By S. Caro
While other viewers avoided television commercials, he loved them, “because they told stories. As a child I liked reading history, I collected toy soldiers and recreated battles with them. I saw that reflected on TV commercials, I was attracted to them, and always said I would like to make commercials, tell stories for brands and so I did. I can say that I belong to that group of people on the planet that work on what they love,” states Juan Carlos Ortiz, who at age 44 already has a historical background in advertising.
Upon graduating from Universidad Javeriana de Bogotá, back in 1991-92, he started an internship at Leo Burnett, where his first task was to write a flyer for the opening of a new branch of Banco Davivienda. “I remember it perfectly, I was very excited when I saw it on print, because it was the first job I ever did in my life in advertising,” he says. He continued to work for the same bank, as well as McDonald’s and Procter & Gamble brands. He also did work for the Colombian government, with a campaign against cocaine which won a Gold Lion at Cannes, that being the first time work from his country won this award.
In 1999, he had also been named president of Leo Burnett Colombia, a position he held until late 2004, when his work with P&G opened doors for him in the United States, where he would become the first Latino to head the company. From Leo Burnett he went on to his current “home”, DDB, where he is in charge of the redefined Latin American region, also being the youngest executive to reach that level in the industry. He notes that just as William Bernbach (the B in DDB, and one of the characters that inspired the hit series “Mad Men”) changed the concept of advertising work, introducing pairs, the company incorporated its own triple model (which adds the digital area), to suit the present scenario of advertising, as well as the innovation involving the Social Media Lab, a new way of searching for insights on social networks.
Ortiz visited our country (Chile) during the summer, coinciding with the reorganization of DDB Chile, where the spaniard Ángel Riesgo took over as CEO (formerly president of DDB Spain and corporate director of DDB Latina).
How did you end up in the United States?
I was working in Colombia until 2004, I left for Chicago to take over as global creative director of Procter & Gamble. I was responsible of the global campaigns for Procter and then was also given the position of president of Leo Burnett Latin America, and in 2006 I was named president of Leo Burnett U.S.A. During a meeting in New York I met the people I work with today, the global president of Omnicom and also my current boss, Chuck Brymer, who is also global CEO of DDB, and they offered me a job at DDB. In 2008 I decided to leave Leo Burnett, which at that moment already belonged to Publicis Group, and I started working at DDB which belongs to Omnicom Group, and developing a project I was very interested in. It was what I called combining the global latin influence.
Does it have something to do with what people have been talking about in terms of the invasion of latins in various fields during the recent decades?
I wouldn’t say that this is Latin and that isn’t, this is a world of ideas that have the capacity of being universal. At this point we don’t use anymore the concept of Latin America. The digital world has no geography, it has similar cultures, so we put together a region consisting of all of Latin America, Spain and the United States, and we create that block, because we understood that culturally for clients there were natural synergies. Companies from Spain looked at Spain and Latin America, not Russia, so the natural synergy in business was logical. On the other hand, we felt there was a very strong block of talent when we united Latin America with the United States and Spain, in order to offer global solutions to clients, and that is what we started developing. When I talk about Latin influence I also mean something very important, and it’s that when the global economy is in crisis, which it was, the latin countries go from being the ones that have always been in crisis to the ones that have experience in living in crisis. So when the U.S. starts feeling that state of crisis, then Europe, we start exporting a knowledge of flexibility during crisis, as a lifestyle, in work, in operational terms, of being more flexible, quicker, and for the first time that which had been a problem for Latins, becomes an opportunity.
What happens with consumers?
They change a lot with everything that is happening. First of all, we no longer call them consumers, which is a very 80s word, too rough; we call them people, brands have conversations with people who may or may not want to speak to you, as is in life in general. Technological advances have led to a strong hiperconnectivity in the world, and that has led to a radical change in human behavior, related to communication in advertising, which is what I call the “school of fish effect”, which speaks clearly of the way in which people behave because they are hyperconnected. A “school of fish” are hundreds of fish in the water that move together, at the same time to the left, to the right, sometimes upward, but have you ever seen in a school of fish one fish that leads and suddenly says, “Hey, everyone to the right”? That no longer exists, that mandatory vertical communication that said, “we have to do this”, doesn’t exist, people don’t believe it and aren’t interested either. The school of fish moves because every fish trusts the one next to him, and that is what social networks do, it’s the new way in which people move, by trust, credibility.
How does advertising work with this “school of fish”?
Assuming that radical changes are what make our industry change, because it is meant for people and people change, so does advertising. The first major change is that the most effective advertising is the one that doesn’t seem effective, because if it is advertising, the shoal rejects it, doesn’t show interest. People like content, they want to share it, so we have to be influential to the shoal, from the inside. We can’t direct it from the outside, because communication is rejected instantly. It is an interesting moment within the industry.
Does it change creativity?
Absolutely and not just creativity, but also the way in which you create credibility, because in the end people come to you when there is credibility, and it becomes an important factor; what people believe, how a brand should speak to be believed.
Do you think traditional advertising will disappear now with the advances in digital technology?
Not at all, the thing is people tend to be too closed: it’s either this or that. When television appeared, people said the radio would disappear, no, ecosystems can coexist. As for digital, people sometimes misunderstand it; digital is not a medium that will replace another medium, it is a human tissue, it is everywhere, it is a way of life: today tv is digital, phones, radio. We still talk about digital and non-digital, but that is wrong, because when you talk to a 15-16 year old, you really think he knows the difference between digital and non-digital? It’s simply how he lives, so the concept “digital world” will probably disappear soon, because it is simply the world.
Have brands adapted? Here there is still talk about a generational gap between authorities.
That just happens, it happened in the U.S. and it’s what I call the trigger effect; there is a natural resistance but something happens and suddenly brands turn entirely towards this digital era, from one moment to the next. Since this happens as people’s lives go on, it is going to happen just because, it is a reality. The interesting part is when brands in their transition process towards this start preparing, experimenting with the type of communication, they start acting as if they were part of Formula 1 in pole position. It’s easier to win the race that way rather than when you are in the back positions.
What does the concept of “triples” consist of?
The first big creative revolution in advertising was in the 50s, when Bill Bernbach, the founder of this company, was the first one to make people work in what are known as pairs, which is a copywriter and an art director, and then the whole industry followed this idea. What we have done is evolve that system to go from advertising to creative business solutions, which is what clients are looking for today, and we created the “triples” model, inserting into that idea a creative thinker, a strategic planner – who is the person that understands people the most – and a digital producer, who has the ability to understand how to use all these new technological platforms to access people and communicate with them.
What is the difference in the outcome?
There is a complete difference. Previously a client had a need and the solution was just one piece, one press advertisement, one tv commercial, one radio advertisement. This is a different way of thinking: a client has a problem and this team creatively sits down to think of a creative business solution, one that can be adapted to different digital platforms or traditional media, whatever you want. That allows you to have more neutral thoughts and more focused on finding solutions for clients, not necessarily just one piece.
Is there conflict between creativity and effectiveness?
Not at all, that conflict is something the industry has tried to create. It’s like trying to make a separation between traditional and digital agencies, it can’t be because if there is a difference then the business is wrong, because digital is a part of life. If you are considering a client’s need, the creative solution for a business has to be effective, creativity is a factor in achieving effectiveness, people tend to separate them and that is the biggest mistake in our business. Effectiveness is a result of good creativity, allowing you to talk to people and opening doors for you.
Chilean advertising likes using famous people, which can be effective but not very creative.
Using someone famous or well known in and of itself is neither good nor bad, it depends how you use it creatively. There are campaigns that use them that are extremely creative, it all has to do with what you do with them, not just make them talk. There is a psychological theory of Gestalt that says lots of people tend to do what has already been done to avoid taking a risk. One should never forget that in this business the way in which you connect with people emotionally in the middle and long term is through creativity, it is a decisive factor in our business.
But at the same time with people being connected to so many stimuli it makes it harder to get to them.
What makes good marketing today is the quality of the content, people open doors for you when they like your content. Why do you suddenly see content that is a hit on Youtube, on social networks?, because people like it and those are the same people that are in charge of sharing it and talking it to places where traditional media can’t reach, not even if they invested millions. That has made people today be a part of your strategy, no one is going to share something they don’t like.
What does Chile represent for the DDB network?
For us, Chile is an important market, representative, first of all because the chilean economy is one of the most stable, we call it Latin American Switzerland, because it is an economy that may not have an explosive growth, but always has a steady and consistent growth. And second of all, we believe in the Chilean talent, we want to insert this model at DDB Chile, because we know that good ideas must come from there for chilean clients and we can export those good ideas. The Chilean industry can become an industry that brings creativity as an “exportable” model, not just in advertising, creativity is a very important factor for innovation too.
“We believe in Chilean talent, which is why we want to insert this model in DDB Chile, because we know that good ideas must from from there fro chilean clients and we can export those good ideas. The Chilean industry can become an industry that brings creativity as an “exportable” model, not just in advertising, creativity is a very important factor for innovation too. “
Are there changes at DDB Chile?
Yes, there are internal changes that are currently happening, but undoubtedly we are making changes by inserting this trio model, adding a new way of creative direction to the operation. We are launching the Social Media Lab, which is the way to access strategies and insights through social media and not the classic focus groups. We analyze the conversations people have about specific brands or specific topics, and you know that in social media people really talk, with no filters, and from that we encourage creatives to make strategies.
Isn’t there a certain deviation in that? Because not everything that is said in social media can be taken seriously.
That can happen when you take random cases of conversations between three people, but when you take and analyze thousands of conversations about what is happening with the brand, we can access behavioural conclusions that are very different and much more realistic. Planners and anthropologists have the capacity of taking all the conversations and drawing conclusions, and that gives you positions for brands that are highly inspiring, and also poses a very attractive realism to do things.