Brazilian creative Anselmo Ramos left his homeland to work in Europe and the U.S. for 12 years. When he returned four years ago, he says, it was to a different country. "My parents had always said to me, one day Brazil will be one of the world’s top countries, and it always seemed so unlikely. Now it’s true."
Ramos, an executive creative director at Ogilvy Brazil in Sao Paulo, didn’t let the shock interfere with his work. Last year, he and the agency won 10 Cannes Lions and he’s already got five this year. Ramos had a hand in the popular Burger King Whopper Face campaign, which took "Have it Your Way" to a new place, putting customers’ faces on the wrappers of their sandwich minutes after they had ordered. This year, the agency has won and will continue to win for the hilarious Druken Valet for Bar Aurora/Boteca Ferraz, which gives unsuspecting drivers an impromptu illustration of the absurdity of drunk driving, and the Santa’s Forgotten Letters campaign for Coke.
But Ramos also says that Brazil has a lot of work to do to make the most of the economic boom that’s turned the country into one of the hottest markets in the world.
Economic growth has exploded as millions of new consumers reach a new level of spending power. "Everyone is buying everything," says Ramos. It's not unusual for clients to increase their ad budgets by 50% in the middle of a year, or to simply run out of product to sell, he says.
Such language surely makes some recession-ravaged U.S. ad people bitter—Ramos admits there's little room for complaint in such a boom time—but he says the gold rush mindset can have deleterious effects on creatives.
"People take fewer risks," says Ramos. With so much money being thrown around, people don't have to try as hard to break through. "So people tend to go for the safe option. The boom is not contributing to a creative explosion."
On the upside, the growth has made Brazil a less insular ad market. Because of its sheer size, Brazil had traditionally revolved around itself. "We were so big, we didn’t think we needed anyone else," says Ramos.
Now, there is starting to be a more expansive view of the ad world, and Brazilian agencies are opening up to global talent and accounts.
"The kind of talent we’re looking for is changing," says Ramos. Where the industry was almost all Brazilian before, Ramos says that his agency, and others are now hiring U.S. and other foreign creatives, who are now seeking out jobs in the country (whether they can speak Portuguese or not, he notes).
But Ramos says that none of this is happening fast enough or to a sufficient degree.
"Brazil has always been a very creative market; people are naturally creative. But there’s been a feeling of it being an island. We need to look at the world as a marketplace and go after more global projects. We have to be the B in BRIC; we have to be more ambitious."
Ramos notes that Brazil has traditionally done the job of adapting U.S. or European work for the domestic market, but now, that might start to change—there was talk of adapting the Whopper Face campaign for the U.S. market.
"That's the key, to start exporting our work," says Ramos. "We have to compete in the same way we do in soccer, where we win everything."