The ability to create the unlikely.
I thought it only fitting that our readers ought to be given a fuller introduction to the man who has been the highest-ranking creative director in Archive over the past year. Pernil’s work has in fact been on show in the magazine since 2010, and the number of campaigns we have featured that were written/creative-directed by him now stands at 86 (80 print, 6 film). In the conversation that follows, the über-CD responds to questions put to him by Michael Weinzettl.
Hello Pernil, can you first of all tell us about your pseudonym. I looked it up on Google and found lots of pictures of roast pork. What’s the story behind that, and why did you choose a pseudonym at all? To keep the private person and the creative professional separate?
Actually, Erick Rosa (currently CCO of Publicis One Japan) nicknamed me Pernil (Portuguese for “pork leg”) when we worked together here in Brazil. It was a thing he came up with out of the blue, and he was the only one who’d call me that. And then this guy named Chester joined us at the agency. Chester, an ordinary name for English speakers, is the Brazilian brand name of this chicken-like bird we typically eat during the holiday season – much like pork. Of course this became a huge joke and I never got rid of the nickname.
What is Marco Giannelli’s – opposed to Pernil’s – life like, if I may ask?
There is no distinction, really. The fact that I use my nickname professionally is because I find it weird when creative people sign their names the way boxers do, like Mike “The Iron Man” Tyson or James “Bonecrusher” Smith. So I decided to just use the nickname.
Can you tell us about your beginnings in advertising and your very successful career?
I started my career in direct marketing when I landed my first internship in copywriting at Ogilvy. This turned out to be a great experience because I was tasked with writing long letters to sell things like monochrome CRT computer monitors and dot matrix printers from IBM. And, by writing extensively, I learned different ways to build arguments. A few years later, I went into advertising, where one must be concise, and this was actually even more difficult. That’s why I really like this quote (which Google doesn’t know whether to attribute to Voltaire, Pascal, or Father Vieira), which goes like, “Sorry I wrote such a long letter. I had no time to make it shorter.” Being concise is something I find incredibly challenging (and I guess this huge answer proves my point).
Who, or what, influenced your decision to go into advertising? Is it something you wanted to do from the time you were a child?
My early influences, without a doubt, were the commercials I used to watch on TV growing up. Back in the 80s, a guy gained celebrity status in Brazil because of the ads he created. His name: Washington Olivetto. His agency, W/Brasil (where people like Nizan Guanaes worked back then), did legendary work. So I thought: “I guess I want to do that too.” And, with time, I became a fan of other ad agencies and creatives, some of whom would eventually have their own agencies at which I’ve had the privilege of working (Jacques Lewkowicz, Marcello Serpa, Luiz Sanches). Plus others I have not worked with, but consistently admire (Fabio Fernandes, to mention just one).
Were there any creatives on Brazil’s advertising scene that you looked up to? And what was it that you admired about them?
Of course. Different professionals in different eras were a huge source of inspiration for me. When I first joined AlmapBBDO, for example, I’d take a look around and see people doing memorable work. I remember that, on day one here at the agency, Dulcidio Caldeira, who was our CD along with Luiz Sanches, showed me the offline version of a commercial created by the guys working in my desk. The commercial was VW’s “Dogfish,” and it would go on to win Gold at Cannes the following year. When I finished watching it, I thought: I won’t last more than 3 months here.
What is your explanation for the fact that Brazilian print advertising is so brilliant – and has been for at least two decades?
I think there’s no easy answer to that. There are multiple reasons. We don’t have a strong movie industry, which perhaps explains the fact that we don’t do so well in film. I also think that the lack of resources (in advertising as well as in general terms) forces us to make do with what we have. In addition, print advertising is easier to produce. And we cannot deny the fact that incredible art directors like Marcello Serpa have produced entire generations of amazing talent (AlmapBBDO proves my point). Plus, the natural competition between agencies (and professionals) makes us want to be the best at this or that, and this has helped to raise the bar in Brazil.
Can you single out any of the many award-winning campaigns created under your creative leadership that you are proudest of, or that presented the greatest challenge to you and your teams?
Some recent work I’d like to mention includes campaigns for Getty Images (Endless Possibilities and Nosferatu), HP (Magic Words), Pedigree (Dog Channel), and VW (Opening Doors) done by the exceptional team that we have here.
Are there currently any international advertising campaigns that you admire and, perhaps, wish you yourself had created? How about creative leaders? Anyone you would like to co-operate with if the possibility arises?
This question is actually a bit cruel because, year after year, I find myself looking at the work of ad agencies and creatives that makes me green with envy. There are so many things I wish I could have done, like “Fearless Girl” or “We’re The Superhumans” – just to mention two blockbusters from last year. And it makes me even more envious when something brilliant is produced next door to me, like “Dove Sketches” or “Leica 100.”
What does it take to be a great creative? What does it take to be a great creative director?
I think what it takes to be a great creative is the ability to create the unlikely. As a copywriter, I would get together with my creative partner – André Gola, who currently shares the creative leadership with me – and we would always try to come up with an idea that was truly unexpected (not just for the client, but for ourselves too). Something that seemed impossible to approve and execute. It didn’t always work out (to be honest, it hardly ever did). But this creative “exercise” made us raise the bar on ourselves. And by doing so, we generated more and more ideas. The job of a creative director, however, is much more complex: it requires being a good team manager, a good salesman capable of selling ideas to clients, and a Buddhist monk who can keep everyone happy. I’m still trying to learn the latter.
Since you and your agency have won just about every award out there, are festivals like Cannes, D&AD, or even getting in the Book of the Clube de Criação still a goal?
I think I can draw a parallel here with my experience as a fat guy. Everyone knows how difficult it is to lose weight. But those who have experienced it know that keeping the reduced weight is even more difficult. This is how I approach the work. Getting an ad agency to the top is hard. But keeping it there for years is much, much harder. That’s why I’ve always admired the consistency of AlmapBBDO (even before I joined it). Working for an agency that’s been at the very top of its game for decades is both scary and unbelievable.
Where do you go for creative inspiration? What films, books, art have been important to you in the past few years?
I think inspiration can come from literally anywhere. Books, movies, and museums have a role that’s as important as that of watercooler talk, an anonymous remark posted on Twitter, or a conversation I overheard while out walking my dogs.
What advice would you give to young creatives starting out in the business?
The number one piece of advice I’d give is: be curious. It’s the chaotic combination of experiences and information we accumulate over time that enables us to create new, unique things. Nobody knows what the ad industry will be like in the future, or if there will even be ad agencies and what their business models could be. But one thing is certain: creativity will always be in demand. And curiosity, in my opinion, is what feeds it.