Creative Spotlight Series: Paco Olavarrieta
To begin our new series titled "Creative Spotlight Series", we have chosen Paco Olavarrieta - Chief Creative Officer of New York based d expósito & Partners. We will continue to highlight our great creative executives in this series, asking them key questions about the business. Enjoy.
Coming from 2020, and still in the middle of a pandemic, how do you see creativity in the U.S. Hispanic Market moving forward?
I think it’s time to go back to the future – to reflect back on where we were – in order to move forward and make progress. This pandemic has been like a guest who has overextended their welcome and doesn’t seem to have any urgency to leave, and we really don’t know when it will be behind us. We’d better learn to manage and thrive with it, and be open to new rules and protocols, as well as tolerate its annoyances, in order to keep doing great work.
Let’s move back to those days when the primary concern was finding the best idea for a brand, and then figure it out how can we produce it safely rather than the other way around; which is the scenario under which most of the industry has been operating over the last year. More now than ever I see us tapping into our sense of Latino ingenuity and sense of resourcefulness. Latinos, both foreign and U.S. born, are accustomed to living and operating in some sense of crisis and/or uncertainty. In that sense, the pandemic is just one more crisis, albeit a tough one, but we can now see the light at the end of the tunnel. And when you come out of a crisis, of a time of oppression, there’s a general sense of relief and a renewed energy to come back and do great stuff. The increased emphasis on diversity and inclusion in the advertising industry and throughout Corporate America, not to mention the change of Administration, inspires hope and promise for the future.
What creative ideas or achievements do you think will help catapult your agency from 2020 into 2021?
We have several campaigns that lead with deep, cultural insights and are executed in a way that ring true to Latinos and are compelling to them. Our “Lucha vs Virus” campaign, to promote the use of masks during the pandemic, has brought strong results and also accolades from the public health sector and our industry. And it has brought us more work in that sector, namely an assignment from the NYC Health and Hospitals where we tapped several top NYC celebrities and social media influencers to create a campaign to overcome apprehension and skepticism about getting tested for COVID-19. We are also now launching a new campaign for our client Tajín, the Mexican seasoning, which was supposed to break last year but was put on hold because it depicted situations of a “pre-pandemic life”, which felt a bit out of touch at that time. We are excited because it showcases the brand’s Mexican heritage to appeal to a diverse U.S. population, reflecting this New America we all live in. And for our client Amica Mutual insurances, thanks to distanced production, we are about to shoot a new campaign, so the best is yet to come. Now is the time to capitalize and take advantage of this “viento a favor,” aka tailwind.
How much original Spanish- driven creative do you see moving forward in 2021?
Spanish creative-driven will continue to be needed for as long as there are Latinos and others in the U.S. that speak Spanish and watch Spanish-language media. On both accounts, the numbers just keep growing, so the momentum is not stopping anytime soon. And folks need to realize our programming is not just telenovelas, variety shows and soccer, anymore. While these programs and formats continue to drive high ratings, we also have many other options for quality content through streaming platforms that give us access to Spanish-language programming from the U.S. and abroad.
Brands also need to take note of the tremendous jolt that occurs when a viewing experience jumps from being culturally immersed in a Latino program to an all-American commercial in English and where we are not properly and genuinely represented. I mean, an ad in English after watching Rigoberto Eduardo declare his love to María Cristina Carlota, It’s like jumping into freezing water after having laid out in the sun for half an hour. It’s jarring and requires a mental shift, but it’s a tainted experience because the viewer is left with the feeling that the brand really doesn’t care about her/him or the Latino community. This can all be avoided with smart marketing and proper investment.
Do you see a need for the Latinx moniker in our industry?
The problem with Latinx is that very few of us, if any of us, feels Latinx. It’s a term that has been forced on us and that none of us identifies with. Outside of the advertising industry and community activist circles, and other than the talking heads on cable news shows, I have never heard anyone use the term to refer to themselves or to somebody else. “Hey, I’m a Latinx”. There are other terms that ring much truer to one’s identity.
From a creative perspective, how do you think the Hispanic opportunity can be made more attractive to the eyes of Corporate America?
As an industry, we’ve shown clients the opportunity and have kept them updated on how it only continues to grow. We’ve given them stellar creative ideas that have grown their businesses and have won awards. We have proven that original Hispanic work is more appealing, motivating and memorable with Hispanics, and there is greater message comprehension – all proven through qualitative and quantitative research. They now know culture counts. We have produced real-world results for live campaigns that have surpassed expectations and exceeded results of their non-Hispanic-targeted campaigns, and we have shown them we can do it efficiently and at record speed to save time and money. What else can we do as an industry?
Granted, two areas where we need to improve is with regard to big data and campaign metrics, where both fall short of being fully representative and accurate as it relates to Hispanic consumers and their behaviors; especially with regard to the foreign-born and Spanish-preferred segments of our audience. But in full transparency, it seems we now need to address what appears to be unconscious bias – or perhaps even conscious bias – that exists when deciding marketing strategies and allocating budgets.
Creatives, have been, like most people, working remotely. How has this affected creativity and how will this translate into the future once Covid 19 is under control and we have achieved some form of normalcy?
We just presented a pitch a few days ago with one of the most robust and sharp decks I have ever seen in my whole career and everything was done remotely. The truth is that we’ve been working remotely for a long time ago but just weren’t aware of it. Every time we creatives were out on a shoot, we kept in touch with our teams back at the office by phone, email, text, etc. to keep the work moving forward. How many times did we present campaigns over the phone to a client?
Also, we have hired creatives, before, that were based in other countries and worked with them successfully in a totally remote fashion. Now, it simply has become “officialized” and everybody is recognizing that it can be as productive as being physically together (oh, big surprise!) One good thing that has come of it, is that it has eliminated the misconception of “if I don’t see you sitting at your desk, or physically in the office, you are not working.” Having said that, it doesn’t mean let’s forget the office and work remotely for good, because it can also become a bit lonely or isolating. I see us coming back to a very happy medium, where we can divide our time between working physically together and remotely and choose which one is best for what.
For instance, let’s get together at the office to kick off this campaign or brainstorm the first round of ideas, then the follow up can easily be done remotely. And remote is not limited to work from home but work from anywhere. The beach, a cafe in Paris, a cabin in the mountains, as long as you get good wi-fi, anywhere is game. This flexibility will definitely increase our quality of life and make us happier.
Do you see Latino culture permeating U.S. culture in the future as it used to do just a few years ago?
Sorry, but I didn’t receive the memo that we had stopped permeating U.S. culture. In fact, we are doing so now more than ever. Just look at Bad Bunny and J Balvin and how everything about their creative genius is appealing to the masses. When would we ever before have heard Spanish being spoken at a Presidential Inauguration, and during an ironically patriotic, All-American song? Would we ever have imagined seeing a Puerto Rican Supreme Court Justice swearing in our nation’s first female, Black and Asian vice president, before? And when it comes to national pastimes, despite The Weeknd’s super innovative halftime performance at Super Bowl LV, social media was left clamoring for JLo and Shakira’s spectacular, high energy, culture-filled performance from last year.
I think what’s happening is that it’s not a novelty anymore. Another fancy taquería or cevichería in Manhattan is not exactly breaking news anymore, but nonetheless they are embraced by everyone. Now these examples are an everyday part of an increasingly multicultural America, and it’s already engrained and feels like “normal.” Let me put it this way, the head teacher of my Cuban salsa school in New York is a white American, and the best part is that, even for us Latinos, it’s not surprising. Perhaps it’s not so obvious in markets like NYC, Miami and LA, where our culture has been pervasive for decades, but when you look at a macro level across the country, Latino culture permeating all facets of society is more impactful than ever.
Are you optimistic or pessimistic about 2021?
With 2020 we hit bottom. The only way is up from now on!