Gabriela Marino is currently a brand director at TBWA\Chiat\Day in Los Angeles but has been part of the wider TBWA network for over 10 years. A brand director on the Gatorade account - which she also worked on at TBWA\Lew Lara in her home city of Sao Paulo before moving to the States - Gabriela has led three multimillion dollar productions for Gatorade in the past year, all from her couch.
LBB's Addison Capper caught up with Gabriela to pick her brains on what it means to be an agency brand director, what keeps her busy, and lessons learned from the past year.
LBB> Tell me about the role of a brand director within an agency these days - what does it entail and what keeps you busy?
Gabriela> Think of a brand director as the captain of the team. It might sound a bit arrogant at first, but if you think about it, the captain of a team does not have to be the most superior player, he/she is not necessarily the striker who gets all the spotlight, or might not be the tallest, like the goalkeeper, or the strongest defender. Being level-headed, and taking initiative are key qualities for a brand director, similar to a captain and also someone you look up to for inspiration, guidance and motivation. Part of the role is to make sure the game plan from the coach is executed as a team - that the striker has the space needed to score, or bring the team back to the defense lines during a counterattack. Ultimately, a brand director / captain is responsible for keeping the team strong and working together to achieve the goals, which is the busiest part of my job.
LBB> You've been in a role like this for more than 10 years - what have been the biggest changes in the field over that time?
Gabriela> As a brand director, I’m responsible for the business-of-marketing for the client, ensuring we transcend advertising that impacts the overall marketing goal. For almost eight years, I’ve worked on Gatorade at both TBWA\Lew Lara in Sao Paulo and TBWA\Chiat\Day LA. But when I started my career, advertising had a different role and presence in culture. I remember growing up knowing brand jingles and TV spots by heart. We had one vehicle of entertainment at home - the TV, and advertising commercials oftentimes blended with the regular programming. Back then, skipping ads was not an option, we all took it in. But now, brands and marketers don’t have the audience’s full attention especially with the fragmentation of media channels. This has pushed the advertising industry to disrupt itself over the years and use creativity in disruptive ways. As audiences continue to have more control over what, how and when they consume media and make purchasing decisions, it’s challenged us as advertisers to be more creative and authentic in our approach to connections. These adaptations will only continue to evolve, which is an exciting part of the job.
LBB> How does your global viewpoint help you in your role in LA?
Gabriela> Growing up in São Paulo, watching fútbol was a family tradition - it was part of our culture. So when I started working on Gatorade leading global fútbol campaigns, it felt like being home. Since the campaigns then were very LATAM focused, I brought the point of view of the culture and sport to the table that was authentic to the audiences. And I was doing so while also learning English as a second language. But having a global viewpoint doesn’t have to mean that you come from another country or speak a different language, it’s about empathy. Observing what is happening around you, your co-workers, your community, the world and understanding the nuances within each. Coming to the great city of angels has opened up my world in so many ways - the diversity within this city and having the opportunity to work with people from all backgrounds has impacted how I approach work. I believe that the points of view and lived experiences I bring to the agency has made a difference in the creative output.
LBB> How did you get into this as a job in the first place? A happy accident or a fixed goal?
Gabriela> A mix of both...my love for brand marketing really clicked at my first internship with Publicis São Paulo, where I worked on the regional Procter & Gamble account, a team that was responsible for developing all of the LATAM campaigns. I saw first hand what it was like to build brands and immediately saw a career path for me. After a few years working with the TBWA office in Sao Paulo, I got the opportunity to lead the 2014 World Cup Campaign for Gatorade, working closely with TBWA\Chiat\Day LA. After that stint, I finally landed a role working on the Airbnb business which brought me to the US. I then transitioned to running global for Gatorade. I’m a true believer in “everything happens for a reason and at the right time...you just need to be ready for the opportunities when they show up.”
LBB> Where did you grow up and what kind of kid were you?
Gabriela> I was born in Sao Paulo, the largest city in Brazil, but I grew up in the suburbs, having had somewhat of a small-town childhood even though the chaos of the big city was surrounding us. Brazilian families were (and I believe they are still today) very centred on the figure of the mom, and that was no different in my family. My grandmother was the centre of it all. My family and relatives all lived within 10 minutes from her house. Every Sunday, 20 of us would gather at her home to have lunch together. Grandma made pasta while me, my sister and my cousins would entertain the family with a performance. Every week there was something new - one Sunday we would perform a dance show, the next week we would reenact to the latest soap opera episode. I was a very imaginative and performative kid. I still have home videos of me, a chubby but funny little girl, dancing and acting in front of my family with no fear of being ridiculous. Growing up in that safe space really gave me a sense of belonging that I believe had a fundamental impact on where I am today. They always encouraged me to pursue my dreams and chase opportunities that came my way. That ultimately gave me courage to leave my country to live this adventure because I know there is a place where I belong and can go back to.
LBB> You've been involved in multiple big productions in the past year - what have you learned from being forced into remote production?
Gabriela> Having to pivot to remote production was definitely a challenge. Even before the ‘new normal’ Gatorade productions were challenging because there can be a lot at stake, such as shooting high-profile athletes, so everything needed to be buttoned up. So when the pandemic forced everyone into lockdown and remote shoots started, we had to adapt quickly. With safety the number one concern on these shoots, we created new ways of working, we had to be scrappy, find creative solutions and control what we could given the circumstances. Was it flawless? No, but we made it work brilliantly as a team and we were proud of the creative output.
LBB> How will these lessons help you in the future when things hopefully are more open?
Gabriela> A good way to learn that we can do things differently is knowing we can adapt when we have to. We often get used to doing things one way, but when we limit the circumstances we learn how to reinvent ourselves. I still miss the old good days. Recently my clients asked if remote shoots were more or less work than in-person shoots. I told her that for me the amount of work itself was similar, but that I really missed the moment when the director says “that is a wrap” and we’d all hug and congratulate each other for all the hard work. Sharing that moment in person makes it feel more rewarding.