For this issue of Lürzer’s Archive, we invited Damian Nunez, Chief Creative Director of MullenLowe, Bucharest to curate the digital content.
Nobody wants the half-way stuff.
Michael Weinzettl caught up with the creative who started his career at DDB Argentina where, within just the first couple of years, he scooped multiple awards. He then went on to work for agencies such as Ogilvy & Mather Buenos Aires, Del Campo Saatchi & Saatchi, and La Comunidad, before moving to the US to work for La Comunidad from Miami. His next stops were the L.A. office of Conill Saatchi & Saatchi, and Dieste in Dallas, Texas. Then, early in 2018, came his big move to the MullenLowe Group in Romania.
Damian, first of all, many thanks for selecting the digital works for this issue of Lürzer’s Archive. Did you find it difficult to come up with outstanding work?
I wouldn’t say it was difficult, maybe a little challenging given the time of the year. It needed to be fresh work that hadn’t been featured anywhere, and that was the biggest challenge. But we managed to get a nice selection, fairly representative of the times that the industry is going through.
You’re from Argentina originally but have lived and worked in the US too. What are some of the differences between advertising made in Argentina and the US?
Each market has its own challenges. I started my career in Argentina, probably the best school any young creative could have. Creative teams rule the agencies, and everything and everybody is aligned with that vision. The work has to be fantastic, nobody wants the half-way stuff.
When I moved to the US, the biggest differences were regarding the workflow and the organization. And, of course, budgets. You just can’t compare. Otherwise, ideas are ideas, but everything was less visceral and more analytic. It took me some time to get used to it, but I loved my time there. The cities where I lived also made the difference: Miami, Los Angeles, and Dallas at the end, were fantastic places full of opportunities.
How did you wind up as CCO of MullenLowe in Bucharest? What was your first impression when you got there, and how would you describe the creative scene in the Romanian capital?
In 2017, I was working as freelance from Milan and was considering the option to go back to working in an agency full time. I was missing the everyday contact with people.
Chacho Puebla, the European CCO at MullenLowe, a fellow Argentinian whom I had known for some time, contacted me and recommended me for the CCO position in MullenLowe Bucharest. After a call and a short trip to Bucharest, things where pretty much settled and ready to go.
When I first landed here, I was impressed by how similar the vibe of the city felt in comparison to my South American roots. And I immediately fell in love with the possibilities. I think Romania is an advertising market that is only going to get bigger and better. If the agencies want to do it, Bucharest can be a fantastic European creative hub. Some local agencies are already playing the big game, and the talent is here, so many others could do it too.
How did you get into advertising in the first place? Was it something you’d been wanting to do since you were a student, or did you have other aspirations?
It was actually kind of random, or I can be poetic and say it was meant to be. Graphic design is my original background, and I worked as a designer for a few years, but I realized quite early on in my career that I liked a lot more the conceptualizing part of the process. Around that time, David Droga was visiting Buenos Aires and doing a conference as part of El Ojo de Iberoamérica, one of our regional festivals. I think this was in 2002 and, after hearing his speech, I fell in love with the idea of working in advertising. I immediately went to study art direction and in March 2004 landed my first job at DDB Argentina. Pretty straightforward. It’s been almost fifteen years now and I’m still loving it.
What are some of the communication challenges, or challenges in general, facing a creative director in Romania?
I think the challenges are the same everywhere. I’m always in touch with colleagues from pretty much all over the world, and you would be surprised how similar the scenarios are.
The only trend that I noticed in this particular market is that a lot of the power is on the client side, which leads to almost constant pitches and project-based interaction. Not the healthiest approach for the agencies, because it makes it really hard to plan mid to long term. I think there’s a whole new generation of clients that don’t necessarily trust their partner agencies, and it’s up to us as an industry to regain that trust, and the only way I know how to do that is with amazing work. You can see it in every successful agency: there’s a lot of time dedicated to creating the kind of synergy that is needed to achieve great results.
Can you give us examples of some of the projects throughout your career that you’re proudest of?
I’m not sure if it’s pride, but I do hold a lot of gratitude towards pieces of work and the people that I’ve worked with, the first one being a VW print campaign (post, billboards, KM) that we did almost twelve years ago working at DDB, my first agency, that got pretty much every award including a Grand Prix in El Sol. I am especially attached to this piece of work because we were really new in advertising and that immediately put us on the map. “Headlines Form The Sky,” a special outdoor campaign we did for Toyota USA during 2012 that got us the Grand Prix at FIAP, was a nice one too. And then I also liked working for an activation we did for Susan G. Komen called “The Stitched Shirt.” I liked it because it was such a small – and direct – idea, and I was able to see people’s reactions right there, in front of me, and that feeling is unbeatable.
Do you have any heroes, or people you’ve admired inside or outside the industry?
I don’t think I have heroes, not inside the industry at least. I do have a lot of admiration for some of the people I worked with and for. From creative directors that trusted us enough to take us with them to different agencies, to partners, to people who helped build my criteria and, eventually, my career.
But there is someone who to me deserves a hats-off, and that’s my ex-CD Gustavo Lauría. With his “Edible Six-Pack Ring,” he not only solved a brief and created a product and a new business opportunity, but also did it while doing the right thing.
You are on the jury of the New York Festivals, so I guess you have a pretty good idea of what is great and what not so great in advertising around the world. Are there any tendencies you like/don’t like?
I’m part of the jury for NYF, yes, but the voting process hasn’t started yet. I can tell you what I would like to see: Solutions. Real, well-thought solutions to real communication problems. I’m a little fed up with CSR campaigns, advertising saving the world one case study at a time. I would like to see real briefs solved in clever ways. I understand that, as an industry, it sometimes feels like we’re trying to reinvent the wheel every day, so if we can’t achieve that, at least whatever we do has to be interesting, thoughtful, and beautifully crafted.
What are examples of ads in classic media (print and film) that you really admire, and would have been proud to come up with yourself?
I’m almost 40 now, so I grew up with classic TV, print and radio, and I love that. This is going to sound clichéd, but the first ad that kind of blew my mind was “Surfer,” Jonathan Glazer’s ad for Guinness. There are also a bunch of Argentinian TV ads that I loved, mostly from the golden era of Agulla & Baccetti.
But if I have to be honest, I still get goosebumps from spots like the 2006 “Endure” for Nike Air, and also for Nike’s “Beautiful.” From more modern times, I was greatly surprised by Under Armour’s Phelps commercial. You see a pattern here. As an Argentinian, I love humor and storytelling, but what makes me really jealous are conceptual, poetic, and usually sport-related pieces.
What do you like to do to unwind? And what is the role that bicycle races play in all of this?
Sports! All of them, or as much and as many as I can. I have a special love for bicycles, and mountain biking in particular. I always say that racing XC is the only thing in the world that I’m fairly good at. When anybody, from any field, talks about being “in the zone” or “the flow,” that’s exactly what racing cross country MTB feels for me. It’s absolute focus, absolute pain, and absolutely amazing. But I find this really hard to explain to anybody who is not familiar with being with the heart at 175 bpm for over two hours.
The main reason why I bike in Romania is because I can do it pretty much every day. I joined a fantastic local team, and the mountains are absolutely stunning. But, depending on where I live, I pick a sport that allows me to practice daily.
In Miami it was kitesurfing, I was addicted to it. While living in Los Angeles, it was surfing and my life was moving around that, traveling for waves and getting obsessed about it. I also love snowboarding, playing beach volley and basketball. That being said, I suck at most of them.
What inspires you?
I think that, over the years, my sources of inspiration have changed and multiplied. I used to look a lot at the entertainment industry – movies, videos, music, and a lot of advertising. But over the last few years, I’ve tried to be more aware of everything but the entertainment industry. Of course you still stay in touch with what’s going on, but I tend to do more stuff, get outside that little super-comfortable bubble that is our industry and connect with different realities out there. The fact that I’ve lived in a lot of different places helps me have this outsider’s eye pretty much everywhere I go. I don’t get that entangled with the negative aspects of each specific place, and I think that enriches my experience and lets me work on the positive side of things. I’m an absolute optimist and sometimes stupidly positive, and I think we have the responsibility to transmit a healthy message within the work we do.