iCrossing, a U.S. global digital marketing agency owned by Hearst, last week announced the acquisition of the Wallaby Group, a digital marketing agency serving Latin America and Spain. The new company will be called iCrossing Latin America/Spain, which  will also serve the U.S. Hispanic market.  In this column Gonzaga Valdés, (photo), president  CEO of iCrossing Latin America/Spain and one of the founders of the Wallaby Group, explains why international companies should make Latin American expansion a priority.

The next 10 years will be the decade of Latin America.

Europe is caught up in bailouts. The United States is trying to extend a debt that is already too large. Meantime, Latin America has emerged as a strong choice for investing and doing business, which is an interesting evolution for a region that had evoked distrust in the past. Your brand belongs in Latin America, too.

Hyperinflation and military dictatorships are images that you might come to mind when you think of Latin America. But Latin America is an attractive financial destination now because its economies by land and large are not hanging by a thread or relying on financial bailouts.

Here are a number of reasons why Latin America has emerged as a benchmark for stability:

* The region has seen more stability in political and legal systems.

* Latin American countries are enjoying more significant rates of economic growth.

* The financial infrastructures of Latin American countries are resilient.

* With economic growth has come more social inclusion in most Latin American countries.

Now companies see a sustainable climate for investing and aligning their decisions about their future growth.

In the latest edition of the World Economic Forum on Latin America, 750 leaders from 46 countries gave shape to a vision for the future of Latin America: disaggregate economic growth from resource consumption; improve business competitiveness; move ahead in technological innovation; strengthen governance; promote energy security; and boost agricultural production, entrepreneurship, and employment.

The World Economic Forum on Latin America 2011 report presented at the Forum noted that Chile, Brazil, and Colombia are the three Latin American countries more attractive for investment.

I believe that technological innovation is an especially important part of this vision because technological advancements can have so much impact on all other aspects. The innovation process requires strategic alliances for research and development and the ability to accelerate the delivery of these innovations to the market.

Latin America has proved itself as a solid and profitable market, growing at rates way above other regions. According to comScore, the Internet audience in Latin America grew more than 15 percent last year, with countries such as Colombia and Venezuela growing at rates exceeding 25 percent and mature markets such as Brazil seeing growth that exceeds 20 percent.

And countries such as Chile or Argentina are landing in the Top 5 in Facebook and Twitter usage as measured by percentage of reach.

According to VISA, e-business in Latin America will keep growing at rates exceeding 50 percent for several years to come. Even though Brazil accounts for much of that growth, other nations such as Chile, Mexico, and Colombia will play a bigger role in no time.

The vision for the next decade of Latin American will challenge perceptions, provide open access to knowledge, and encourage collaboration across sectors to respond to critical challenges of a changing environment.

Gonzaga Valdés is chief executive officer of iCrossing Latin America/Spain. Born in Spain and based in Chile, Gonzaga applies more 10 years of marketing experience to the Latin American and Spanish markets. He founded Wallaby Group in 2006 with Chileans Alejandro Escobedo and Guillermo Fellenberg. In September 2011, Wallaby Group joined the iCrossing global organization and is now known as iCrossing Latin America/Spain. He also founded ZED Latam, a mobile integrator, among other digital initiatives.


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