Gian Carlo Lanfranco and Rolando Cordova on launching Lanfranco & Cordova after an international career across Paris, Amsterdam, Singapore, and New York
When Gian Carlo Lanfranco and Rolando Cordova were students in Peru some 18 years ago, a career in the advertising industry was deemed neither safe nor serious. But they were hooked by the words of the likes of Marcelo Serpa, Dan Wieden and David Droga in publications like Lürzer's Archive, and their minds wandered to living agency life in cities like Paris and New York. Since then, their wandering minds have become reality. They were winners at the first ever Future Lions competition at Cannes Lions, and their career since then has involved stints at Saatchi & Saatchi Singapore, Fred + Farid Paris, Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam and McCann New York.
Last year they jumped ship and set up a shop of their own, launching Lanfranco & Cordova in New York City and Lima, Peru. They agency was behind The One Show’s brilliant ‘Cleofe The Shaman’ call for entries campaign. LBB’s Addison Capper chatted with the pair to find out more about launching their own agency and their plans and ambitions for the future.
LBB> You co-founded Lanfranco & Cordova around one year ago - what inspired you to launch your own agency? What was the lightbulb moment between you and Rolando?
And then what was your career path like that took you to New York and then starting your own agency?
Gian and Rolando> We left our hometown of Lima, Peru almost 15 years ago with the mission to learn from different agencies around the world, different clients and live in different countries. Our journey took us to great countries and really interesting agency cultures from networks to independents: Saatchi & Saatchi Singapore, Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam, BSUR Amsterdam, Fred + Farid Paris and McCann New York.
So, after spending four years in New York, we decided it was the right time to use all our knowledge and create our own creative culture. We also noticed that more and more brands are going for independent agencies with great strategy, great ideas and zero bureaucracy; so we decided to start doing the same adding our truly global expertise to create value for brands.
Our offices in New York and Lima allow us to work with LATAM clients, multicultural and general markets in the USA, and European clients.
LBB> What are the ideals and ethos that you founded the company on?
Gian and Rolando> One of our mottos is to create messages that transcend any cultural barrier - I guess that comes from our unique experience in different markets around the world. Also it is really important to enjoy the creative process as much as we can, the process of creating ideas should be enriching and fun to get the best results. Finally, to add great value with craft, we are crafters by nature and we think the beauty of our campaigns is that they take the viewers to the world of each brand. You can feel the brand DNA from the first second you interact with any of our campaigns.
LBB> How did you two meet? And why are you a good team?
Gian and Rolando> We met in university almost 18 years ago. At that time Peruvian advertising wasn’t a serious and ‘safe’ career to choose as the creative professions weren’t respected and profitable. So, we were the only few crazy ones that wanted to become advertising creatives. We used to read the interviews of Marcelo Serpa, Dan Wieden, David Droga in Lürzer’s Archive magazines and we always dreamed of working in markets like Paris and New York. A year after we were lucky to win the first AKQA Future Lions in Cannes (thanks to PJ Pereira and Rei Inamoto for creating it) and we got transferred to Saatchi & Saatchi Singapore, which had an amazing creative reputation. That’s basically how our international career started.
LBB> How has the past year been? What lessons have you learned?
Gian and Rolando> It’s been the best year in our advertising career, constantly learning new things and at the same time unleashing our creative thinking and seeing how it truly impacts our clients’ businesses. When we were creative directors of different agencies, we were only focused on one single thing - do the best creative you can with what you have. Having your own company allows you to really get to know the business of your client and understand what it needs to be successful, because if it is successful, you’ll be too. We also learned how to produce our own work working together with all the partners we gathered around the globe, making some really nice and effective work within our clients’ budgets. We will really recommend every creative person to try independence at some point in their career. It is hard but also extremely rewarding.
LBB> What are your plans and ambitions for 2020?
Gian and Rolando> Well we see this year with a lot of optimism. Our idea is to keep doing good work in order to attract new clients. We believe it is a chain reaction; good work brings more good work.
On the other hand, we believe in the commitment of giving back, so we are constantly trying to inspire and bring opportunities to South American young talent. When we were starting in Peru it was really hard for us to get opportunities abroad, so that’s what we are doing now. For many years we partnered with the festival El Ojo de Iberoamérica in Buenos Aires to give free full pass tickets to the events to advertising students from LATAM. Also, last year for the first time in Peruvian history, we brought The One Club Portfolio night to Lima, giving a Peruvian creative the opportunity to travel for free to New York and compete with the best creatives in the world. The event was a success and we are doing it again this year.
LBB> Gian, you're on the One Show jury this year - the only Peruvian on it. How does that make you feel?
Gian> I am really honoured and thrilled to judge such a prestigious show as The One Show, especially representing my home country Peru. I am looking forward to seeing great work and working together with a world-class jury lineup.
LBB> Why is judging an important process for you?
Gian> The process of seeing and reviewing work from all over the world is a great pleasure and also a big responsibility, especially to help select which piece of work is pencil worthy. Having worked in the industry for many years I can really see how much effort is put in by an agency to create a campaign,the long months of hard work that are dedicated to a single piece - so I like to have that in consideration as well as the nature of the client when I judge. Achieving a successful idea for a client, or a category, that is not known for doing great work is an outstanding effort from an agency and should be rewarded.
LBB> Your first book is a manual to help emerging LATAM talent to turn their limitations into creative fuel. Tell me more about that! What inspired it?
Gian and Rolando> Yes! Our book was published a few years back, “Por si alguien te dice que no” (if someone ever tells you can’t do it). It’s a simple manual we crafted throughout the years with the main purpose to inspire young talent from every industry in which limitations are part of the daily process. When you grow up in a place like Peru or any other South American country you need to be proactive and learn how to navigate against the current. And sometimes what doesn’t look like the best opportunity on paper is actually the best. The book is based on our personal experiences and makes a point about limitations and creativity, when we have more limitations is when we can be more creative. People tend to get a little lazy when they have everything they want.
LBB> How does your Peruvian heritage influence your work as a creative?
Gian and Rolando> Being Peruvian makes us really proud and is a really unique feeling. Peru right now is considered one of the best countries in the world with amazing cultural heritage like Machu Picchu, mysticism and it is also a culinary capital of the world. We also grew up in Peru in a time that was difficult, with local guerrillas, hyper economic inflation, etc. So, I guess those circumstances meant we are always in an aware/alert mode and more proactive with opportunities. If they don’t come to us, we look for them, Peruvians don’t really ‘sit on the couch’. Adding to this the rich Peruvian culture, we are always thinking of how to make an impact and create ideas that transcend a specific media and non-traditional communication.
LBB> You've also worked in Amsterdam, Paris and Singapore - how does that international experience help your work?
Gian and Rolando> I think our agency has a little bit of every market we worked in and also a bit of every agency we worked for. The visual simplicity of Singapore, the strategic and direct approach of the Dutch, the art direction and craft of Paris, and big brand statements of the USA. Then we’re adding our proactive and non-traditional Peruvian thinking.
LBB> Which pieces of work over the years are you most proud of and why?
Gian and Rolando> We’ll have to pick two pieces of work we are really proud of. The recent “Cleofe The Shaman” campaign for The One Show is a great example of executing an effective and creative social campaign mixing the best of the USA with the best of Peru. The idea is based on a strategic fact. We identified that The One Show’s strength is at the same time one of its problems - only less than 3% of the work submitted to the show is awarded a gold pencil, making it really difficult to win one. We also noticed from friends and experience that many creatives in many agencies around the world have blessed their work in different ways before they enter the show.
So instead of creating a traditional campaign, we decided to make winning a gold pencil a little easier, and save the blessing hassle to all the creatives around the world. We travelled to our hometown in Peru to find ‘Cleofe’, a local shaman, and hired him during the campaign to give blessings to all the pieces entered to the show, motivating entrants to send the work with a little extra luck. Results are great, there’s an increase of entries and the content piece has more views and interactions than previous campaigns.
The second campaign we are really happy with is “Beneath the surface” for Hochschild Mining. Mining is the biggest industry in Peru, so to create the first brand voice for a company of this magnitude was a challenge. We didn’t know anything about the mining industry prior to this project and we became experts. We produced a really interesting, cinematic approach to this project, making what was supposed to be a boring corporate film into a sexy piece of content. Honestly, going into a mine under the surface of the Earth is almost like going to the Moon.