Words have been Alessandro Sabini’s passion since he was young, but when he tried journalism it didn’t quite scratch the itch for him. Thankfully, he soon moved to London and discovered that advertising needs people who can write well too.
More than 20 years on, he’s acutely aware of that fact. As chief creative officer for McCann Worldgroup’s Milan and Rome offices, he’s constantly on the lookout for talented copywriters (he admits they are hard to come by though). He’s found some good ones over the years though, like the creatives who came up with the ‘Voice of Voices’ campaign that encouraged thousands of Italians to collaboratively create a human voice for ALS sufferers, or the new UBREW campaign that immortalised some of the most epic beer saves the world has ever seen.
LBB’s Alex Reeves caught up with Alessandro to hear about his career and how it’s shaped his creative outlook.
LBB> You originally studied journalism. What attracted you to writing? And why journalism specifically?
Alessandro> I knew I wanted to take advantage of the only thing I really loved to do at that time: writing.
But this was before I found out what creative writing was compared to journalism.
LBB> What was it that diverted you from this interest into a career in advertising?
Alessandro> When I moved to London, my flatmate was on an internship at Saatchi. He was the one that told me: “If you like writing, try to become a copywriter”. I didn’t even know what a “copywriter” was before that day.
LBB> Has your journalistic training influenced the way you work as a creative?
Alessandro> Not really. Studying journalism helped me to understand the historical and political background of my country, but nothing about writing or creative writing.
LBB> What part of your career do you think has had the biggest impact on your development as a creative?
Alessandro> In my late 20s, I cut my teeth during the four years I spent at Saatchi & Saatchi Milan. I remember the passion for ideas, the hunger for awards, the long nights on proactive projects and the relationships: my best friends after 20 years are still the guys from that agency. Even if my best time ever is now. In McCann. My family.
LBB> What sort of brand clients do you most love to work with and why?
Alessandro> I love automotive a lot. It’s so challenging because everything has already been done - you need to rack your brain hard if you want to come out with something original. Also the food industry because it’s my territory; I am obsessed with cooking.
LBB> What do you think is the biggest challenge facing Italy today when it comes to making great advertising?
Alessandro> Creativity in Italy today is higher than it was in the past and there are some important global campaigns that come from here. But there is still a lot to do in terms of culture and, most of all, passion. The young generations are not attracted by this industry anymore. Especially writers. It’s so tough to find good junior copywriters (so please, send me portfolios…).
LBB> And what about on a more global level? What do you think are the biggest problems the global industry faces?
Alessandro> The transformation is huge, the competition is wild and the numbers are small.
But, hey, it’s still sunny, c’mon!
LBB> What campaigns are you most proud of recently and why?
Alessandro> Voice of Voices for Centro Clinico Nemo. A mobile campaign that helped these great people to raise money for patients affected by ALS. It’s a client that I really love for how they are, for what they do and the way they do it.
LBB> And what are your big hopes for the year ahead?
Alessandro> Make new business, win awards, attract more talents.
LBB> How would you define the way McCann Italy approaches creativity, in contrast to other agencies?
Alessandro> I never talk about other agencies. In McCann Italy we simply follow our global mantra: “Creativity is the only way to survive”. And it does not mean we only care about creative; our mission is to help brands to create a meaningful role in people’s lives. And to achieve it we try to be creative in everything we do. And not just in the creative department.
The best thing about working here is that you really feel part of a network. I am constantly in contact with the community of CCOs, strategic planners and business leaders. Working together globally it’s part of our daily routine. I think this is the reason why you feel the McCann DNA is the same in every office you go all over the world.