (he directed the awarding winning movies ‘Zona Sur’ and ‘American Visa’), I was keen to find out more about the television advertising industry in La Paz, Jose graduated from film school one year ago; he notes that it is common for directors to make the transition from feature film to advertising. Jose mentions that Juan Carlos always takes the same approach to filming an advertisement as he does with a feature film. Juan Carlos’ style can be seen in both his films and his adverts, with the result being that his adverts can relate to a target market in the same way the director of a film wants to relate with his audience. It is quite obvious when viewing some of Juan Carlos’ previous advertisements. They have a strong narrative and distinct story to them.

Jose tells me that before Juan Carlos there wasn’t much of an industry in Bolivia. When he won awards for his work some of the bigger companies started taking notice of Bolivia instead of awarding contracts to production companies in Chile and Argentina. The amount of work fluctuates depending on the season, but over a longer period of time it has steadily been growing. Now the business is positively thriving, with several Bolivian production companies competing for contracts. Big events such as the current Copa America football tournament also drive the opportunity of production forward. Jose reminisces of the time when Bolivia qualified for the world cup back in 1994. He says nearly every player starred in a separate advertisement!

It was really refreshing to see such modern and progressive companies like Toolbox doing so well. Equally it was satisfying to know that now more the ever, the majority of television advertisements seen on Bolivian channels come from home grown talent. Marketing in La Paz alone is thriving, and this cosmopolitan city is brimming with creativity and enthusiasm. When thinking of where to go to find a fresh new approach to marketing, Bolivia is certainly up there with the other big hitters of the continent.


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