Q&A: Publicis Modem EVP/ECD Mauro Alencar

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After stewarding numerous campaigns for Organic, San Francisco as executive creative director, including those for Mitsubishi, Sprint and GeekSquad, award-winning creative Mauro Alencar has suddenly departed the digital agency for another, namely Publicis Modem. Reporting to former R/GA CEO and current Publicis Modem CEO Martin Reidy, Alencar will lead the Publicis Modem West creative team from its San Francisco headquarters while also joining the Publicis Modem West Executive Leadership Team in the process.

Before boarding a flight recently, the exec shared a brief chat on his motivations for leaving, his advertising mantras and his love for music.

What motivated the move from Organic to Publicis Modem?

There were a few things. One of them, and I think the most important one, was [Publicis Modem CEO] Martin Reidy being there. Martin was for 10 years one of the most successful leaders in the world [at R/GA]. After meeting and talking to him, it felt clear that we had aligned visions in terms of what type of work a company in the industry like Publicis Modem should be doing. So that was a big part of it.

At Organic, they're really good at what they do but they focus a lot on the consultancy side of things. I think Publicis Modem is going to give me the opportunity to really do more creative work and to work with great clients. They have an amazing array of clients and I just feel like it's going to be a great place for me to build a team and make some magic.

What do you hope to accomplish in your new post?

I literally just joined, so I'm in reconnaissance mode right now. I'm getting to know the team and getting to know the way the company operates. My plan involves, of course, making sure that we have the right people in so bringing in the right talent is going to be one of my first focuses of attention. I'm really surprised and glad to see that there's a lot of people there that I think are aligned very directly with my area of thinking in terms of how to do creative work.

Number two, Publicis Modem is one of the pioneers in the digital industry. That says a lot about the nature of the company and the innovative approach that it takes to work. It's not that Publicis lives in the past, actually to the contrary, it's always about being first and doing new things. We won't go with the flow and do things like our competitors are doing. There's so much discussion about Web 2.0 and social networking, and that's all great. We're doing all of that, too. But we don't want to just be a MySpace. We want to help create the next phenomenon like MySpace. So this spirit of innovation is what I really want to foster very strongly over the next few months. I haven't been there a long time, but I have feeling it's going to be a great ride.

Fill in the blank. If I ran the advertising world _____________

I would make sure people trusted more in their instincts and gut reaction. I would create a better balance between research numbers and just doubt. I think that we're losing a little bit of that lately, especially in digital.

What would be your #1 tip for a creative director?

Not a lot of people talk about this, but I think that presenting is as important as the work itself. So my number one tip for creative directors is if you're not comfortable with being in front of a client and being really excited about what you're presenting, maybe you should consider not being a creative director. I met so many people that part of their career path included becoming a creative director, but they just didn't have what it takes. They were great art directors and copywriters, but that's not everything. You've got to get in front of a big audience and be able to sell your work. So my big tip would be if you don't feel comfortable with that and you really want to be a creative director, go work on your presentation skills. Honestly, what we do is 60% creative work and 40% acting—acting not in a bad way, but being in front of a client and having presence.

What's your least favorite advertising trend?

Going with the trends without understanding what they mean. A year ago or two years, when Subservient Chicken was out, every single client wanted a Subservient Chicken. Everything that we would hear in a meeting was, "I want a viral video." Clients didn't even understand that viral wasn't a formula, and it isn't mechanical. If the consequences would work, that's why people spread work around, not because you design it in a specific way. Now, everything people talk about is Web 2.0 and social networking sites. It's not specifically one thing or another. It's just the fact that a bunch of clients and marketing directors want to do what their competitors are doing just to say that they're doing that too, but not really thinking about the impact that there is on the brand.

If you weren't in advertising, what would you be doing?

Music. I produce music. My brother has a band in Brazil and he's actually doing pretty well there. I've got a couple songs that are number one in many cities in Brazil. My brother's band plays Latin music, which is very unique because usually music in Spanish doesn't do very well in Brazil. But my thing really is hip-hop. I have a home studio and everything.
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