He is one of the world’s most successful creatives at the moment. The Executive Creative Director of Ogilvy & Mather Brazil won more prices on his own than most small agency chains do. At the last Cannes Festival his agency took home 35 Lions.
Brazil is one of the largest countries in the advertising world. How would you describe the advertising culture and style?
Brazilian advertising is creative, loud, colourful, popular, celebrity-oriented, and very Brazilian. That’s why a lot of great ideas that have huge success in Brazil don’t do well at international award shows. People here in general love ads and know the names of the most famous ad men, who consider themselves Gods. Because I worked abroad for so many years, where advertising is just another profession, I still consider myself a mere mortal.
People have mentioned the concept of ‘Samba’ advertising. What does that say to you?
No idea what that is. It might be advertising that makes you dance real fast.
You are hugely successful internationally. What is your secret? What are you looking for in your work?
Two things - I look for ideas that I have never seen or heard - and for ideas of which I have no idea how to make them happen. If you start from there your on the right track.
In Dove Real Beauty Sketches we see a professional sketch artist drawing a woman without seeing her. First on the basis of her own description and later on based on the description of another women. In the second drawing the women looks much happier and prettier.
A brilliant statement on the way women sometimes see themselves. How did it come about?
The idea was based on a very simple client brief - only four percent of the women consider themselves beautiful. Let’s help the other ninety-six to feel better about themselves. We put the entire creative department to think about it, over a hundred people. And we saw literally hundreds of ideas. In this case, quantity generated quality indeed.
In all honesty, do you like the spoofs?
I love the spoofs. The more spoofs the better. Apparently there are over twenty now, one of them with over four million views. This is the best compliment you can get.
Immortal Fans is a campaign to recruit. organ donors. Football fans are persuaded by the fact that after their death their body parts will survive to support their club.
How did you come up with this idea? And - just playing devil’s advocate - one could say that the idea exploits the love for football in Brazil…
The word ‘exploit’ might be a bit harsh. We tapped into the Brazilian passion for football in order to create a never-seen-before level of fan engagement with a football team. Sport Club Recife’s fans are some of the most passionate fans in Brazil. You need that kind of passion to ask fans to donate an organ in the name of their team. I think the idea works because it mixes passion with a really important cause.
After all these awards, aren’t many of the clients after a “new” Dove Beauty Sketches or Immortal Fans ?
Yes, that’s right. Especially sketches - just about everyone wants something like that. It brings out a classical and fascinating advertising issue, how to come up with new sketches that has nothing to do with the existing ‘sketches’. In other words, how to reinvent yourself while keeping the same standards. That keeps us busy on a daily basis now.
How did you end up in advertising, was it your dream as a kid?
As a kid, I went to a Waldorf school – very creative and all that - and my mom got rid of the TV set at home for a good couple of years. The result was that I started to read books like crazy. I read the entire Agatha Christie collection when I was about eleven. And then I started to write and draw comics. I just got passionate about writing and drawing and creating my own world. I ended up in advertising because I thought it would be the only profession where I could keep doing what I was already doing.
What is the most important thing you have (not) learned in Cannes this year ?
I’ve learned an idea has to appeal to consumers first, Cannes-judges second. And I have not learned how to keep the talented people in the agency - after they win a Grand Prix.’
What other agencies do you watch?
I watch all agencies, good and bad. I’m not a fan of any particular agency. I’m fan of ideas. And ideas can come from anywhere. I also learn a lot by watching bad ideas and campaigns. I watch everything actually.
What inspires you?
Everything inspires me. I subscribe to The Economist and Mad magazine as well. I watch artsy European movies and Jean Claude Van Damme. I read anything that’s in front of me. I’m mostly curious about the world around me actually.
What is your favorite commercial ever - and why?
It’s Guinness Surfer. Love the brand, the concept, the script, the track, the way it’s shot, the editing, the energy, everything. It’s the perfect ad. Envy all over.
Is there still no outdoor advertising in São Paulo? And how does such a thing influence your inspiration?
Yep, no outdoor in sight. I think it’s great actually. For two reasons, the city looks nice. And it forces us creatives to think of solutions outside of outdoor advertising. That’s good training.
So what will it be from here on? Moving up in the O&M network? New York, London? Wordwide Creative Director?
Not really. I’ve done my abroad experience already. I’ve worked in Lisbon, Madrid, Miami and New York. I’m happy to be back at my hometown São Paulo. And in a way I am working abroad, since most of our projects are either regional or global.
And what does the future of advertising look like? With all the technology and wish for activation? Could you elaborate on that?
The future of advertising is called people. This will never change. If we understand people, their needs, their desires, and find insights that they can relate to, we’ll do okay. I also think brands will need to open their minds and their marketing department to people participation. I think advertising is going to be a very collaborative process, with different parts bringing different skills. The era of “the creative genius” is so over.
There have been many riots this year in Brazil and the World Cup and Olympics are coming up. How does that influence your ambition as an ad man?
The riots are just a reflection of what Brazilian’s are feeling right now. They’re tired of corruption and lack of punishment for it. They’re finally expressing their indignation. That means that they can’t take no bullshit anymore. They want brands that are real and honest. The main challenge during the World Cup and Olympics is simple, how to make yourself heard when everyone is talking about the same thing, using the same visuals cues and clichés? The answer is, by being different. The need to be different will be higher than ever. That has always been important in our business - now becomes crucial.