Jean Zamprogno and Fernando Pellizzaro, Founders and Executive Creative Directors at AKQA Bloom, boast over 15 years of international experience in the US, Brazil, Argentina, and Portugal. Their notable campaigns include Moldy Whopper, Stevenage Challenge, Bigger Picture, Eat Like Andy, This Coke is a Fanta, Corona Sunbrew, and six Super Bowl campaigns.
With consumers demanding more from the brands they support, purpose-driven marketing has become a catalyst for transformation, reshaping the landscape of business practices.
In this podcast interview, we sit down with Zampa and Zaro, the founders and executive creative directors of AKQA Bloom, an agency making waves with its bold and unconventional approach.
We also discuss the strategies and insights that have propelled AKQA Bloom's success. From their unique perspective on brand impact to their navigation of the ever-evolving landscape, we'll uncover how they challenge the status quo and utilize creativity to shape a better future.
Vianca: Let’s start with you, Fernando. Growing up with a public school teacher father and a hairdresser mother, how do you think your background influenced your approach to creativity and storytelling in the advertising world?
Zaro: I don't think no one ever asked me that, but I think both Zambo and I, come from very kind humble backgrounds, you know, not like traditional big families are. So I think that played a big role in who we are and the paths of our careers.
Mostly with that, hard work drive, you know? Sometimes we have been working together for so long that sometimes we speak for both of us, but in a sense, we never consider ourselves really talented people. Our talent is working extremely hard. And that's why we achieve what we achieve, you know?
And I think that came along really, really strong with the parents that I had my dad being a public school teacher of Portuguese. So that made me read a lot. And eventually, I don't know if that was natural, but I became a copywriter, you know? Maybe that played a big role in that decision.
And definitely, my mom being more like a kind of free spirit, like with crazy ideas, you know, like I think I inherited a bunch of that from her. But I think the biggest learning from my parents is to work hard and do everything with care and love, you know, to succeed. And I think they are very proud in that sense. I think that's the biggest lesson I took from them.
How about you, Jean, what were some of the key moments or experiences that led you to become one of the most awarded creative directors in the world?
Zambo: I think what Zaro just mentioned is really important, professionally and personally. I also come from a background where my dad is a singer and my mom at some point had like a small bright shop. And then it comes from the sense of responsibility with the effort they were putting into our education and the little bit they could save, we needed to honor that.
I remember when I was like 18 years old; when I was like finally able to make my first international trip to London to learn and work a little bit, it was more like I need to honor that. I think everything else is pretty much a consequence of it.
And then as we evolve on our careers, when we arrived at this, it was, you know, advertising was pretty much about, for us at least, was like this idea of one day being famous or winning awards and traveling the world and everything. And then at some point, we just realized that what if we infuse our values and the things we believe on it and we use this as a form of expression, you know?
And then suddenly we were in a place like working for big brands, still in Brazil at a time like Coca-Cola, for example, and we just saw that, okay, if we want to make it to the awards and to, you know, like this place that we are envisioning, we need to play in the culture.
We don't need to sell burgers flying and flipping or drinking shots or anything like that. We need to use the brands, the speakers and voices, and cultural influence to build culture and not just like be part of it. And then I think our very first big impact in this space was the campaign, this Coke's a Fanta.
When we realize that, okay, there is an expression here in Brazil that since our childhood is being used and we kind of normalized it because it was normal to hear that, you know, like it was also like a bullying kind of space like "This Coke is a Fanta" was a homophobic expression used towards the like, you know, the queer population and then it's crazy that it was so normalized at some point, and then we were like in this transformation of, you know, like trying to understand how bad it is and the impact and everything.
And then we came up with this idea of putting Fanta inside a Coca-Cola and kind of called this out, like saying like "This Coke is a Fanta, so what?"
Suddenly the repercussion of this campaign in Brazil was amazing. Like in one or two days, everyone was talking about these and we ended up being able to actually flip the expression from something negative to something positive. Google approved it was a really great impact on us. And then we even saw the expression of being born in different countries as something positive.
And then we were like, okay, okay, maybe we can do these more and more for different brands and express our values. And then I think this first moment and everything that came after this brought us to this idea of, "Okay, what if we can bring our values and the things we believe?"
Zaro: This concept of Coke is a Fanta was a kind of benchmark in our careers, you know, like I think that set a new path for us leading up to what we are doing right now because we finally understood that we could use the reach and the scale of the brands to do actually something good for society or the environment, in this case for society, right, with this coke of Fanta.
And we started to, thank you, and we started to try to push that more and more proactively. And of course, sometimes we did receive briefs to be culturally relevant and to play a role in society for many brands, but most of the time we were pushing our clients to do so.
Zampa, with your extensive experience as an Executive Creative Director across different countries, how has your international background influenced your creative approach in the advertising industry?
Zampa: Yeah, I think this industry, or any other creative industry is all about the diversity of experiences and being able to experience from Argentina to Portugal to London to Brazil in seven years in the US.
Now, I think it's super important that we understand how rich it is and we try to bring to what we are building here. Sometimes we even talk that we are building a visa agency here in a sense because we're bringing a lot of people from different backgrounds.
But I think it's also important to understand what unites us in the sense of, yes, we are trying to bring people from all over the world, but we also need to have this sense of where they are.
Looking for the same solutions. What is the thing that unites everyone, like this vision that we can do something better in our careers and in our lives? And this, combined with the diversity of backgrounds, we are all aligned in the problems and that we want to solve them, but it's important to have like this very diverse angles of bringing the solutions.
Business Insider recognized you as one of the 35 under 35 Rising Stars revolutionizing advertising. How has this recognition impacted your career and what advice would you give to other young professionals aspiring to make a significant impact in the industry?
Zaro: It's another recognition that helps to reinforce that what we are doing is right and that we are on the right path and doing the right thing. So it's really reassuring. And I think that sentiment is extremely important because sometimes like to achieve what we achieve and many people are doing like there's a lot of hard work behind and a lot of time and effort, you know.
So we saw many people throughout our careers, like living advertising along their way, because it can be a really tough career, you know, like long hours of work, extremely demanding mentally and physically, you know?
I think it's just being, being featured in one of those lists is it, it just reinforces and gives more, um, drive to keep going, you know, and, and keep pushing and, and also that the path that we are choosing is correct. You know, if we are being recognized for that, it means something.
So for the past, let's say seven years, eight years, we have been pushing extremely hard for social impact and environmental impact ideas. You can see that a lot across many campaigns that we did.
What led you to transition from your roles as executive creative directors at David Miami to launching AKQA Bloom?
Zaro: It's crazy to see when you look backwards and then you see one thing to start being born and take shape, you know, like, and for us, as we mentioned, I think this sentiment really, really flourished and started when we did this Coke is a Fanta and we saw the impact that company had. It really resonated with us. And it just opened our minds to believe that we should do more of this.
We should use this power and reach of the brands that I was mentioning to do something good and positive. We know brands, have all kinds of issues, but they can all play a good role in some sense, either social or environmental.
We did many ideas for Budweiser as well, like during COVID, blood donation ideas, and vaccine ideas, there are many examples.
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Zampa: I think with the ideas we were selling proactively or because we built a reputation that brought the clients to brief us in a certain way because they would know the outcome, I think we were able to buy the luxury of working with these kinds of projects more connected to social and environmental impact. I would say like for half of our time. And that was a luxury because, in this industry, it feels like it's the 10% of the work you do for another reason or something like that.
But we were at the point that we were like so far on this, like the percentage of the work was so good, that made us think of, okay, if we could choose. What if we try to make it 100%? You know, what if we try to make it all about this?
What if we build a machine that can help build the future of this with more substance? And then we started having like these thoughts and we were at a point where we were being approached by networks and agencies and it really developed on those like this feeling of what would we do if we could choose, you know.
And then, you know, having conversations with close friends like Hugo and Diego and some other people, we just realized that a lot of people were connected to this and we were like throwing these on the universe, and eventually something would happen. They came to us saying, "Guys, you need to talk to Ajaz because it feels like you are very much aligned as a vision with what Ajaz is doing."
Talking to Ajaz for the very first time, we just realized that the same vision he had like 30, 25 years ago, he has now with this thing called social and environmental impact. This is what will get the rights for the brands to operate in the future. There will be no way a brand will operate just by selling its products and services.
We need to have a sense of how the brands are mitigating their negative impact, and how the brands are being the force of good beyond just the products and services. And then we just realized really strongly that there will be no one else to do it besides Ajax. And then suddenly we were on this.
And one year after this, it's been just amazing how much we evolved and we have been learning on this. And we know that the creative output is coming already, and will come more and more. But just the learning, combined with me being a newborn dad too and realizing that we are doing this for the generations to come. And this impact doesn't need to be just the creative output of the ideas.
Maybe we can influence a generation to prove that it's possible to work only with these, to build something like this. So I think we are shifting our priorities to build a platform so the new generations can understand that we can work with these.
How do you strike a balance between brand love and brand trust in company collaborations?
Zaro: It's funny like we have been in the business for a little over 16 years now. And throughout most of our career, we were talking about brand love and we're never talking about brand trust, never. It's basically that sentiment of people trying to fall in love with their brands, to engage with their brands, to be passionate about your brand, you know, which most of the brands, it's their goal.
But then, a few years ago, we started understanding that brand love is just one portion, it's one piece. Like people, to actually love your brand, they need to trust your actions, you know, and to know that the brand is doing the right things.
DesignRush has a directory of the top creative agencies globally, and outsourcing creative agencies has become increasingly prevalent in the advertising industry. What are your thoughts on the importance of outsourcing and how it can benefit both the client and the agency?
Zambo: I think with the landscape of the big picture of the business, I think moving from these models of AOR to rosters and everything that is happening in the last five years, it's really hard to make it happen with full-time employees all the time.
So right now we are just finding this balance between full-time freelancers and outsourcing agencies and vendors and sometimes even capabilities like design. You know, it's really important to read the room right now and build different structures that are not necessarily based on full-time employees all the time.
I think right now, What we have here at the AKQA Bloom is sort of a mix between maybe 70% of full-time employees and the rest is the room that we have to breathe, you know, to expand and contract. So I think we are designing a model here that is maybe more effective in this sense and gives us more space to consider the short and midterm actions.
Zaro: It's not only about capacity and skills, it's also about understanding that we don't know everything, you know, and sometimes we need to source that information and that capacity somewhere else. So it's not only about getting, "Oh, we need a designer here to help with this work." People with their specific skills to that brief, will add something that we don't have, a personal vision or an experience or social work that they do. We have been doing this here and there, and it's very helpful.
How does AKQA Bloom navigate the balance between purpose-driven work and the need to generate revenue for clients? Are there certain criteria or values that guide your decision-making process when it comes to choosing the projects and clients you work with?
Zampa: We have a specific chapter that says that our best business results were actually coming from campaigns that we did with some kind of purpose. related to it, social and environmental. So I think that's our business vision for Bloom and the clients we work with, you know, like because we have proved in the past that doing the right thing is better for the business.
I mean, the right thing to have a positive impact on people's lives, society, or the environment leads up to better business results for those brands. So I think that's the narrative we try to push to our clients, showing examples of the work that we did in the past that prove that that's a reality.
And so I think that the two things are extremely connected, you know, like, because our experience, doing what we are doing right now and focusing the work that we are focused on is better for the business in general.
I think it's almost hard to talk about a balance between the short-term business results and everything because the profit is the oxygen of every company. So it's never out of the equation. It's just like, I think our balance here is first to be agents of the record and to do everything like from short-term, midterm, long-term, eCommerce, everything for those brands that are connected from the beginning to this bigger sense of purpose.
And then when it comes to doing only the purpose-related part of this, it might sound at first like something that is not related to short-term sales, but it is at the end of the day. Being ahead of the curve, of the consumer opinion, regulations, and everything that will be related ultimately to social and environmental purpose is critical for these big companies. And they are looking for these, and they come to us trying to solve these challenges.
Zaro: I think Bloom was never intended to be perfect, you know, like to do, oh, we only work with perfect clients who are doing everything right. No, we are surrounded by issues just like our planet and our society is. And we're trying to improve here and there and do better in different cases and different situations.
Maybe we'll do an amazing social campaign for a brand, but that brand is not really environmentally friendly. It's like, you know, like it's really, really hard to find the balance, but we need to understand if it's worth it, if the positive impact of that specific action is worth our time and our investment.