Digital Marketing Veteran Helps Companies Make the Leap into Latin America

Aside from starting their first business, one of the biggest leaps an entrepreneur can make is expanding his or her business to another country. New territory means new issues to deal with. Do consumers in other countries want your product? How do you deal with language differences? What are the rules and regulations in other parts of the world? All of these questions can be tricky to find answers to. For Gastón Taratuta, founder of Internet Media Services, Inc. (IMS), helping companies navigate this transition is what his business is all about. We sat down with Gastón to learn more about his business, their partnership with Apple, and tips for emerging entrepreneurs.

Why did you start your business?

To tell you the truth, I never thought I'd be an entrepreneur. Before I founded IMS, I was working for the largest Brazilian publishing company and I was managing the company's Miami office. But then, they decided to close their Miami office and asked me to take on their advertising sales as a consultant. I was basically let go, in a way, but when one door closes, another opens. They wanted me to be their exclusive representative in the US, so I became this bridge between the US and Latin America for them. I saw this as an opportunity to found IMS, the first of its kind in offering guidance in digital marketing communications for fast-moving companies wishing to expand into Latin America.

What makes your business unique?

We help our partners find success in Latin America’s digital marketing ecosystem not just via commercial advertising sales but by helping them to navigate the legal, marketing and cultural nuances of the region. When I first started IMS, I knew that Latin America would soon be one of the first places that companies would look to to scale their business but I also knew there would be many obstacles. The language barrier was the least of my worries – although I've seen some awfully translated billboards over the years! These companies needed expertise in country-specific nuances– marketing, legal and cultural. When I first started IMS, my expertise in Brazilian business and culture became this marketable commodity for US companies. Then, IMS grew to become a leader in partnering with businesses wishing to expand into the various countries in the region. Brazil is very different from Argentina, which is very different from Mexico, and that's what a lot of US companies don't fully understand. So we educated them on how to navigate those differences in 16 different countries. I like to say, education is a currency. That's what we sell and that's what makes us unique.

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How did you land a partnership with Apple?

Over the past few years, IMS has established a successful reputation as the digital marketing company that brings Silicon Valley to LatAm. We've been working with a number of leading global platforms – from Twitter, to LinkedIn, Spotify, Waze, Foursquare, and Crackle – and our partnership with Apple was a natural progression of this. Last month, we announced that we’ll be working with Apple to extend sales of iAd through Brazil and Mexico. We’ve been successful in demonstrating to the digital industry outside of Latin America that this region hold tremendous growth opportunity and that, with the right partner, the challenges that this region can pose can be successfully resolved.

Congratulations on 10 years in business! How have you been able to stay in business for so long?

Thank you, I agree, ten years is a long time, especially in digital! You see some digital companies rise and fall three times over in ten years, and part of it is luck, but the other part is adapting to the market. The digital market has changed so much in ten years, and you have to change with it. How we've adapted is that IMS has evolved from a services company, to a product company with services. We pivoted away from only offering services, towards offering our clients' products as part of our marketing services to different clients. As Silicon Valley tech companies wanted to scale their business, we offered to sell their advertising channels in the region. Last year, we acquired two content and creative agencies to better integrate such components into our value proposition and meet the growing demands of agencies and brands. We also launched our IMS Connect division, a new marketplace concept that provides comprehensive programmatic and audience-targeted media buying.  We have evolved to become a digital marketing and communications company that offers both an expanded services component and serve the most relevant product channels.

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What advice would you give to entrepreneurs and business owners?

I'd tell them that failing is probably the best thing that can ever happen to you, so embrace it. To me, success is when you continue with enthusiasm into your next project after failing. Success is measured by how you learn from your failures. Even if you have the best product right now, it will become obsolete if you don't innovate. I failed when I wanted to replicate the model we had in Miami in the UK. The European market wasn't ready for such a digital advertising model at the time. But instead of accepting defeat and shying away from our own expansion, I took the valuable insight I'd gained from my failure to figure out which industries were ready for our kind of approach. Of course, it was Silicon Valley.

What is your take on competition versus partnership?

Competition is, of course, very important but more so on a smaller scale. Within any market, competition is imperative, but on a global scale, partnership plays a bigger role in success. If you want to be a global player, you have to come to terms with the fact you don't fully understand the world market and you need partners to help you do so. McDonalds, for example, initially failed when they first ventured into Latin America on their own. They eventually came back and didn't fail a second time because they found a local partner. The world market is full of holes that you can only fill with partners. If you're selling a product where you live, you know that landscape. But if you move out of your market to sell your product, you need to know the industry differences so that you can reach people fast. And at the end of the day, you are sure to learn the market quickly and efficiently with partners.

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What future trends do you see in the Latin American market for technology companies?

Fifteen years ago, the entry to the Internet was the browser, then it became portals like Yahoo and AOL. Then I think the door to the Internet was search – which Google dominated – and nowadays it's changed to apps. We interact and engage in real-time with Twitter, we listen to music with Spotify, we share our feelings through Facebook, we discuss our professional experience through LinkedIn, we make mobile payments through digital wallet apps. And we've been able to tap into that changing landscape over the last ten years. So it's all about mobile in Latin America's future. According to recent studies, 70% of internet connectivity will be mobile by 2020 in LatAm, which isn't necessarily news. But we don't visit portals anymore, we visit apps and that has serious implications on how we advertise nowadays. For example, Twitter became a content curator in a way, where users choose who they want to follow, paving the way for advertisers to be niche and specific in their marketing strategies. Whether it’s apps or the next new innovation, the IMS team is looking forward to partnering with tech firms to bring the latest and greatest to Latin American brands.

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