How Brazil inspires AlmapBBDO’s creative director, Luiz Sanches

Nowadays when you get up from sitting on a plush block-coloured sofa in the reception of an ad agency you will likely get a head rush from being dazzled by all the awards and wacky art on the walls. At AlmapBBDO in Sao Paulo it feels like you’re in a waiting room about to get liposuction. It’s all very calm. Except the people milling about aren’t in white coats, but kitted out in thick-rimmed glasses, checked shirts and Converse. And instead of holding a clipboard, they’re carrying a Moleskin notebook. Alas, a creative here is a creative anywhere… But in BBDO they don’t try and convince you about how creative and cool they are as soon as you walk in. Instead they let the work do the talking. Or rather, Luiz Sanches the creative director does the talking about the work.

I went to find out how Brazil inspires this incredibly down to earth 41 year old, who just so happens to be one of the most awarded creative directors in the world. He was slightly dishevelled having come back from Cannes where he did ‘ok’ picking up a few more Lions bringing his grand total to a modest 70.

We spoke of two key variables that give Brazil such a distinct identity. The first is its unique cultural mix. In the early 1900s there was an influx of Italian and Japanese immigrants who now live comfortably alongside the Brazilians with Native American, Portuguese and African ancestry. The second is Brazil’s position on the continent as the only country to not speak Spanish. To overcome this, they have had to express their emotions visually, through the use of bright vibrant colours and musically, through samba and bossa nova.

New Havaianas campaign, shot by David LaChapelle

This also influences their advertising. The biggest TV channel is Globo, which attracts audiences as big as the Super Bowl every night and broadcasts the national TV diet of soap operas and football matches. The next day, not only will people dissect who slept with whom or who scored the winning goal, but they’ll also chat about the commercials they saw. What is clear is that advertising in Brazil isn’t loathed and repelled, or shunned as a manipulative form of selling. It’s a part of their day-to-day lives, a story to watch, something to talk about.

But why do Brazilian advertising agencies consistently sweep the boards at awards ceremonies? And more specifically, how has AlmapBBDO been the top agency in the world three times (the most, by the way), according to The Gunn Report? Luiz Sanches believes it is in part to do with smaller budgets, tighter deadlines and higher volumes of work. There’s more opportunity to try something different and take a risk.

Ultimately though, Sanches believes that each piece of work should be meticulously crafted, ideally with his own trusted people. He uses his recent Cannes Cyber Lion win for Getty Images as an example. The idea ‘from love to bingo’ was to create a love story using Getty images to demonstrate the vastness of its archive. Rather than getting a grad or outsourcing the tenuous task of searching through the Getty library to make the film, Sanches had one of his art directors spend almost six months solely dedicated to this project.

After 17 years at AlmapBBDO, Luiz Sanches shows no sign of slowing down. And whilst he’s at the helm, they will continue to win awards. Although, Christ knows where he keeps them all.