Monday, May 5, 2008

Buenos Aires

As I write this, I’m in what I think is probably the hottest city in the world right now. Buenos Aires.

Because Argentina is a country that is constantly in crisis, it is also a country full of progress, ideas and change. After all, if you face a crisis every day, there is nothing to do but to believe in the power of ideas to get you out. Structure and process don’t help. This is a country which is located in South America, but culturally it sits between Italy and Spain. Like them, it throbs with mystery, sensuality and intimacy.

I’ve been to Buenos Aires three or four times, but over the past two years I have seen it really take off. Urban development has been a priority, and Norman Foster’s complex near the river with Philippe Starck’s Faena Hotel + Universe as its centerpiece reminds me of Terence Conran’s work down at Butlers Wharf in London. Faena is a terrific hotel. New age Philippe Starck, built for comfort, not for speed. The Library Lounge is a candidate for my top ten list and the two restaurants, El Mercado and El Bistro, are first class. The highlight space has to be El Cabaret, where I gave a presentation to 80 clients on Friday morning, but is used every night for a super sexy tango show. My daughter, Bex, is with me and went to the show last night with an old mate of mine, All Black Marc Ellis, who was with his Argentinean partner Augustina. He was very excited as they are coming to live in Argentina for a year in October to learn Spanish and enjoy La Vida Loca.

Bex had a fantastic time with her new best friend, Paz, who works with Pablo Del Campo at Saatchi here in Buenos Aires. Paz’s father is a Puma who played against the All Blacks, and Paz is a first class hockey player herself. She’s also a first class party animal. The two of them were out both nights until about 5 in the morning sampling the city's terrific, vibrant nightlife. If you’re a young woman, this is the place for you. The music is great, the drinks are cheap and almost every guy looks like a movie star. Luxurious long hair, tan skin, white teeth, beautiful features and all soccer and rugby fit. And they know how to dance.

Del Campo Saatchi & Saatchi has been Agency of the Year in Argentina for the last three years and their creativity is the best on the continent. The agency is housed in a block of old converted stables near the Jockey Club in beautiful surroundings that nurture creativity. While Bex and Paz were all out dancing, Pablo and I played a couple of hours of tennis at the traditional Buenos Aires tennis club with two of his old friends, Alejandro and Enrique. These boys have been members since they were about 3 years old and know everyone. We played on traditional clay courts and it reminded me of a Latin version of The Queen's Club in London. Argentineans play tennis beautifully of course, and this is the club where Guillermo Vilas learned his art. I can tell you they pound away with heavy top spin and chase everything. It was a pretty good blowout and, although we lost 6-4 in the third set, it was a great afternoon. Pablo and I are now 3 all head to head so Argentinean honor was restored.

Buenos Aires is also a great hub to use as a base to see the rest of the country, and Argentina certainly lives up to the hype. If you live in North America, it’s a simple overnight flight from either Miami or New York with only one hour time difference. The red wines are pretty good, the steaks are exceptional, the shopping is incredible value, particularly fashion and leather jackets, and the people are smart, educated, warm and fun. I’ll be back in October to talk at an HSM management conference and to the students at the University of Palermo. I’m looking forward to it; particularly to getting back ahead on the tennis court.

Three Lovemarks from Argentina are:

  • The Faena Hotel with it's great pool, great pool bar, and a full on, fantastic party atmosphere every night.
  • Boca Juniors - the working class soccer team; its stadium, La Bonbonera (the chocolate box); along with its greatest player, Diego Maradona.
  • La Martina. A chic range of polo (the national sport of Argentina) inspired sportswear. This brand is very trendy now throughout Europe. A fashion tip: the sports shirt is worn with white jeans as this summer’s in thing.