Exclusive! New TBWA London creative boss Andre Laurentino on great creative work, Trevor Beattie and bringing some Brazilian magic to the UK

TBWA London has imported Andre Laurentino from Brazil as its new creative director. Laurentino, a noted novelist and screenwriter in his home country, tells us about his new job, his old job and some of the challenges he faces.

1/ Brazil is widely viewed as a booming creative location. Is this new or has the world just woken up to the fact?

Brazil has always had creativity ingrained in its culture. It’s expressed in our music, literature, architecture, food, how we play football, it’s even in the crazy financial solutions our government has tried in the past. Advertising is yet another way to express our creativity. Since the world went global and our economy has been getting stronger, more people are paying attention.

2/ What changes have you noticed between the way creative departments run in the UK and Brazil? Are there any changes you plan to bring in based on your experience in Brazil? Is one better than the other?

The creative environment that I like is open and active. It should feel like those people are having fun, turning out things fast because they’re excited by them. This can be in Brazil, the UK or Japan. In every country there are quiet agencies, where you can hear a pin drop. I’d rather listen to music.

3/ Which people and creative agencies have had the biggest influence on your own career?

Pentagram, for being eclectic and ambitious. Almap BBDO, for the solid basis I learned there. Penguin Books, for the smell of paperbacks that I love. Murilo Felisberto (pictured) a great Brazilian journalist (and also creative director of the DPZ agency) and the most demanding boss I ever had. Pixar, for never letting technique get in the way of a story. Lew’Lara\TBWA, for believing an art director could become a copywriter. And TBWA for being just about the best place to work and have dreams.

4/ If you had to choose one TBWA campaign (from any office) what would it be? Which campaign from elsewhere would you like to have produced?

Easy: Apple (yep, the one you’re seeing right now in your mind although I didn’t say which one it was). From elsewhere: without thinking, Honda Cog. That’s my Envy Grand Prix.

5/ In Brazil you were a TV screenwriter too. Was it easy to combine this with the agency? Do you plan to continue to do both?

I was an art director when I started writing series for TV Globo. I wanted so desperately to write that it wasn’t really work. It was like surfing, or playing football — none of which I can do. But then my advertising life got busier and busier, and I had to give writing fiction a break. Now, my London life is even busier. No time for anything else. But make no mistake, I’m storing so much new information that having a subject for a novel or script won’t be a problem for the next 100 years.

6/ TBWA’s most famous creative director in the UK was Trevor Beattie, now of Beattie McGuinness Bungay. How aware of Beattie and his achievements were you before you came to London?

Hey! I was living in Adland, Planet Earth: of course I was aware of Trevor’s work.

7/ UK agencies have been criticized for not doing enough to attract young talent and also for dispensing with the services of older people on cost grounds. What’s your approach to recruitment? Does age matter in a creative department?

Age, no. Attitude, yes. It’s all about attitude.

8/ How important are awards to you? Judging by the client turnout at Cannes they take them seriously. Is this a good way to judge an agency?

Awards are great, and I love winning them (who doesn’t?). But having famous work is more important than winning awards. That’s what really matters: creating iconic, popular work. Something so powerful that makes a brand become part of national culture. If you manage to do that, does it really matter if it also won an award or not?

9/ Within Omnicom BBDO wins the most awards, at least according to the Gunn Report. Is there sibling rival between BBDO, DDB and TBWA? Would you like to knock BBDO off its perch?

I’d like to knock Pixar, X Factor or your favourite joke off its perch.

Well there you have it. An important thing about these brilliant South Americans is that they emphasise speed; have a good idea, execute it and get it on air.

That’s not the way advertising has been produced in the US or Europe for decades, not from big agencies for big brands anyway.

Just do it (which wasn’t a South American idea, of course).

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.