For this issue, I decided to interview Luis Paulo Gatti, at present senior art director at BBDO, Berlin.
We live in the best time to be creative.
Luis Paulo Gatti is someone I consider representative of a new generation of “itinerant“ creatives who quite easily adapt to cultural backgrounds different from their own and successfully manage to work from all over the world. Gatti’s work has frequently featured in this publication and what struck me most about him was the many places he’s come from, all within a relatively few years. From his native Brazil of course, but also, more recently, from Dubai, Budapest and now Berlin. I caught up with him to find out more about what seems like an ”itinerant“ way of creating advertising which seems to have become a kind of trend.
Hi Luis, could you please introduce yourself to our readers? You haven’t been in advertising as long as many of our interview subjects here. Where do you come from, where are you at the moment?
My name is Luis Paulo but everyone calls me by my surname, Gatti, as many other people in Brazil have the same first name as me. I started my career in 2007, in Rio de Janeiro, as an art director. Over these 13 years I believe that life has been very generous to give me the opportunity to work in different countries and learn from very talented people from different cultures. Last year I received an offer to move from Dubai to Berlin and I am currently at BBDO working on projects for smart, Nike and Deutsche Bahn.
Over the course of the past five years you’ve had quite a lot of your work featured in the pages of Archive, work that you did back in your native country but also after your move.
Lürzer’s Archive was a school for me at the beginning of my career. I had a big collection of back issues which I later gave to my students when I left Brazil. It goes without saying that It’s always been a massive pleasure when one of the campaigns I was part of got selected.
My favorite one was my very first, a campaign for Targifor, made at Publicis Brasil in 2012. A few years earlier I could only dream of having work featured, so when I heard that something got selected, the feeling was indescribable. In 2015, I came 8th in the global ranking and I sincerely thought the feeling couldn’t get better. But in 2019, after being featured in every new issue, I came 4th place. So, all of the work has been special in their own way. National Geographic, for instance, was a campaign that came from a pitch. “Terms Against Bullying” and “Equal Colors” took years before getting finally executed. Cadillac was my main client in Dubai and we had two projects selected in 2019. “Keep Living Coral” did well in several award shows, including D&AD, but not before being featured by you guys first.
How did you get from Sao Paulo to Dubai, and then on to other European cities such as Budapest (White Rabbit) and Berlin (where you are at present). You rarely spend more than a year at any of the agencies which makes you come across as an itinerant creative who mostly works on various projects as a kind of trouble-shooter: Is that correct?
When I discovered that in advertising many professionals worked in foreign markets, I put this as a goal in my career. The first opportunity I had to move was in 2013 but I felt I wasn’t ready then. After lots of talks, the courage to start this new journey came only at the end of 2015. I worked in Dubai for four years, the last two and half in Saatchi & Saatchi, and it was an incredible experience. Not only to work in a different language but several other things, including my first experience as a creative director.
Everyone asks me about White Rabbit. Istvan, the CCO, participated in five or six festivals together with me as jury member, so we became friends and he eventually invited me to be part of the project “Keep Living Coral” for WWF. As we really clicked creatively speaking, I thought it’d be interesting to give it a go. After that, we also did more projects together, like “Terms Against Bullying” and “Save Classic Blue” – 2nd phase of the campaign for WWF. Both campaigns also featured at Lürzer’s Archive.
At the beginning of 2019 my wife and I talked about our next steps because we were expecting our first kid (Baby Erik). So amongst a few talks with agencies whose work I admired, BBDO Berlin “happened”. I am really enjoying the agency and the opportunity to work with Till Diestel, Siyamak Jung and many other talented people, including my creative partner Eduardo Balestra and one of my creative directors, Pedro Americo, both good friends also outside the office.
Do you find it easy to adapt to the context of different agencies in different markets?
As mentioned earlier, I hadn’t had the opportunity to travel outside of Brazil before my first move to Dubai. When that opportunity finally arrived, I tried to be as open as possible to learn and adapt myself to the local culture. As Brazil is a country of continental dimensions, we naturally have the habit of looking not only for universal, but also local insights, in order to create relevant work within the audience, taking into consideration the different cultures. In this sense, the creative process in advertising ends up being similar and what makes it different is the vision, ambition and the way that each agency works.
Is that a trait that can be found in many Brazilians creatives? A lot of them seem to be roaming the Middle East and Europe (and also the US), working in agencies far from home – apart from the fact that Latin creatives seem to be very much in demand in European advertising? There was even an article in Campaign magazine some month ago that said something like ”Every agency in London should have their own Brazilian creative“. Why do you think that seems to be the case?
Moving to another country is not an easy task. Staying away from friends and family is a sacrifice to be made for those who venture out. And evidently each person decides to start an international career for different reasons.
We, Brazilians, and all Latinos, are deeply involved with our projects. This directly has a bearing on the final quality. If you ask me “Do you think the agencies should hire more Brazilians?” I will say “For sure! But hire not only Brazilians, but people from different parts of the world.’’ It is obvious to me that there is so much an agency and its creatives can gain from mixing international views on the same subject.
How did you yourself discover advertising as a career option? Were you interested in ads from an early age? Do you remember any of the classic Brazilian ads you grew up with?
As a teenager, it’s not easy to make a decision about what you want to do for the rest of your life. I was lucky to win a scholarship in the communication field and that was certainly a determinant factor. Soon after, during classes in college, I realized that I liked advertising since I was a child. The truth is that Brazilians love advertising and several commercials become something relevant within popular culture, being used in everyday life. A memorable commercial is the one with the “little turtle”, launched by the beer brand Brahma prior to the World Cup 2002. Everyone at the time would imitate the turtle and that became an icon. Another classic is the one with the ants for Philco from 1995. Seems like we Brazilians love small creatures.
You are also a teacher at Miami Ad School, and in our magazine’s Student’s Contest we frequently receive submissions from your students. What made you want to teach advertising?
Few things have as much impact on a person’s life as education. Being an advertising teacher reminds me of the beginning of my own career and how important the people who guided me in that moment were. It was a random coincidence that led me to become a teacher. I received an invitation from a friend (Andre Rival), who is also a teacher. He asked me to talk to some of his students about my experiences during his lesson. The talk was a great and enjoyable experience. At the end of the class, some students asked me if I would like to teach and said they would recommend me to the school. I thought they were just excited after the lesson, but a few days later I got a call from CUCA (Brazilian advertising school).
Before the interview, just two things crossed my mind. The first was that it was a big responsibility. To teach is to understand that you are helping to build someone else’s future. It is the first step in their career, and you must have respect for other people’s dreams and aims.
The second, was that I didn’t have the same experience as the other teachers, who were all famous names in Brazilian advertising.
My first class worked hard and they managed to win the top prize in Brazilian advertising (The Creative Club). It gave me the confidence I needed to believe that, regardless of my previous worries, I could do it. And so, I pursued my teaching career.
After a few months of teaching, I began to realise the bigger role I played in my students’ lives. I was not only there to share my experiences and references; I also had to understand each individual I was teaching. Every student had his or her own background, all of them different. Some of them were just beginning their careers, while others were already acquainted with agencies and the creative processes. Some had family to support them financially, and were therefore able to enjoy the classes. Others were having difficulty paying for their studies and, because of this, were unable to enjoy the classes due to pressure. The course was their chance to better their lives; they had to succeed.
How do you balance all these different student expectations?
Honestly, there is no one answer that fits everyone. You can’t use the same speech for everyone, because everyone is at a different stage in their lives, both professionally and personally. A lot of patience is required, as you have to take each situation seriously and individually. Engage in discussion and always remember that when we talk to young adults, the student’s lack of professional knowledge is just the tip of the iceberg. We need to also understand their individual stories and circumstances.The truth is that students go through a mix of feelings – feelings that we can all relate to. All you have to do is think back to when you first started your career. It wasn’t easy, was it? Every time I notice that a student is not happy, I talk to them in order to understand and try to solve the problem. Trust me: most of the time there is more to the problem than meets the eye.
As a teacher, seeing the evolution of a student, their growth and development makes me happy. Seeing their excitement when they finally get that opportunity to work for a good agency, or win an award; this is what motivates me to teach.
After working at CUCA, I got an offer to teach at Miami Ad School. My classes are online, so I can stay connected to the Brazilian market. In my last class I worked with nearly 100 students. It is not easy. Many talented students study and graduate from Miami Ad School, not only in Brazil, but all over the world. After students complete my courses, I remain friends with them and try my best to keep up with their careers, supporting each step they take. This whole experience in the classroom is easily adaptable to the professional environment. The important thing is to motivate the younger professionals with briefings that challenge them. And, of course, observe the project step by step with affection.
We always try to open senior briefings to the younger talent. We want our younger creatives to feel they have opportunities to create good work, and mixing with senior teams gives them practical experience, where they can learn from other people. My last piece of advice for young professionals is, to always listen to tips and observe everything that’s happening around you. Try to find a professional you admire to be your mentor. Also try to be as up to date as possible. From the beginning of my career, Lürzer’s Archive has been fundamental in the construction of my criteria.
What is some of the work you’re proudest of?
Our objective is to always improve the client’s business and/or reputation. But when we can create an idea that can help people’s lives, the feeling is even more gratifying. That’s why the project I’m most proud of is Terms Against Bullying. Established by law, all mobile internet operators may terminate the contract of those who use their services to practice bullying or intimidation of any kind. www.termsagainstbullying.com is a tool that helps victims report cyberbullies anonymously by providing all the information they need to break their contracts and get them off the Internet. To make it happen we registered more than 150 mobile network operators across Europe and developed the technology using a code similar to the one that identifies spam.
How do you see your future now? More traveling or ready to settle down in one place?
It’s funny that when I met my wife, I asked her “what do you think about moving countries every three years?’’. Today we don’t even consider moving from our apartment in Kreuzberg.
Who are some of your mentors, creative idols?
I was lucky to work with wonderful people from whom I learned a lot. So I would end up making a very long list. Among these people, surely Pedro Utzeri, Marcio Juniot, Dudu Marques, João Coutinho, Eduardo Doss, Luiz Rego and Daniela Mota. Obrigado, guys!
What are some of your thoughts on the ad industry in general? Is it still a great time to get into the business?
I always say that we live in the best time to be creative. So many technological innovations. So many different ways to communicate. If there are some challenges today, there were also others in the past, as there will be in the future.
What advice do you give your students with regard to making it in advertising. What are some of the benefits/drawbacks of a career in adland vs. in other creative professions?
Always listen to tips and observe everything that’s happening around you. Try to find a professional you admire to be your mentor. And if you want, you can always share your case with me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Good luck on your journey!