Creativity Squared: Marcelo Reis Is “Accelerated, Frenetic, Intense and Curious”
Partner and co-CEO at Leo Burnett Tailor Made discusses why a strong idea must encompass “pertinence, innovation and good production”
According to creativity researchers, there are four sides to creativity. Person (personality, habits, thoughts), product (the thing that results from creative activity), process (how you work), and press (environment factors, education and other external factors) all play a part. So, we figured, let’s follow the science to understand your art. Creativity Squared is a feature that aims to build a more well-rounded profile of creative people.
Marcelo Reis, our profile partaker today, is a partner and the co-CEO of Leo Burnett Tailor Made and ARC Brazil, as well as one of the leading creative professionals in the Brazilian market. He was responsible for directing such works as Vem Pra Rua, for Fiat; Bentley Burial, for ABTO; Theater for All Ears, for Samsung; and My Blood is Red and Black, for Hemoba and the soccer team Esporte Clube Vitória, a campaign which increased blood supplies in the state by 46% and was acclaimed as the most awarded campaign of 2013 by the Gunn Report, in its All Gunns Blazing Category.
Marcelo joined Tailor Made in 2010 as a partner and, in 2011, assumed as Creative Vice President for Leo Burnett Tailor Made, when the two agencies merged. In October 2014, Marcelo Reis became CO-CEO of Leo Burnett Tailor Made and in the following year, he was «Adman of the Year» by the 2015 Prêmio Colunistas (Columnists Awards). He is also one of the advising members of Conar, an entity about Brazilian Advertising Self-Regulation Code. Currently, Marcelo is on the leadership of #VoltaPinheiros, movement aimed at raising awareness for the cleanliness of the Pinheiros river, one of the largest in Latin America and heavily polluted. In August 2020, he became CO-CEO of ARC, a shopper and experience company from the Publicis Groupe.
Get to know him and the way he interacts with creativity.
I believe that, of the four models studied, the one that best fits my profile is the first: person. Process, in my case, is definitely less hermetic. I create in an unformatted manner, adapting myself to the challenge I’m facing.
I am accelerated, frenetic, intense and curious. But when I need to focus, I focus. There’s nothing like pressure to achieve great work.
I see the world realistically. The world is a barrel of conflicts, and we are creative problem solvers.
The creative act can be learned, but people who are encouraged to be creative, light, and free, from a very early age, will perform better than people who were born into a world that’s squarer.
I am an extrovert, but cautiously. I’m an optimist, as long as I can evaluate what might go wrong beforehand.
Routine is amazing. There’s nothing better for creative discipline than the everyday routine, but the soul should remain untethered.
I explore constantly. There are only two types of ideas: good and bad. But my creative style cannot dictate the evaluation of that which is different from my own.
I judge pertinence, innovation and good production. If an idea is indeed good, it must encompass those three elements.
How do I assess whether an idea or a piece of work is truly creative? That’s a tough question. If it were that easy, everyone would use a formula to develop their ideas. Ideas come from society, from people. It’s easy to sense when something is incredibly new.
The criteria doesn’t change. A good idea is a good idea; it talks to the society in question and is tuned into its own time.
I am proud of a few works I did during my career, for great Brazilian brands. A campaign for Banco Real targeting university students. A campaign for Fiat to launch the Fiat Palio. A re-launch campaign for Jeep in Brazil. A Fiat campaign for the Confederations Cup. An award-winning campaign for organ donation, about the burial of a Bentley. Another campaign for blood donation, for Esporte Clube Vitória. I’m also proud of the work I did in 2009 that led DM9DDB to win Agency of the Year at Cannes.
Very little frustrates me in the industry; maybe the charlatanism of some competence-impaired gurus that have a lot of empty rhetoric. What’s most exciting right now in the industry is the creative amplitude that digital tools have given the agencies. Today, everything is possible, and everyone is approachable. All you need is a powerful idea.
Doing creative work is the essence of our profession. After all, producing something bad is just as much work as producing something outstanding. Crawl your brain. Create goals. Challenge your way of thinking. Produce more. Save it. Show it to someone you trust. Throw it all away. Start all over again from scratch. Only stop when you are at the limit. There is nothing more harrowing and exciting than creating.
I start a campaign by planning. Nothing starts without a full understanding of the consumers, the market and its trends.
Are there any tools or platforms (analogue or digital) that you find particularly helpful for gathering or iterating ideas? There are myriad tools for gathering ideas: use the one that makes the most sense. At Leo Burnett Tailor Made, we have a proprietary tool called BE MORE. Developed by the Data Strategy team, it’s a social data and behaviour platform that is foundational and inspirational for creative work.
Nothing in life comes from a blank sheet of paper. Everything is the accumulation of life stories and experiences.
I always work collaboratively. You don’t achieve anything alone, especially good ideas.
If I’m stumped, I ask for more time. Switch your mind off. Run. Get out. Watch a movie. Have a drink with friends. Come back light. The ideas will be waiting for your next effort.
I believe everyone helps one another; but if you’re a leader, that’s your only role: to help.
A piece of work is done when the work is pertinent and executable, and hasn’t lost its creativity. For instance, Leonardo da Vinci’s helicopter (aerial screw) was brilliant, but not feasible at the time because of technology, materials, and power-weight ratios. But we’re talking about geniuses and artwork that is ahead of its time. We are just advertising professionals; we don’t do art, we bring together plausible ideas. So, if they look brilliant but don’t have a leg to stand on, they have no value for the clients.
Everything can make or break a creative project. What you do outside the office. What you read. Where you live. The places you go. Your creative potential is outside your mind, not within. You go find it, and then just put it in the blender you have inside your head.
Unquestionably, our origins and our foundation are the cultural seeds of who we are and what we create. But we are in constant transformation.
I moved to São Paulo over 20 years ago. In this cultural megalopolis I sharpened and fermented what knowledge and creativity I had brought with me. I worked with great leaders and inspiring talents that helped solidify my training.
A creative internal environment has to be light, but needs challenging goals. That’s different from being fun but under constant tension. Why? Because being light is different from being fun, and pressure is different from tension. We have to offer fair opportunities for people to overcome their challenges, and give them space and time to blow off steam out of the office. For me, for instance, kitesurfing works well. It focuses my mind and puts me in a situation of controlled risk. Or long distance running, which opens my mind and demands persistence. The pandemic has gotten in the way of all that and really made people’s quality of life worse. That is why we see so many of our colleagues mentally exhausted. So find your own personal technique. We all have one. And take care of your treasure: your mind.
Transparency, commitment, and total friendship from both sides (agency and client). A great connection will only happen if both sides are in sync. Human beings from the client and the agency need to work together everyday to make that happen. The success of one is the success of the other.
Give your employees total freedom. Make room for responsible irresponsibility. Encourage controlled mistakes. Accept that the creative process is not a formula or automation. It comes from the soul, from energy, from people’s will and mood and, consequently, from their dedication. And happy people unquestionably produce more and better.