The Dream Factory

Luis Casamayor and Jorge Plasencia give us an inside look at
the progressive marketing agency they’ve built

by Michelle Markelz

If República were a person, Luis Casamayor and Jorge Plasencia would be the right and left brains of the operation. While Casamayor provides insights that push the creative envelope and Plasencia delivers savvy-driven marketing approaches, they meet in the middle at the heart of their business, the values upon which it was built and operates to this day: honesty, trust, and concern for individuals—all things that reign at República.

Plasencia and Casamayor were introduced at the former’s birthday party in 1999. Casamayor, at the time head of Cosmyk, a creative shop specializing in strategic graphic design, and Plasencia, vice president of Estefan Enterprises, were both experiencing success in their respective industries, but as they learned of each other’s passions and endeavors, they realized they both sought something more. They could see the landscape of American marketing changing as the Hispanic population grew, as did the demographic’s attractiveness to brands. More than just the opportunity to communicate with their community, the men wanted to seize the chance to tailor messages that celebrated, appealed to, and honored the cultures that define Hispanic Americans.

Today, that something more is República, a full-service marketing and communications provider complete with research, advertising, branding, PR, media planning and buying, and digital solutions or, a “full-fledged dream factory,” for short. “From day one,” Plasencia says, “we envisioned a firm that would focus on the extraordinary change happening in America and reach Hispanic consumers not only in language, but in culture.” To achieve that, the two friends-turned-business-partners have created an environment and a brand that personify the ethics, culture, and ambition that has made them successful and these same diving principles are something that they look for in their clients. Within a year of opening up shop, they conceived the Founding 14. “They’ve truly been a North Star for us,” Plasencia says of the company’s guiding principles, a few of which are a commitment to authenticity in everything they do; fierce protection of their reputation through good and honorable work; and the understanding that they’re not right for every client. “We’ll resist the temptation to work for everyone,” he explains, “because we only want to choose clients that inspire us.”

It’s no surprise such ideas came from the minds of the men who consider República to be more than a business, but a passion. And it was with a passion both for advertising and the prosperity of the Latin American community that the men took on Univision Network and the Gates Foundation’s Es El Momento campaign in 2010. Now in its third phase, the campaign is a multiplatform effort to increase awareness, inspire interest, and encourage attainment of education among Hispanics, whose graduation and college attendance rates fall short when compared to those of their non-Hispanic peers. “That this campaign, which we created, has been so impactful in starting to shift the Hispanic student paradigm is just so exciting and makes me feel so good,” Plasencia says.

Last year, the partners decided they wanted all of República’s employees to partake in that feeling that doing good brings, so they created Repúblicares, a pro bono program benefitting nonprofits that apply for marketing and communications services and are chosen by República employees.

“It’s a total family environment,” Plasencia says of the collaborative, non-hierarchical company he and Casamayor have built. “Somos familia,” is another of the principles they live and work by. Like a family, the office celebrates each employee’s birthday with a cake. The staff barista knows just how each team member likes his or her own cafecito or café con leche. Little touches like these, and others like a game room with billiards, foosball and Ms. Pac-Man, as well as a full gym and showers, have turned the company’s Miami office into more than just a place to house their operation, but rather, a home for their passion.

It’s a place where everyone lives the Hispanic cultures, Plasencia says, from the foods they eat to the music they listen to. The ubiquity of the Latin influence made the company an obvious choice for Goya, who reached out to República in 2011 for help in reaching the foodie community through a “Latinization” of American culinary staples campaign. From brisket to meatloaf—they even created a black-bean cupcake with celebrated pastry chef, Hedy Goldsmith—the campaign has been a hit.

Growing from $1 to $12 million in revenue in six years takes more than luck, but Casamayor says they only knew hard work and determination would help lead them to the end they were working toward. The men credit their success to their ethics, which have been the foundation of good business and, in some cases, personal relationships. “That comes with maturity and experience,” Casamayor says. “There’s also an element of being fearless, and that’s something that comes with time.

“Our path wasn’t planned or designed in a certain way,” Casamayor adds. “Maybe if we would have planned too hard, we wouldn’t have done it. We just knew we wanted to do something special and didn’t look back.”