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Finding a Creative Partner Changed Everything for TBWA\Chiat\Day LA’s Martín Insua and Ezequiel Soules

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Creative director duo at TBWA\Chiat\Day LA speak with LBB’s Ben Conway about their childhoods in Argentina, balancing ideas with politics and the importance of finding the right creative partner

Finding a Creative Partner Changed Everything for TBWA\Chiat\Day LA’s Martín Insua and Ezequiel Soules


Growing up in Argentina, both Martín Insua and Ezequiel Soules were influenced by creative parents - setting them on a path to their current careers from a young age. Martín’s father was an art director and a print producer in Argentinian agencies during the “madmen era”, whilst Ezequiel was raised by his passionate reader mother and experienced painter father. Naturally, the pair were athletic - Martín enjoyed the Argentine tradition of football and Ezequiel had a flair for the extreme, participating in skateboarding, scuba diving and snowboarding. Now, they have brought this energetic optimism and youthfulness with them into adulthood and their work: “I like to have fun doing what I do.  Once, an old man surfer told me: ‘You only get old when you stop having fun,’” says Ezequiel.

Although Martín’s early experiences with travel and other cultures and Ezequiel’s time spent living in multicultural Brazil broadened their cultural radar and inspirations, Ezequiel expresses the pride and significance that the Argentine duo can derive from their homeland: “I am Argentine, from the south of Argentina - a city called Cipolletti, in the province of Río Negro - I like to mention it more than once because it's part of who I am today, and I am very proud of my origins and childhood.”

Taking his first steps into advertising, Martín was encouraged by his father who was working at Ogilvy in Buenos Aires at the time. Stunned by a poster for Mercedes Benz - paying tribute to legendary racing driver Juan Manuel Fangio - that his father brought home from the printing office, Martín knew that his destiny resided in his father’s footsteps: “The headline said, ‘If you hear thunder, don't think it will rain. It’s Fangio testing a car.’ After I read that ad, I said to myself, ‘I want to do this.’” 

Martín’s first experience as a professional in the industry was as an intern at TotalBrand, a small shop run by ‘one of the first female creatives in Argentina’, Estella Maris Gimenez. Here he learned how to use Photoshop and Illustrator before deciding to go to the Portfolio School of Argentina so that he could eventually work at a large agency.  “It’s where I felt that I really learned what good advertising is. I met a lot of interesting people in the Argentinian ad scene that made me a better professional and helped me to build a portfolio.”

It’s here, during a young creatives’ competition, where he met Joaquin Molla, who would eventually hire Martín at The Community in Buenos Aires. For four and a half years Martín says he was taught everything by ‘people who had the word craft in their DNA’ - from current ECD at The Community in Miami, Ricky Vior, to founder Joaquin Molla. “If you are an art director and have the chance to work with this calibre of professional, you need to realise just how lucky you are…” says Martín, “I’ve never worked with someone that loves advertising more than Joaquin. He’s conceptual, he’s an ad encyclopaedia, and he shared this with the entire agency.”

Ezequiel studied copywriting at the Argentine Association of Advertising Agencies and, like Martín, also found his initial opportunity into the industry through an important figure that he met during his time studying. Showing his portfolio to a former teacher, Ezequiel succeeded in impressing the mentor, who then hired the young creative as an intern at the now-defunct Pragma FCB. Through his unpaid internship at this agency, he was offered his first professional, freelance job and despite the vital experience gained there, he has a more holistic approach to developing talent: “I think this [honing your craft] is something we never finish perfecting. We absorb from all sides - literature, music, cinema, art in general, talks with friends, strangers, magazines - even from how some interesting brands describe their articles on a web page. Even listening to other people talk, in a restaurant or on a square bench.”

This broad range of influences is clearly very important to Ezequiel’s work life, using various sources of inspiration such as his passion for reading, which his mother passed to him and even going as far as ‘staying away from advertising as much as possible’ to be revitalised. “Having fun, always,” is his motto to live by and he does so by engaging in his varied passions, which span literature, sports and visual art: “I just finished a series of photos titled: ‘The Curse of being a ghost; or the impossibility of changing things’. And I’m the co-producer of the documentary feature film ‘Uyra -The Rising Forest’, about climate justice and the queer scene in the Brazilian Amazon Forest  (release scheduled for early 2022). Also, in the past, I have directed short movies, done some art projects and street art.”

Martín also follows suit, consuming a wide range of media - films, TV and documentaries - as well as spending time with his children to stay fresh: “From TV to TikTok, I enjoy most media, but I watch them at different moments throughout the day. My favourite film director is Alejandro González Iñárritu because he always makes me feel something - no matter if it’s a short film from BMW, a feature film like Birdman, or a spot like “Proud Sponsor of Moms.”

The pair of creative directors met and first started their professional partnership at The Community in Buenos Aires, where they bonded over their similar career plans and dreams of working beyond Argentina. “We respect each other a lot. And this may sound like marriage, but we complement each other well,” says Ezequiel, “Martín is more orderly and methodical. I'm more visceral, explosive, and we both have fun doing what we like. We like to think up nonsense that often ends up being the beginning of a good idea... or not.” Their first project together, as Martín (“the one with the good memory”) confirms, was a project for Rolling Stone Magazine’s first ever television campaign - featuring “a very complex look and design for each film” and many hours of finding the right palette that culminated in a “big sigh of relief” and the start of an unbreakable creative partnership. 

The pair have now been working together for over a decade now and have a near-telepathic connection that is built on strong mutual respect and understanding, says Martín: “I love that we both like to do what the other does. As an art director, I like to write and Eze, as a copywriter, is a good art director. So we help each other all the time... When you find the right one and are aligned, it changes everything. You don’t have just a partner, you have a friend, a confidant, and a new member of your family.” Ezequiel agrees that respect is the foundation of a successful creative partnership and highlights the need for openness and communication to prevent frustrations from boiling over in intense situations, especially in a dynamic like theirs where they switch roles frequently: “It's simple, if things are not said, everything bursts when you want to change a comma from place to place… It's important to have the vision of a person you respect and who knows that what you say is said always to make the job better. It's important to have different visions but, at the same time, it takes more than one person to defend good ideas.”

A piece of work that both Ezequiel and Martín present as a good example of their flexible-roles dynamic and experienced teamwork is the ‘Axe Black’ print campaign that they worked on in 2014. The campaign shows the duo’s comedic chops with a satirical perfume ad for the notoriously less-than-fashionable fragrance company.


  



A recent project that has involved some interesting creative challenges and makes the pair proud, is the continued work they have completed for Intuit Quickbooks at their current agency TBWA\Chiat\Day LA. Martín says: “Brief after brief, the work started getting better. From brand campaigns to product campaigns, we started to feel that our clients were receptive to good ideas. And when good directors like Tim Godsall, David Wilson, or Terri Timely want to be part of the projects, it’s a sign that the work is going in a good direction.”




Before Chiat, the pair worked freelance for 18 months. Moving to LA and working at such a world-renowned creative agency was a ‘tremendous and unthinkable’ idea at one point, according to Ezequiel. When the lockdown started, they found themselves, like everyone else in the industry, working ‘endless hours where everything became more difficult’ - the stress and mental burden only alleviated by his ability to go to the beach and surf. However, Martín explains that this independent period of time meant that a transition to the new remote working scenario at TBWA\Chiat\Day LA was surprisingly smooth, as the pair were accustomed to working from anywhere: “Of course, I needed to teach my older kid not to kick the door of my office when I’m on Zoom calls or when we are presenting to clients - but that’s all part of this new normal’. Besides that, we always connected with my partner and team members on Google Hangouts.”

Taking a step back and looking at the industry, both Martín and Ezequiel identify the same topic that causes frustration: Ideas vs Politics. Ezequiel elaborates: “In short, we want more ideas and less politics. It frustrates me how much time is wasted on things that don't build anything. When people talk and nobody knows what they are saying.” 

Martín reciprocates his colleague’s sentiment: “If you like an idea, say yes and we’ll continue working on it. If you don’t like it, please say no, give us a good reason why you don’t want to move forward with it and we’ll come up with something better. Don’t make us lose our time. Time is precious.” On the flipside, a decisive brand that has discovered its identity and communication style is what excites Martín: “I love when brands find their tone, embrace it, and start to communicate in a consistent way. It sounds obvious, but in the last couple of years, we've seen a lot of huge brands change their tone, taglines, and POV from one year to another.”

Whilst Martín seeks communication consistency, the fun-loving Ezequiel hopes for an injection of entertainment and life into the industry, which he believes still has the capacity and demand for ‘fresh, different and relevant’ work. Ezequiel says: “Perhaps I would humbly dare to say: ‘let's make things simpler, let's have more fun again, let's not take ourselves so seriously.’ People no longer believe us - we are the boring guys who interrupt the fun moments. That's it.”

As well as co-founder of Knickerbocker Slapglobal, Gerry Graf, an inspirational person (and also an Argentine himself) that both creative directors pick out as an influence on their careers, is New London founder Carlos Bayala - “a guy who makes complex look simple”, according to Ezequiel. Martín concurs, expressing his admiration for their fellow countryman: “I always admire his work and capacity to really transform brands. He did it in Argentina, in London, and everywhere.”

Following in Bayala’s footsteps and looking towards 2022, the creative Argentine duo are looking forward to not only creating fun and effective campaigns for clients at TBWA\Chiat\Day LA, but also to affecting change in the industry. Martín says: “2020 was a year that no one is going to forget. There are a lot of things happening as a consequence of a year like that. I feel that the industry has a huge opportunity to listen and change what needs to be changed.” 

Just one of these changes is the continued development and support of the rights and opportunities of marginalised and underrepresented groups in society, something that Ezequiel is actively involved in: “I am a collaborator in a social project called the EUETU Lab, a free audio-visual mentoring program for young, black, indigenous, LGBTQIA + and women talents, prioritising peripheral communities in Brazil. We are in the process of creative development for their first short film.”



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TBWA\Chiat\Day LA, Thu, 09 Dec 2021 12:04:00 GMT