The co-founder of GUT on leaving DAVID, starting afresh, and attending a school with no tests
Anselmo Ramos has quite the CV. He’s one of the co-founders of DAVID, part of the Ogilvy network, where he worked on award-smashing campaigns for Burger King, such as ‘Proud Whopper’, Kraft Heinz - Mad Men ‘Pass The Heinz’, and - an LBB favourite - MACMA ‘Man Boobs’. Before DAVID he was at Ogilvy Sao Paulo and worked on Dove ‘Real Beauty Sketches’.
But after all that Anselmo - along with Gaston Bigio, a fellow DAVID co-founder - are starting from scratch after launching their own agency, GUT. While they were founding partners of DAVID, it was still ultimately part of the WPP group and not wholly ‘theirs’. GUT is. It has launched in both Miami, where Anselmo has been based for the past four years (it’s his fourth stint living in the city) and Buenos Aires, where Gaston is based. Its logo is made up of “spiral intestines” and was designed by none other than Sagmeister & Walsh.
It’s still early days for GUT after launching in April but Anselmo has never been happier and we’re pumped to see the work to come out of the agency. LBB’s Addison Capper chatted with Anselmo about the risks of launching a new agency, the ethos under which it launched, and how attending a Rudolf Steiner Waldorf school - with no tests and lessons in knitting - shaped the creative he is today.
LBB> I love the name GUT - for want of a better term, it’s a very gutsy word! Why did you call the agency that?
AR> I think it captures the kind of work we’ve been doing in the past, in the last three to four years of DAVID. It also captures the kind of work that we want to do in the future. I also hope that it’s a filter for the right clients. If you’re a client and you don’t want to do bold work, you aren’t going to call an agency named GUT. It’s simple and it comes with a philosophy. The philosophy is courage and having the courage to do something different and new, trusting your gut. And there’s transparency, which involves being 100% honest to yourself.
LBB> Why was now the right time to launch your own agency?
AR> DAVID was an amazing experience but not mine. I was one of the founders and I was a partner, but at the end of the day it wasn’t my agency, it’s a WPP company. And after everything that Gaston [Bigio] and I learned at DAVID, we felt that we were finally ready to jump. It’s going to be tougher from a financial perspective because we’re funding everything ourselves, I don’t have a salary for a year, but we have the freedom to do whatever we want. I’m sure I’m going to commit a lot of mistakes but we’re ready.
LBB> Let’s talk about your past a bit - you attended a school that involved zero tests and you did classes in things like knitting. Do you think that experience and freedom of learning influenced you working in creativity later in life?
AR> I think it’s a combination of my parents and the school that I went to. My mom is a piano teacher so she’s very creative, and my dad was an engineer and an artist. He would build machines and complicated engineering stuff during the week, but on the weekends, he would do oil painting. I grew up around that environment. But when I went to Waldorf school there were no tests and it was just things like knitting, acting, singing, gardening, sculpting. It was so creative. That had a huge impact on me growing up.
LBB> In an interview you gave in 2014 it said that you spent every Monday writing. Do you still manage to do that?
AR> No I don’t, and I want to get back to it because it’s such a good thing to have something on the side that isn’t advertising. It was such a good exercise for me. Same bar, same table, same bartender, same drink. It’s about discipline. But the last year has been hard with my exit and setting up the new shop. But as soon as things settle down, I really want to get back to it.
LBB> GUT is in both Miami and Buenos Aires, with you based in Miami, so I wanted to ask you about the city. It seems like such an interesting place at the moment and so creative and multicultural. How do you see the city at the moment?
AR> It’s so unique. For me, it’s like the Amsterdam of the Americas. It’s very diverse. Before it used to be very Latino driven but now it’s becoming more international. We still have a lot of Latino communities but there are North Americans, a lot of Europeans, it’s getting more diverse and better and better, with more cultural options. And there’s the beach, which is awesome. Clients love the city, they love the fact that we are not in New York, Los Angeles or Chicago; they like that it’s a bit of a different place.
LBB> And how about the advertising community in Miami? What’s that like?
AR> Thanks to a couple of agencies, like CP+B in the past, The Community and DAVID, we’ve been showing in the past couple of years that it’s possible to do great work out of Miami. It’s not a big community like New York or London but there are a few good places and hopefully GUT will be another example of that.
LBB> Speaking of great work, you’ve been involved in your fair share of it in the past! But one piece that’s always stuck with me is ‘manboobs4boobs’. It makes me laugh every time I see it but obviously has such an important, smart message within it. What was the creative process behind that?
AR> MACMA was a client we had at DAVID, it’s a nonprofit organisation for breast cancer awareness and prevention. So, they don’t have any money for marketing. We tended to have one idea every year and when we saw that one it was just so simple. It was a hack of the system. It shows the power of a simple idea - it cost nothing to do it. But it’s about hacking the system, as I said. A lot of our ideas are about finding a way, going around the rules, provoking.
LBB> Looking back at your career, is there a particular piece of work that you’re most proud of?
AR> It’s difficult to pick just one but I think Dove ‘Real Beauty Sketches’ was a turning point in my career and the kind of work that I did. That’s the first time that my client and I decided to really go for it. We didn’t know if it was going to work so we had to trust uncertainty and be ready to trash the whole thing if it doesn’t work.
When we presented the idea the client asked me if I thought it was going to work. I had to say that I didn’t know. I think it would, because of research, but there was no way of knowing. But the only way to find out was by doing it.
LBB> In a way, it seems like Real Beauty Sketches was a bit of a turning point for the kind of work that the industry now does more broadly. So much work could now fit into a ‘creativity for good’ category…
AR> After that launched a lot of other clients started to ask us for their own Real Beauty Sketches. I had to tell them that there was only one - we can do other things, as brave as, but there is no formula.
LBB> And it needs to have a point and be right for the brand too…
AR> Yeah, don’t jump on a bandwagon just because it’s trendy. Sometimes you feel that - you see a brand doing something around empowerment of women, for example, but it has nothing to do with the brand. You have to be really careful. Brands need to be true to themselves and their positioning and values.
LBB> What do you get up to when you’re not working (if that time exists right now)?
AR> I’m usually working a lot. When I’m not working, I check that I still have a family! And then I try to read as much as possible, watch films - bad ones as well as good ones. Even in my leisure time, I’m consuming as much as I can. In this profession, you really need to like doing something different. It needs to be some sort of obsession otherwise it can be very difficult.
LBB> What do you see for the rest of 2018 for yourself and GUT?
AR> Well I need some new clients! I need brave clients and brave talent, and hopefully GUT will be ready to release our first ideas and campaigns. But I’m back to zero. Zero Lions, zero Pencils.
LBB> But are you enjoying it?
AR> I love it. It’s so uncomfortable. I’ve never been so uncomfortable in my life. I’ve also never been happier in my life.