Diogo Borges: ‘I feel Riyadh is so similar to Sao Paulo’
Posted on 2024 Jul,07

Get to know of some of the GCC’s best creative leaders through this specially tailored ASKED & ANSWERED questionnaire designed to learn what are top agencies’ creative kitchen made of. They come from diverse horizons. They trace their professional trajectory— where they grew up and how they landed in the GCC. Diogo Borges, ECD at Xelement Saudi Arabia, explains what makes the GCC in general and the KSA in particular so attractive for creative talents, while he also expands on the importance of awards and what happens when cultural diversity and creativity combine.



Where did you grow up?

Well, I was born in a countryside place in Brazil called Sorocaba, 100km from Sao Paulo. When I was 1 year old, my family started to move through different cities and states in Brazil, getting me to know rich and different cultures along the way.


What made you pick Saudi Arabia? 

What drew me to Saudi was the chance to make a mark in the thriving advertising scene here. After working on projects for local entities and clients for two years, I wasn't exactly new to the scene. I understood the landscape and knew that if I found a place that aligned with my vision and values, it would be my next step. When XELEMENT partners came knocking my door with their big plans and shared values, I was all in.


How would you explain your job to a taxi driver?

So if I were chatting with a taxi driver, I'd start by saying I'm Brazilian and I love football - I'm sure it would make things easier. Then, I'd mention that I'm not Cristiano's buddy but I met him to present an idea that I have created for his website (true story!). So, regardless of titles or accolades, I always make clear that I'm creative.


What makes Saudi Arabia (or the GCC) so attractive for creative talents?

Saudi Arabia and UAE now are like creative hotspots, buzzing with powerful ideas and well-produced work, that not just attracts top-level talents, but unveils local talents to the world.

Also, this cool mix of heritage, local culture, and innovative vision that you can see all around - from Arabic calligraphy to these groundbreaking mega projects - makes the region a super inspiring and exciting place to work and live.


What do you love most about Saudi Arabia?

I love the fact that I feel super connected with the culture here. I don't know if it's because I feel Riyadh is so similar to Sao Paulo, in so many aspects, the vibe, the cultural scene, the people, the food, and the love for football. Even the traffic ahaha. Everything makes me feel home.





How do so many cultures work together to create successful campaigns that speak its own language and fit so many cultures at the same time?

That's what is great about working here — taking in all these diverse cultures, mixing their unique flavors, and whipping up something that appeals to everyone's taste buds. And I like that because I can see myself as a chef, where I have to stir it all together into a dish everyone will enjoy.


Do you find it easy to work on campaigns that flex a cultural nuance truly distinct to the region, delivering the kind of hyper relevance that you may struggle to land in a western homogenized culture?

Yes is quite natural for me. Having grown up in a richly diverse family, with my father from the south of Brazil, heavily influenced by European traditions, and my mom from the Northeast, a place deeply connected to African heritage, I'd say that I learned how to navigate through that at home.





Your take on this year’s Dubai Lynx.

The answer is simple: how do you wanna be the best if you don't play against the best? So take your best ideas and go get it! Also, let's not forget that usually, the most awarded ideas are the most effective within their industries, so it's a win-win-win for creatives, agencies, and clients.

At Lynx, I was amazed by the awesome craft in the top winner. Also, was really cool to see how simple solutions, from great ideas, not only solved business problems but also sparked new products.


The one award every creative or agency wants to win?

Cannes Lions is a no brainer answer, but I'd mention D&AD for being so hard to get.


Your top three awards...

My top three awards are D&AD, Cannes, and the One Show.


One of your favorite creative projects that you didn’t work on that was awarded at the Lynx and that you admire.

Being in love with advertising and Tech, I'd say 'I See Coke' from Open X is my favorite project. It's a fantastic example of how leveraging technology, in this AI, can boost creative thinking.


Could you name a recent project you are proud of and think deserve to be awarded.

The Founding Day film for Riyad Bank is definitely the one that I have to highlight here. But we are cooking more stuff that soon will be worth some trophies.