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Encapsulating the Spirit of Berlin in an Ad Agency

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Innocean Berlin ECD Ricardo Wolff on growing up inspired by the creativity of Brazilian footballers, his tutors including the likes of Amir Kassaei and why his agency feels like a microcosm of what makes the German capital unique

Encapsulating the Spirit of Berlin in an Ad Agency

REKORDER, the Berlin-based film and photography creative production studio, is proud to support LBB. Over the upcoming months, as part of the sponsorship of the German Edition, we will celebrate creativity and introduce some of the most innovative and creative minds in the industry. 

In this interview, LBB speaks with Ricardo Wolff, executive creative director at Innocean Berlin, about how he discovered the kind of creativity he wanted to work on, how Berlin’s ad industry has changed in the past 15 years and why the recent Anne Frank House campaign he worked on ticks every box that he holds close to his heart.


LBB> Where did you grow up and how do you think your childhood has influenced your approach to creativity?


Ricardo> I grew up in São Paulo, Brazil, a humongous, bustling city, with its pretty and its ugly faces. I say that because it can be an extremely dangerous place, ranking high in crime rate and brutal social injustice, but, on the other hand, it's also a cultural hotspot and a magnet for inspiring people from all over the country. 

Growing up, though, I wasn't aware of either side. I was too busy playing football and being immersed in anything related to football - like watching documentaries, collecting Panini stickers, reading magazines, and so on. 

Eventually I turned out to be a fairly good striker, which, looking back now, might be the only ‘creative’ trait I can credit to those years. Because a striker needs to think fast, improvise, come up with stuff that's gonna take people by surprise. Sometimes it's beautiful, sometimes it gets the job done, but creativity plays a key role in the process. Look, I grew up watching Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, and Romário play. Stop for 15 or 30 minutes and check their reels on YouTube. They're true creative geniuses. And as for my football career, I wouldn't be doing this lovely interview if it had taken off.


LBB> When did you first realise advertising could be a career you could do? And how did that change what you were doing with your life?


Ricardo> It was all one happy accident. The year was 2002 and I got into one of Brazil's biggest marketing colleges, but the truth is, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing there. Still, I took the exam, got in, and decided to join. Let's put it this way: I was young, stupid, but the kind of determined stupid, you know? Because after a couple of weeks I thought ‘well, you're here, so why not try to figure out what's actually happening?’ which led me to the campus' library. And that's when the accident happened: I bumped into an advertising annual. I wanted to do THOSE things. Cut. Next month I dropped college and joined Miami Ad School São Paulo.


LBB> Looking back, what creative projects helped shape you in your practice the most and why?


Ricardo> I'd say the first campaign I developed at DDB Berlin, for Volkswagen, during the global launch of the ‘Das Auto’ line, and also the first campaign when I joined AlmapBBDO, years later, for the rebranding of Gol Airlines. Both campaigns relied heavily on copywriting and were big brand statements that would be seen by tons of people, plus they carried the added pressure of being my ‘welcome card’ in each agency. I knew that if I delivered them well, it would give me peace of mind to keep developing stuff afterwards. I'm grateful to have had extremely good tutors on both occasions, namely Amir Kassaei and Ludwig Berndl at DDB Berlin, and Renato Simões, Luiz Sanches and Marcello Serpa at AlmapBBDO.


LBB> You've worked in a variety of Berlin agencies in your career. Do you think there's a particular way that the city's culture and people affect the way creativity works there?


Ricardo> When Gabriel Mattar, my creative partner since college, and I started at DDB Berlin, in 2007, we were the first non-Germans in the agency. Perhaps the first ones in Berlin. And that says a lot about how much the city has changed in just over a decade. Yet, from all the places I've worked, no other agency encapsulates the spirit of this city like this little shop with a weird name located at Rosenthaler Strasse 42, called Innocean Berlin. Yes, an agency with Korean founders, led by Brazilian creatives, run by a British business director, together with a crazy mix of 85 people from 33 nationalities. All the backgrounds and languages one can think of, heading to the office to make the best work they can, leaving the office eager to explore and live in a truly inspiring city.


LBB> What work are you most proud of and why?


Ricardo> I'd say the latest project we've developed for The Anne Frank House, ‘The Bookcase for Tolerance’, and for a couple of reasons. Firstly, because it touches on loads of personal beliefs. Secondly, from a creative standpoint, we found a cool way to connect past and present through technology, all under a pretty strong message: the more you get to know those considered to be ‘different’, the less you're likely to hate them. Hence our hashtag #DontHateEducate. With the help of AR, people could place Anne Frank's iconic bookcase in their own living room and literally step inside Anne's room and the real rooms of four youngsters suffering persecution today and become familiar with their stories by unlocking personal objects and watching extremely moving testimonials. For me, it's the one project that ticks all the boxes I hold close to my heart: a strong message, extremely beautiful craft, and a combination of many media, from app development to documentary film.


LBB> What are you most excited about doing at Innocean Berlin at the moment?


Ricardo> I keep looking at our people, our work, and going: ‘Is this really happening?’. Because, let me be very honest here, when we started at Innocean Berlin, roughly four years ago, we couldn't imagine we'd have this body of work, for this variety of clients, or be surrounded by so many amazing humans. Not that fast, at least. But to answer your question, here's what I'm most excited about doing at Innocean Berlin: going to work and continuing to push this place towards the happy unknown.


LBB> And finally, what is the best advice you have received in your career so far?


Ricardo> "Training programs will only screw you up, stay away from them."


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REKORDER, Wed, 27 Jul 2022 14:29:47 GMT