“Yes, totally. I'm 100% sure that it will be like this.” Juan Carlos Ortiz is responding to a slightly tongue-in-cheek question that we’ve been booting around LBB editorial meetings for a few months - but one that he answers with certainty. Will 2022 and its following years be the beginning of a new roaring ‘20s for creativity?
“History never lies,” he adds. “The most incredible periods of momentum in history are always after the most difficult times in history. You have Renaissance after the Middle Ages. After the Great War there were the roaring '20s. After World War Two there was an incredible economic recovery across the world. Of course it's going to happen, and it isn't because I am a genius with a crystal ball. It is because history has demonstrated that human beings behave like that. After a big problem comes a great momentum of life. The pandemic is not the first big problem in history. We've had so many huge ones. History never lies. It's going to come. I don't know if it's going to be in 2022 or '23, but roaring is coming.”
DDB Latina, of which Juan Carlos is president and CEO, may already have entered its own roaring ‘20s. 2021 saw the region named network of the year at El Ojo de Iberoamérica, Fiap and Crema Ranking. It was also the Latina network of the year at Cannes and accounted for 51% of all of DDB’s awards worldwide. The success is far reaching too - outposts in Brazil, Spain (DDB Latina is unique in that it encompasses the cultural Latina region instead of geographical), Puerto Rico, Colombia and Alma in Miami have all been named agency of the year at certain shows, while 12 different DDB agencies picked up awards at El Ojo. With regards to new business, DDB Latina is the fastest growing region within DDB. What’s more, Juan Carlos’ ‘bullseye’ system for assessing the strength of creative work (which my colleague Laura Swinton wrote about in 2021
) is being rolled out across further DDB regions.
“Last year was incredible,” Juan Carlos says. “It was a pandemic year so to see those results during a difficult year makes me extremely proud of the hard work, commitment and all the efforts. It’s like we played bowling and hit a strike.”
For 2022, Juan Carlos has devised a strategy dubbed ‘25/50’, which recently he embossed on a series of caps for staff members, joking “it needs to be connected to your brain”. The concept is simple. He wants DDB Latina to be 23% of DDB Worldwide’s global revenue and 50% of its creative reputation. “At Cannes we were at 51% so one point more than the target,” he says.
To execute the strategy this year, one thing that Juan is intent on is keeping DDB Latina “sexy” - and he believes that every other agency around the world should be doing the same thing. “The first thing for me [in 2022] is to focus,” he says. “Sometimes the thought is to go into another area or to become a tech company or something like that. No, no, no, no. If you forget who you are, normally you are dead within the short or medium term. That doesn't mean that I don't believe in technology. I love technology - to add to the idea system, not the opposite. So the first thing is focus, focus. We cannot lose that.
“The second part that I truly believe in is that we need to work hard to keep our industry - at least the ad agencies - sexy. We're in the middle of a new territory that has a lot of different players. Tech companies, consulting companies with deep pockets. You need to have an emotional advantage. You have to be very close to the power, the beauty and the magic of the ideas. If you are not there, you are going to lose your people. It's not just about being a creative company, it's a survival strategy. You have to be sexy.”
Awards also play their part in this, Juan Carlos believes. Satisfying a client’s needs is obviously the number one priority but strong showings at award shows has a number of positive effects internally and externally. “Winning awards is a chain,” he says. “The first thing about winning awards is that you can become sexier and you can attract new talents. It's human to want to be close to success. Secondly, they can give you strong morale, happiness, and pride within a team. When you have a team that is committed and happy, the product that you are going to present to your client and the energy and the chemistry is always stronger. It's better. Our work is about ideas, creativity, and chemistry.”
All of this, Juan Carlos believes, is also the perfect solution for any agency suffering from widespread staff turnover amidst the ‘Great Resignation
’. “There's a great resignation because of different aspects,” he says. “The first one is fatigue. During this pandemic time we've been working a lot. It's very difficult right now to paint a line between your work and your life. We've been working more, different times, different hours. It's not just fatigue of one company, it's fatigue of your life.
“The second part, of course, is about flexibility. Now we need to start putting in place models where you can have a physical side and a virtual side to your life. People are wanting to be hybrid so we will build a hybrid model, that's for sure.
“The third point is that many companies have been losing their focus. You have a lot of talent that maybe doesn't want to be in a company that is not awarding the power of magical ideas and trying to make them happen. They will look for another industry where they can find this. You need to focus on ideas to make your company super sexy, find flexibility as your model, and give people a way of working that they can feel extremely proud and happy to be a part of.
“The only way to protect yourself from a great resignation is with a great reset.”