Raahil Chopra
Jun 24, 2016

Cannes Lions 2016: 'The language has to be local': Marcello Serpa

The Lion of the St Mark recipient this year was in conversation with Lions Festivals CEO Philip Thomas

Cannes Lions 2016: 'The language has to be local': Marcello Serpa
Ex-partner at AlmapBBDO Marcello Serpa will be conferred with the Lion of St Mark Award at the Film Lions ceremony on Saturday, 25 June. Serpa was on stage in conversation with Lions Festivals CEO Philip Thomas a day prior. 
The talk started on a lighter note, with Thomas asking the winners of 160 Cannes Lions where he kept his trophies. Serpa responded: "Some of them are on this really strong shelf I have."
In a video clip, BBDO president and CEO Andrew Robertson and CCO David Lubars congratulated Serpa and lauded him on the simplicity and spread of his work. Thomas asked him about these characteristics in his work.
Serpa said, "Simplicity is different from simple. I like simple stuff, but not obvious work. I like thinking fast too. I've never spent a lot of time thinking. It's good for me, it is good for everyone. Work should be simple and unpredictable. The process should be – talk to the client and the planning team and get the problem. Agencies have Powerpoint presentations spreading for three to four hours. Instead it should be one slide, with a problem. Then, the idea is nothing without execution. It's about making things beautiful. When you show something which resembles the final piece of work, 95 per cent of the clients will love it and say yes."
Lack of humour
Thomas quizzed the advertising legend who left the industry last year about the lack of humour in today's advertising and the rise of emotional stories. Serpa held social media responsible for the trend. 
He explained, "People have become on social media. If someone (brand) makes a small mistake, social media will explode. Brands are afraid of that. It's tough to find a joke that the whole world can laugh on together. It's safe to stay away and do stuff like 'saving the planet'. If every brand is saving it, then who the f*** is damaging it?"
Showcasing a Pepsi commercial created by AlmapBBDO, Thomas asked Serpa about its structure.

Serpa explained, "A group of us put this together. One copywriter came up with it. We then looked at making it as simple as possible. We took Beckham as an idol and then made fun of him. The work on TV currently portrays soccer stars as heroes. Nobody pulls the leg of a Beckham, which is actually humorous. The client was close to the agency too. So you need to have a relationship of trust. You need trust and we were lucky to work with these clients."
The local flavour 
In another video clip, Leo Burnett's global CCO Mark Tutssel congratulated Serpa. In the message, Tutssel touched upon the emergence of the Brazilian advertising industry. 
“Brazil is the only Portuguese speaking country. So we have a strong local culture whether it's music, food or humour. In the ‘60s we got television. It covers 95 per cent of the country. We have a large country and have one language running through it, so content is in that language. All the stuff that came from the US in the ‘60s and ‘70s wasn't appreciated. So, the rich and poor were watching the same thing (local content). So, a 30-second commercial is shown to a million people. So brands had to be there. Brands then had to hire agencies to create the engaging pieces. Be it Brazil, or wherever, the language has to be local. You can't make an English commercial in a country like Romania. You've to talk in local language. I've been to India a couple of times. They've started using Hindi ads and their values. Ads that they create can't be used in the UK," reasoned Serpa.
Exiting advertising 
Thomas sought the reasons why Serpa quit the agency world. "I wanted to leave at the top of my career. Leaving on your own terms is great. I left when I felt like resting rather than being pushed (out). I loved the time I spent in the industry and I owe everything to this industry. One day, I woke up, I was nearing 50. It didn't give me the thrill anymore, and that would probably end up making me fail. Also, I wasn't ready to make sacrifices anymore. So we sat and made a transition plan," said Serpa.
Asked whether the reasons were entirely personal and if the changing industry had anything to do with his exit, the creative labelled it ‘a 50-50 decision’. 
He explained, "I sat for four-five months discussing how much art directors and copywriters should be paid with a client. After that discussion with the client, I told him that if he'd be running FC Barcelona he'll get it relegated to the second division in two years. Then, it's the relevance of the industry too. The fragmentation of media has made creative very small. I don't see brands like Nike and Adidas do stuff like 'Just Do It' and 'Impossible is Nothing' anymore."
'Press is not dead' 
Serpa, who was on the Glass Lions jury last year, reflected on the experience. He said, "I was very humbled to see myself on the jury. I've actually been ignorant about it. Not only about women in advertising but the work we created. I showed my creatives to women and they trashed it. The problem is not only that 95 per cent of the industry has men (it's terrible), but the worst thing is that they don't know much about women. The industry has to fight to have more women. When you have one woman among 50 men, the woman will start behaving like men."
About the changing nature of the industry, Serpa said, "Press is changing. But, Instagram could be the new press. You can make the same impact a print or poster ad had on Instagram. Press is not dead. The paper could be. Similarly about TV and video. People said that the TV ad is dead. But with FB and Twitter, people are looking at video."
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