The co-founders and CCOs of L&C NYC-LIMA speak to LBB’s Addison Capper about becoming partners in university, recent recognition as one of North America’s best independent agencies by the One Show, and the pleasures in a game of pétanque in their spare time
Rolando Cordova and Gian Carlo Lanfranco have been creative partners since they met at university in Lima, Peru some 16 years ago. They’ve travelled around the world together, working at Saatchi & Saatchi Singapore, Fred&Farid Paris, BSUR Amsterdam, Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam, Havas New York and McCann New York, the city they now call home.
In November of 2019, eager to do work that they wanted to do, they stepped out on their own and launched L&C in New York City and Lima. The road since has seen them recently pick up a CLIO and a Gold Pencil, and named as one of the Top 10 Independent Agencies in North America by the One Show. They've picked up awards all through their career but being recognised for work they did with their very own company hits different, they tell us.
LBB's Addison Capper chatted with Rolando and Gian to find out more.
LBB> You met at college. What can you tell me about that time? How did you become friends and eventual partners? Where were you studying?
Rolando and Gian> We met at UPC University back in our hometown of Lima, Peru. Out of all of the Advertising and Communications students, we were two of the ‘brave’ ones who wanted to become advertising creatives. From an early age we were constantly reading about creatives we admired like Dan Wieden, Jeff Goodby and David Droga, learning all of the pieces of work they made. At that time in Peru, pursuing a creative career wasn’t the norm or considered a wise decision by society or by our families. Those opportunities were very limited as well, and remuneration for the creative industry was low. Everyone wanted to be a lawyer, a doctor or a business person.
But true to our dreams, we began doing university projects together and entering award shows all over the world as a team. It was the only way to get our names out there and emigrate to another creative market where we could learn and experience more. We won the first El Ojo de Iberoamérica in Buenos Aires as students, and then the following year we won the AKQA Future Lions at Cannes. That was a true blessing and it allowed us to move from junior creatives at Saatchi & Saatchi, Lima to Saatchi & Saatchi, Singapore - an agency we really admired.
LBB> You're true partners to this day, 17 years or so on from college. What has kept you strong over that time? Why are you such a good team?
Rolando and Gian> We know each other really well. More than creative partners, we are really good friends - basically brothers from different parents. When you get into that type of unique relationship, the creative process is part of life. It’s no longer a job for us. It’s a hobby. We enjoy the process of coming up with ideas, and I guess we’ve perfected it for the past 17 years, in different countries, languages and cultures.
Together we’ve been exposed to so many different cultures, brands and forms of creating that we know how an idea will affect a specific market, and also how it’s perceived in the world at large, because we have the actual experience of physically living and working in South America, Asia, Europe and North America.
LBB> You launched L&C NYC, your own agency, in November 2019 - what inspired that? Why did you want to work for yourselves?
Rolando and Gian> We founded our agency because we had a specific vision for the kind of work we wanted to do. We saw that people around the world were quickly becoming more and more connected through things like social media, streaming services and global brands. Our perspectives are becoming so much more diverse and global – and even more so now, having experienced the pandemic together. As immigrants who have worked all over the world, we felt we had something different to offer: human insights that transcend language and cultural barriers.
LBB> Tell us a bit about the agency and the way that it works. What makes it unique in the market?
Rolando and Gian> We’re an independent creative agency that breaks cultural and geographical barriers.
This might mean we create a global campaign that speaks to one simple human truth, or a local campaign that speaks to a diverse set of first and/or second generation consumers. It’s all about understanding that the world today is a collection of diverse communities, and knowing what drives those communities. You can find big agencies with multiple global offices who can do this with a lot of coordination, but there are very few independent creative agencies who have the actual experience to create brand ideas through this lens.
We also have a production studio in Lima, which adds to our global capabilities and also makes it very easy and efficient to work with us.
LBB> What has the journey been like since you launched? What have been some of the most memorable moments?
Rolando and Gian> Starting any company requires hard work, passion and grit - those are qualities we naturally bring as immigrants. You need to be able to see the opportunity in every situation and overcome a number of obstacles. This was really important when Covid hit a few months after we opened. It felt scary at first, but then we saw the world coming together over global issues, and we were able to make connections with clients across time zones and screens. We made it work in our favour and it paid off. Last month we won a CLIO and a Gold Pencil, and we made the coveted One Show Top 10 Independent Agencies, North America list for work we launched during the height of the pandemic.
LBB> As you mentioned, you’ve just been named by The One Show Top 10 of North America's most creative independent agencies, which is a huge achievement. What are your thoughts on that and how did the recognition come about?
Rolando and Gian> We’ve worked as creative directors at some of the best agencies around the world and we’ve received awards and recognition in that context. But winning on behalf of your own company is a different game, because you’re responsible for so much more than the idea. Being recognised by The One Show alongside some of the agencies we respect the most after less than two years in business – there’s nothing more meaningful than that.
LBB> How does your Peruvian heritage shape the work that you create nowadays?
Rolando and Gian> Peru is in our DNA. When you grow up in Lima during the time we grew up, you learn to be resilient and to turn negatives into positives. You are trained to create and perform with limitations, and that’s a great skill to have as a creative because there’s never a perfect brief, perfect budget or perfect timeline. Clients have business challenges that demand you to think proactively and creatively. And it helps to keep our Peruvian optimism in play all of the time.
LBB> Which piece of work from your L&C are you most proud of and why?
Rolando and Gian> We’re proud of all of the work for different reasons. Dole ‘Dear Leaders of the World’ is close to our hearts because we’re doing a lot of sustainability work with them. It is a simple campaign but with a strong global message and a point of view, and it makes you think and act.
Also, the simplicity of our Upgrade campaign that just won a Gold pencil at The One Show, it’s also a global truth simply executed.
LBB> What do you get up to outside of work? Any quirks or hobbies to tell us about?
Rolando and Gian> We love playing pétanque, which is essentially the French version of bocce. We picked it up while we lived in Paris. It may seem to some like a boring or lame game, but it’s really strategic because you need to know where to place the boule in order to get your opponent to miss their shot. It’s also a sociable and beautiful sport where you make friends from different backgrounds and cultures. We play pétanque with a man in his late 70s – but also young people are drawn to the strategy and technique of the sport. It’s really popular here in New York City.
LBB> With the recent recognition from the One Show in mind, how do you see the next year or so playing out for L&C? What do you both hope to achieve?
Rolando and Gian> There’s so much behaviour change coming out of the past year, and so many opportunities for brands and agencies. Our plan for the next year or so is to help bring different voices to our industry. This is because we believe that different voices inspire people to find new things and change old habits, and they bring unusual creative solutions. If we can do this, we’ll have a huge impact and the business will grow naturally.