Claudio Lima joined Cheil Brazil as its CCO from Ogilvy Brazil three months ago, tasked with developing the agency’s creative technology offering. For him though, thanks to Cheil’s history with and ownership by Samsung, the main focus here is not in the develop of new technologies but the application of existing ones. In the past, he believes, Cheil in South America has not explored enough the power of Samsung’s products in telling heartfelt stories to its customers.
Claudio is one of Brazil’s most respected creatives. He has 100s of awards to his name, including 47 Lions and prizes from the likes of D&AD, the One Show, London International Awards and El Ojo de Iberoamérica. LBB’s Addison Capper picked his brains on his new role, the economic situation in Brazil and his one true love… video games.
LBB> In the press release announcing your hire it said that one of your tasks would be to develop Cheil Brazil’s creative technology offering. How are you setting out to do that?
CL> I think it’s already set out in a sense - we have some of the most technological brands in the world as our client. So I think it’s more about how to explore that great technology, not only in selling it but using it properly too, to honour its creativity. In Brazil and the rest of South America I think that’s what was missing from the work. We were doing a lot of everyday work, saying ‘hey here’s a new TV with this feature, here’s a new phone with this feature’. But we’re not using ‘this’ or ‘that’ to tell the stories and they should be a lot of the idea. For example, Samsung has Bixby, its AI, and there are zero ideas with in, not in Cannes this year or ever. So how do we bring those features into our product as the agency? I think that was the main meaning within that sentence.
Cheil was founded in ‘73 and it was the first agency that was founded to sell technology. And that’s a fact - we were founded by a technological company essentially to sell their fridges and other products, so that’s very much in the DNA of Cheil. But it’s not been explored enough, at least not in South America.
LBB> Was Samsung quite a big pulling point for you joining Cheil?
CL> Yeah. There are a lot of newly formed house agencies, it’s coming back into fashion. So when I got the offer I thought about that - as I said Cheil has been a house agency since 1973. This very symbiotic relationship with Samsung is really interesting to me. Just as Cannes this year there are six or seven Lions for Samsung with Cheil, and then last year with Publicis entering there was the ostrich film that won a lot. There are so many opportunities and briefs within Samsung. It’s also a very strong relationship which takes away some of the fear of losing the client - it’s about making it work right instead.
LBB> With regards to creative technology, what do you think is the most exciting thing in technology now?
CL> I think it’s AI and it will be for quite a few years until we realise everything we can do with it. At my past agency we won three Lions in 2017 with an AI project and it won another four this year with an AI project. You can do so much with it, you can train it to do pretty much anything. I think it’s going to be the big thing for at least the next few years because there’s just going to a new application of it each year.
LBB> It felt like last year, in Cannes at least, was the first that it was a proper big talking point, and 2018 was even bigger.
CL> Yeah, and this year was even bigger.
LBB> So how do you feel its developed since last Cannes?
CL> I think Cannes is the best form for people to learn about it. Last year people saw it applied in two or three things, then creatives learned the ways they could work with it. So they went back, experimented and this year we saw it applied in 10 or 20 projects. Next year it’s not going to be about AI anymore - it’s going to be about what you actually do with it. It’s going to be a category of its own. I’m pretty sure they’re going to create an AI category soon, and next year we’ll see something like 50 projects involving it, and then more and more. So I believe Cannes is a great form for it to develop because people see it, how it was applied, how creativity helped and then they can build upon that.
LBB> With technology, how important is it to not just use technology for technology’s sake, and make sure that there’s an emotional / human factor to it?
CL> One thing that’s very important is how the technology can change something in someone’s life. Not dramatically but that little moment. Last year with Ogilvy we won a bunch of Lions for a thing called VR vaccine. It was a VR set to help kids take vaccines so they wouldn’t be scared of the injection. They would be immersed in a story and at some point the hero would the kid’s arm within the VR story, and at the same moment the nurse would give the shot. We changed a little moment, but that little moment can be very traumatic for a lot of kids.
LBB> How did you get into advertising in the first place? Would you say it was always a plan or did you just fall into it?
CL> No, it was kind of a plan. My dad was the manager of a big supermarket so he used to deal with the advertising agency. So I would go to the office with him and see things that interested me. I was 13 or 14 and decided that that was what I wanted to do. Also in Brazil there was this weird phenomenon that I haven’t seen anywhere else where advertising people became famous. They would go on TV and be in gossip magazines, so a lot of people got into advertising because of that. Not because they wanted to be famous but because they were just aware that it was a thing and maybe they would be good at it. To get into public university in Brazil you have a task that you have to do, it’s not based on your exams or anything, it’s all based on this one day that you have to perform well in. In Sao Paulo the most competitive one to get into is advertising, higher than medicine or law.
LBB> Is that still the case today?
CL> Yeah, it’s still the hardest one to get in because a lot of people want to do it.
LBB> So do you think that advertising is still as appealing an industry as when you were a kid?
CL> No. But there’s a big difference between coming from a First World country and somewhere like Brazil. If you’re a 20-year-old in London, for example, you have 25 options before you get into advertising, right? You can be a blogger, a YouTuber, you can work at Facebook, in tech, you can do your own startup. But in Brazil getting into advertising is one of your easier chances to go to London or New York because everyone wants to flee the country, we have a massive creative exodus.
LBB> Yeah I’ve spoken to senior creatives in Brazil and they tell me that when you do good work it’s great because everyone obviously wants to do good work. But then everyone gets picked up and leaves after...
CL> Yeah, but that’s also why we still attract good talent - bright, young, well cultured people. I feel that in London or the US it’s much harder. The better people, the better 20-year-olds just out of college, they don’t want to be in advertising. Most of them end up falling into it, whereas in Brazil people look up for advertising as a path to live in New York or somewhere like that.
LBB> When hiring new talent, what kind of areas do you look into? There’s a bigger trend now of not looking to traditional ad schools for example.
CL> I don’t have many rules when it comes to this, but it’s important to have a group of different people. It’s easy to look at a portfolio and see that the work is great, it’s got great craft or whatever - and that’s important - but it can lead to lots of the same person in the office. The more we can get different people, diversity, the more we can get a little better. Brazil is giant so we need people from different states, different genders, we need people that were rich, that were poor. The more crazy the department, the better - crazy in the sense that not everyone is alike.
LBB> Brazil has a big corruption issue at the moment and the economy is also not doing so well. How is all that affecting the advertising industry?
CL> It has a huge effect. It sucks. I went back to Brazil from Miami in January 2016 - it was bad then but people were saying it was going to get better. But in the last two-and-a-half years it’s just got much worse. We have a general election this year and maybe that’ll help.
But it’s very hard to get clients to make investments that are not 100% proven to sell. There’s a lot of retail work going on, promotion and price based ads, but it requires very little brain work. The clients are just focused on selling and the price. The market gets very tactical and that’s that’s bad for creatives. You don’t need creatives for that type of works - you just say, ‘this thing used to cost this and now it costs this!’ It’s a very risk averse industry now.
LBB> What do you get up to when you’re not working to unwind? Any quirks or habits?
CL> I play a lot of video games quite seriously. My son is 12 and now he plays with me. We built what we called the ‘gaming house’ in his room. It’s a table for four computers, we have gaming chairs and we play League of Legends, PUBG (PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds), Fortnite together. Saturdays and Sundays we stay for three or four hours in his room playing them.
LBB> Is it the escape that you enjoy?
CL> I don’t know. I’ve always enjoyed it. It is the escape but I also think I’m very competitive, and that’s a very fun way to be competitive. But it’s also something from my generation - I’ll be 40 this year and we’ll be the first generation that will retire to play video games - which is really different! I’m going to build a retirement home with very good wifi so everybody can play video games. It’s what I did as a kid. When we quit we’re not going to play cards or dominos, we’re to sit down and…
LBB> … play Fornite?
Claudio> Yeah! Play Fortnite. A bit of PUBG another night. That’s another reason I’m excited to work with Samsung. Pushing through gaming projects can be difficult but Samsung is a brand that has everything geared towards that. The phones are great for gaming, the computers - so now I can be doing a lot of gaming projects. It’s really interesting. I could sit here and talk to you for hours about gaming.