Álvaro Rodrigues, CEO & CCO of Fullpack, is one of the most influential advertisers in Brazil. Throughout his career, he has received 26 Cannes Lions, being the first professional from Rio de Janeiro to receive a D&AD award. Fullpack, based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, is an integrated marketing agency, specialized in digital communication. They strive to find new ways of communicating, new media and compensation models, involving different platforms in the process, in order to combine big data with a big idea. Our colleague Cora Bundur talked to him about his experience as a professional: his approach, thoughts and experience in advertising.
What guided you to this enchanted place of creativity that seems to fit you like a glove? Why advertising?
I think that we, advertisers, have the unique power to change behaviors, convince people to act and stir up conversations. I don’t know if other professionals can do it in such an easy and creative way. We can add layers and flavors into discussions that are not that sexy, nor interesting. I think that nowadays, more than ever, advertising is a way of drawing attention to products, services, and overall to topics that we can and must discuss.
You started your journey in advertising as a copywriter at Doctor Propaganda. The copywriter position is one that continues to intrigue those who start out in advertising. What's your story? Why did you choose to be a copywriter?
I love talking, bringing arguments forward and changing people’s opinions. I thought this is something that I can use as a way of living. Going way back to when I was in school, I always loved to write. I remember being in a student group and we came up with this amateur newspaper about our vision, school, teachers, basically about the regular student life in Brazil. What’s interesting is that we had like a myopia to life because we saw things differently than other people saw them. Since the beginning, I found writing to be the best way to express myself: writing to friends, also to girlfriends. What’s fun is that sometimes friends of mine asked for my help regarding their girlfriends. To me, it’s a nice way of putting ideas forward, because you have to be really strong, you have to choose the right words and to bond them. It’s not easy, but I think it’s the right way to express yourself. That’s why I thought I could earn a living by doing some good copywriting. In fact, towards the end of college, I was torn between becoming a lawyer and working in advertising. I think you can find similarities in both professions because as a lawyer, you have to be really stern to convince someone, you need to put your ideas forward in order to attack or/and defend. But it was all too serious for me, so I thought I could apply the same principles in advertising.
You were a student of the Berlin School of Creativity in 2014, even though you were already far ahead in your career. How did it feel to be back in school?
That’s one thing I never quit... studying. The further you go in your profession, the more responsible you are for the answers and opinions you give. People come to me and say: “Alvaro, please, what do I do now?” And well, that is part of the job, but it’s a lot of pressure. You have to know everything and that’s impossible. We don’t know everything. So, I think being in the back of the classroom once again gives me the freedom to raise my hand and say “I don’t know. This time I really don’t know. Can you teach me?”
When I went to Berlin School, I was alongside people from all over the world, some were CCOs, other ECOs. They were really clever and talented and had achieved everything. At that time, we were all in the same position: let’s ask questions and learn from each other. Being back to school, once again, is a unique way to refresh yourself. That’s something I choose to do at least once a year: take a week or two off to do this. It’s like a vacation, but one meant to recharge my mind, learn new things, new skills, add some layers to my career. I even have an analogy for this: I see myself as a sponge. You take this sponge and put it in a recipient filled with all the information you are going to use in your life. Everyday someone squeezes this sponge. If you don’t put it back in a recipient filled with new things, someday it will get dry, there won’t be a drop left. Right now, we are talking about advertising, but this goes for everything: for me, the chair I sit in cannot be comfortable. When I try to solve a problem, of course, I go through all of the tricks and solutions I’ve done before, but what I want to do is take it a step further, have some fear. When I come up with something, it needs to provoke fear in order to be able to present it.
Not only have you won a number of awards throughout your career, but you have also been a part of the jury at many festivals. What do you look for above all when judging ads? What matters most to you?
We have a huge responsibility to find out what’s new. I remember I was part of the jury in Cannes a few years ago, and the jury president said to our group: “Let’s look for what's new! Let’s suppose that 20 years from now, there will be a group, a handful of professionals, digging for what has been awarded this year. Let’s be proud of what we choose, let’s really raise the bar.” I think that when you are in the jury’s chair, you have the responsibility to be serious about the role. It’s not just about giving awards, but sending some signs to the advertising industry. We’re professionals, we solve client's problems. So, let’s not show the market ego-driven projects. Let’s give awards to real solutions, to works that really inspired us. I really love it when I’m in the jury’s chair and I see work that makes me say: “God, they did it! This is so good! How did they come up with this solution?” This happens when someone had the guts to avoid all the tricks and came up with something really, really new and sexy. I think that’s the right path to be inside of a jury: to try and find these new roads. Beyond being ECOs, CCOs, Creative Directors, we are men, women, fathers, daughters. It’s really interesting to see how the work touched us as humans in the end, not just as professionals, because that’s how we reach people: thinking as people. Sometimes I think we get some distance from this perspective and I don’t know if this is the right way to do it.
When was the last time you felt really challenged by an assignment?
Our industry is changing so fast and you have to keep up with the pace. Not just follow it, but understand it as well. Advertising has to change because it’s part of people’s lives and it has to be fresh and actual. We always have challenges and problems to solve, but I think the biggest one nowadays is to give context to advertising.
You have to think about it from a new perspective. Teenagers don’t watch TV anymore, but they consume a lot of content. How can we prepare our clients and campaigns for this? The actual challenge that we are facing, at least here in Brazil, is that we live in a huge country, with different social classes. The way people consume advertising differs very, very much. We have to create work that people not only love, but also choose to share. I think this is the biggest challenge I’ve been facing lately: how to be up to date and how to update solutions to a world that is changing so fast.
What’s the one piece of creative work you’re most proud of?
The first thing I have to share is that I never do things alone. I’m a people person, so I have to be with my team to come up with ideas. There is a special campaign that I am really proud of: “Elo”, which means “link” in Portuguese. It was made for a hospital in Sao Paulo that treats children with cancer. People from all over Brazil come here to treat their children. The children stay there for a long time and they are really isolated. We came up with this teddy bear that receives and stores audio notes from Whatsapp and, by pushing its hand, it releases the messages. Each child received a teddy bear and could listen to audios received from family members and friends. This campaign won many awards worldwide. It makes us really, really proud, not only to have come up with such a strong idea, but to actually have helped those children. So, if I had to pick one idea, it would definitely be this one.
And here it is
What's a word or phrase you overuse?
“Be fearful of mediocrity” is one of the quotes that I use to share with my team. The quote is not mine, of course, but I love it.
If you were to be a character in a book or a movie, who would you be?
If I could choose a character in a movie or book, I would probably pick Rocky Balboa: a humble and talented guy with a dream. To pursue this dream, he tries hard, he keeps going and going and going. “It ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”