Brazilian-born Andre (Dede) Laurentino is Chief Creative Officer for Ogilvy UK. Both an Art Director and copywriter by trade, Dede has done award-winning work for global brands such as Adidas, Nissan, Dove, Hellmann's, and many more. Alongside his career in advertising, Dede is a published author and a cartoonist.
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Hello, I'm Roy Sharples, welcome to the unknown origins podcast. Why are you listening to this podcast? Are you seeking inspiration? an industry expert looking for insights or growing your career? I created the unknown origins podcast to provide access to insights and content from creators worldwide with inspirational conversations and storytelling, about art, architecture, design, entrepreneurship, fashion, film, music and pop culture. Brazilian born Andre De Florentino is Chief Creative Officer for Ogilvy UK, with an art director and copywriter by trade. Didi has done award winning work for global brands such as Adidas, Nissen, Dov, Hellman's, and many more. Alongside his career in advertising, DD is a published author, and a cartoonist. Hello, and welcome, didi. So what attracted you to the creative industry in the first place, and then eventually, into creative leadership? When I started in the creative industry, actually, it was in Scotland in Edinburgh, I always thought I'd be an architect because I liked drawing. So creative was always something I knew I would be I liked, you know, if you if you're a creative person, you write music or you dance or you draw, you write whatever is it that you do, you know it from a very early on, very early on in your life, that that's what makes you tick. And I thought I'd be an architect, for lack of a better idea. Then I came to Edinburgh to study English when I was 17. And that was my first contact with with British advertising and language, in that sense, and I fell in love with it. So this is really, really cool. So I came back and said, I want to do advertising. So that's what drove me to the industry was this experience of ads here. And then, as your career progresses, I don't think I've never said oh, I'd like to be a leader. I'd like to run things that was never a carrot I had, it was just making things and being able to express and think and move people and connect with people. That's what I wanted to do. Then as I started, being promoted to creative director, and then Executive Creative Director, which are two different things. That's what I had to learn how to be a leader in at first, some of the things felt annoying, because that's not what I liked doing, you know, especially the management side of things, the admin side of things, but that is a very big, important parts of it. And you need to understand what that unlocks, and what the job is. I find that in our industry, creative industry, or more specifically, in advertising, I think it's getting better now. But in my days, there will there wouldn't be training for you to be a leader, it was more like jump in the deep end of the pool and learn how to swim. And don't make mistakes. By the way, don't don't swallow too much water. So that's how you learn. And one of one of the big moments for me was coming to the UK much later, many years later, after my Edinburgh stint when I came to London to TBWA London. And that's when I think because I was out of my element physically out of my element in a foreign country that I respected and with people I admired, working at an agency whose legacy I admired. I needed to read the instructions manual, how do I do this? So that's when I started looking for books about leadership and creativity and creative leadership and all the rest of it. What is your creative process in terms of how do you make the invisible visible by dreaming up ideas, developing them into concepts, and then bringing them to actualization? I think, well, a creative process is so unique to each individual. There are people who love working to music, for example. And if you go to integrators apartment, you'll see some creators with headphones, listening to music, music completely destroys my concentration and my focus, because I try to pay attention to the music, and I forget what I was trying to do in the first place. So to me, silence is a thing. But this is very, very personal things. But I think on a more general kind of comment. Everyone's first ideas will be bad. It's very unusual. That one presented a problem, your very first gut reaction to it will be original, incredible, oblique, thoughtful, unexpected, because I think it's like you're digging, looking for gold. And if you're many people have done them before. So the first thing is that you find it's what everybody else found. And you need to I had a friend who said the best ideas turn up at page 45 on a Word document. Because all of that before it's just digging through the commonalities the platitudes, the first thoughts everyone else has had before you. And then when you start digging deeper and deeper and deeper, you find the more oblique connections to that problem. When you're tired, when you think you've covered every angle, there is no possible way in anymore. I've tried everything. That's when you get to the interesting territory. That's when it gets to the Virgin Beach, that no one has set foot before you. So that I think is my process is boring, because those, those first ideas, they take time they take effort. And it's you need to go through it and do to do the other thing I read, which I thought was a very good observation is, you know, a writer by looking into his or her dustbin, because what that writer decides to throw away shows his or her criteria. That's not good enough for me, I'll go find something else. And they don't Wow, that's quite a good line or a good creative find. Not for me, I'll keep on digging. And that that measure is up to everyone. That's you, you decide when you've found real gold and the obsessive types will never tire. In our field. It's commercial. So you do have a deadline. You do need to meet somebody else's expectations, not just your own. And therein lies many cons and pros at the same time because when you think you've found it, someone else says; "not sure!". And that's frustrating at first. But then if you take the right side of rejection, it'll get you to a better place to not succumb. Do not die when your heart says I'm dead. Find some inspiration, find some Mojo, find some resilience somewhere else, even in anger. Prove that person wrong. prove your worth go at it again, and come out even better. There's a great documentary about genius creative process, which is Ed Sheeran. Ed Sheeran is this British musician. Maybe I'm explaining the obvious here a bit of mansplaining but he's wonderful. He's a perfect hitmaker. And there's a documentary you can all watch on streaming platforms, where he does something he had never tried before he goes to a farm, to write a record with all his best creative partners at the same time. So in each room, there is a set of his creative partners who may not know each other. They're from different areas of his life, but they're all partners he has. So in the kitchen in the living room in the shed, there'll be the spa in each of these rooms. They're writing a different track to that same album. The common element is Ed Sheeran, he goes from room to room, seeing where the creative development of each song is at lyrics, music, melody, harmony, arrangement, production, all of that at the same time. And he is very afraid, because he doesn't know if you'll succeed. I won't spoil the documentary, but you need to watch it because it's live. You can see music being made while it's being made. But what the interesting thing for this moment is he gets to the to the final product, and it's very proud to present that to his record company, as then in our world in advertising the client. But he presents the prince Aikens to present his final product to the record company, on the Southbank. It's where I work, funnily enough, and, and the camera doesn't go into that meeting, he presents it. And then he comes back to the car, and is deeply frustrated. Because the people at the record company say, it's great, but we're missing something. And so what are we missing? We're missing a hit, we're missing the element in your record, that's not there yet. But this guy, Ed Sheeran is someone who has given his everything is empty, it's completely empty. And he was very proud of what he'd achieved. And he was waiting for this standing ovation of how wonderful it was what it all was, and he gets, yes, but and then in his frustration in the car, this moment is captured on camera says that I know what they want. I know exactly what they want, and I can deliver it, you can see his anger. And that hit is I mean, I'm in love with the shape of you. I'm in love with your body, I'm in love with the shape of you. And then you go, Oh my God, that album would have existed without that track. So you see what a little bit of push can drive creativity. So it's it's wonderful to see and then you learn from from these things. What are the key skills needed to survive and thrive as a creative leader? Well, that's a great question. It's a great question. The first one, I think would be resilience. If the leader is down and defeated, everybody will notice. And they will say, because they're looking up to the leader, the leader has to always have a brave face or not that you wouldn't be able to show frustration. You're sad at times, yes. But always, always up for it. And that's a big element. The other one is to convince people from within. People can detect glib talk from five miles away. You can you can detect, if I'm really saying what I mean. Or if I'm memorizing a text that somebody else wrote so that I can I can read and talk to you. And now you can detect that. You've never met me before. You don't know me. But what I am seeing and believing me, what I'm seeing is what I really feel. And perhaps you will have identified that even before I said it, and that element must be there. If you're leading people who don't believe in that mission yourself, people will tell from a mile away and that is something we need to find that belief. So that's a great sign. Superman quote when, in those original movies in the 70s, Superman is flying holding Lois Lane's hand. And Lois Lane is very worried because she's flying, this man is holding my hand. And she's very nervous. And he says, Don't worry, I'm holding you. And she says yes, but who's holding you. So the leader has defined what's holding me. And that can come from books that can come from stories that can come from life that can come from your family, from anywhere, as long as you find that thing that keeps you going from within Honest, honest, honest. And it's incredible. I've read, I've tried to find these things in moments of disbelief or despair of self doubt. Imposter syndrome, all of that exists. And it's all equally painful and damaging and sapping. Good. LinkedIn needs to know how to be ahead and above these things, somehow. There was this moment when I had joined a company here in the UK. And it was my first experience here in this country. And three months in, we lost a big piece of business and internal movement of accounts. So it's not that we weren't doing a good job, it was an internal global move accounts. But that meant that the specific office I was working at lost a third of its revenue. And we had to come back from behind and with a brave face on and find new business and find the joy that creativity needs to operate. And I went, where do I find that I am new to this place, new to the company, new to the people I'm working with. And we've just had this big hit, how can we fight back? And my, my intuition was what is a local hero, I'll learn from the local heroes that I won't be embarrassed to go as high as I can. And my local hero is a controversial name. But at that point in time, I want to know, I wanted to know why he was a hero at that point. And that was Winston Churchill. But I didn't have time to read a very thick biography because I needed to act very quickly. So I looked for the thinnest biography of Churchill I could find at Foyles the bookstore, and I bought it Churchill, his finest hour, is the one I bought, and I understood his mistakes. I understood his flaws. I understood why he connected what his big points were, where he got things, right, because he got many things wrong, as we know, too. And that fact that this the most admired British person in history, according to a Paul had defects, Harry had very visible defects had a mediocre career, up until that point. And even after he helped many countries, when the Second World War and ran for Prime Minister lost the election, and he was devastated that he lost the election. So all of that felt very human without that sugar coated story of everything he said and did was right because he was a genius. That doesn't help. So that's where I went to find inspiration.Roy Sharples:
I know that bookshop well; Foyes in Piccadilly. Winston Churchill inspired people had a unique strategic insight and refuse to give in to evil during extreme adversity. And he led the way to protect Great Britain and the Commonwealth freedom by rallying a nation and forming strategic alliances with America and the Soviet Union in defiance. of Hitler, and the Nazi regime different, but similar creative leaders, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. LED with a nonviolent approach in influencing later resistance by global movements like similarly with Nelson Mandela, who rebelled against the apartheid regime and aiming to remove racism and eradicate poverty and inequality. And South Africa. And also another President Abraham Lincoln, who defied all odds to become president by enacting measures to oppose and abolish slavery in America. But the point being is, these leaders stood for purpose, reason and conviction, by seeing their policies through to the bitter end with resilience, grit, and the solidarity, the solitary intent of making humanity better, they did things that had never been done before. And they rejected failure and swim against the tide, to provide novel solutions to complex problems that we didn't know could exist. And as a result, they formed a new movement, culture, norms, and a way of life. But the common thread that goes through these creative leaders is that they were flawed. And they did make mistakes, that once they matured, land and reflected, they were all ultimately driven by one common characteristic. They wanted a better world and a better outcome for humanity.Andre (Dede) Laurentino:
And I must say, just for the sake of sanity, not for one moment did I think that what I had to do was even remotely comparable to what to do. It's just that I felt Oh, my job is actually easy. He had this very difficult task, lives were at stake. And this is how he did I just went to see what were the elements that made Churchill, a British hero that resonates in the culture in which I was also leaving, although everything else is absolutely different to to watch her tools facing, of course, I'm not saying that for one second. It's what I wait for inspiration, not tips. So as you reflect upon your life and career to date, what are your lessons learned in terms of the pitfalls to avoid? And the keys to success that you can share with existing, but also aspiring creative leaders? That's that's also a great question. Well, learning what pitfalls to avoid is a memory draining lesson because I keep falling onto them and learning new ones. So that's always learned. I think I've been very fortunate to have worked with wonderful people, and could observe and memorize sometimes even consciously, what is it that I loved about them? What is it that made me admire want to be like them. And it's essential that we have these people in our lives. And they will not just in advertise, they will not just my bosses, they were friends. They were people. I had my first creative director back in his city, where I come from, it's a city in the Northeast of Brazil. And it was a tiny agency in a tiny city. And this was a creative director, I was 17 Sorry, 1819 At that point, and that man was teaching me a lot about life. He was a creative director, but he was a very generous person. And he noticed that I was a trainee there. And he noticed my curiosity, and he noticed my keen intent in learning about this profession. And it said, Oh, he started to invite me to his meetings that he had in his house every Thursday evening with the owner of the agency to talk about opera and literature. And then he would have dinner with his wife and they order and meet the stray knee. And those Thursday evenings taught me so much. I may have not understood maybe I did, not even half of what they were saying. It was really above my head, but I could see the passion. I could see how they talked about that and how they came alive. And I went all the result. They're seeing a difference because he would watch the opera together. And I noticed afterwards, they watched a different thing. Yeah, I didn't see half of what they saw. I want to see that it's as if they're A perception of life enable them to, to withdraw from life, every single second of it. And I was missing chunks by the hour, in my obtuse, small minded, closed doors to perception. And that was something I learned from him to spot in whoever it is the will. And and the spirit that merits you saying, let me share this with you, let me take you on this journey. And he did that to this trainee who was me. And I'm very grateful to that person gyro, his name is unfortunately passed away, but he became a friend for life. Because I learned so much from him. And the owner, it'll be onkey, an Italian man, proper renaissance man who fled the war, to live in Brazil. And he was he was obsessive about learning and knowing being the best at what he does and having the highest of standards in this tiny agency in his sci fi. So it showed also to me that it doesn't depend on the budgets or the kind of clients you have. We were doing retail ads weekly, but what they wanted from those retail ads and how the type needed to be in the curling and what typography did you choose and why taught me so much. That's an admirable and great thing to do by the creative director that you named checked. He obviously saw something compelling in you where he felt compelled to let you enter his world, and a mentorship, apprenticeship capacity that helped expose you very early on in your career, in a way to be able to stand on the shoulders of giants by seeking consultant from non consulting seeking counsel, on my by seeking, let me rewind back and say that again. He obviously saw something compelling in you where he felt compelled to let you into his world, and the mentorship, apprenticeship capacity that really exposed you very early on in your career to help you stand on the shoulders of giants by seeking counsel. And it really helps us well, obviously, if it's people you trust, respect and, and admire. But I think that's a key message. And a key trait that comes across many creative people's upbringing and education is the ability to seek and find positive role models really early on, and your development who can share their skills, insights and expertise that help nurture your ideas. What's your vision for the future of creative agencies, and the role of creativity. Of course, we're at this big long inflection point where we were coming from extreme specialism because we were specialists in precisely four media's right. And we do everything about those radio out of home print and TV. And we had decades to study the same length, there was very little change for decades, so we could really understand. And then all of a sudden, it's free. Now all of those swimming lanes were removed. And the industry is is of course, much better than what it was 10 years ago, five years ago, in that sense. The other big transformation, which is finally here, still transformation. But finally here is diversity of creative people in creative thinking and life experiences, be it in gender balance, be it in social diversity, racial diversity, ethnic everything, it's finally coming and not because it's a nice PR story in a nice photo. But because it brings different thinking, genuine difference in the thinking. And that's the root of creativity is mixing things that weren't together before to create a third that is now real. And this is happening on all kinds of level from the diversity of disciplines as well. And you have a data driven creative, working with a designer or a social media specialist creative working with a typical brand conceptual thinker. These things produce new stuff. And technology is allowing us to do more and more and I I think we just need to have that same spirit that we had when we were beginning to just take it all in and see what we can do. And now the big teacher of that is Pablo Picasso. He said all wood, that's interesting. What can I do with wood pine? He would do wood, carvings and paper. Can I play with paper and makes paper sculptures? wires? Can I bend these wires with this guitar and make a sculpture? Oh, can I make a vase? Can I make sculptures? Can I pink, and then when photography was invented, he said, Can I paint with light. And then there was the famous series of the long exposure and Picasso's painting drawing with light, something he would only see at that point, we days later, when, when the photography was photographs are developed, that is a proper creative spirit, that that doesn't say, Oh, that's not how I paint, I need to see what is happening on the screen, not with light in a camera. So that approach that because of WESC thirst and appetite and sheer joy of trying things, is what the industry is experimenting right now. And it's just amazing. What's not here yet and makes it a little bit uncomfortable is we haven't had the results yet. We haven't seen the developed photo photograph yet. But we're just making it and we will see it in 10 years time and 15 is fine. But best thing is it's always been like this impressionism was being invented. Nobody knew if it was good or bad. They were just painting. And now everyone reveals it. But at that point, it was shocking. So all these new kinds of music that's coming up, and, and my kids are teaching me stuff. And everything that I listened to is old, and it's amazing. It's phenomenally energizing. So the future is, we're making it right now. We're making the future now and it is what we make of it. So it's very interesting. Yes, the future belongs to those who can see it coming. Your point about Pablo Picasso was poignant. He believed all children are artists. But loser creativity growing up, so grew into not out of creativity. And don't give up on your childhood dreams, and your approach to the world through a child's eyes. Learn, innovate, and never waste a second on anything that seems to restrict you. So keep true to the dreams of your youth and create outside the boundaries. Creativity is ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Creativity can be applied to every profession and domain because it is found in all aspects of life. It isn't something lost with age, but a skill we too often neglect to practice. The challenge is not learning new things, as this will inevitably happen as we explore, travel, learn and grow. Instead, the challenge is keeping our childlike wonder and imagination alive and having the courage to combine those things with our new experiences and insight.Roy Sharples:
Do you want to learn more about how to create Without Frontiers then consider getting CREATIVITY WITHOUT frontiers. How to make the invisible visible by lighting the way into the future. It's available in print, digital and audio on all relevant book platforms. You have been listening to the unknown origins podcast please follow subscribe rate and review us for more information go to unknown origins.com Thank you for listening