Sao Paulo Museum Exhibits 20 Years of Alexandre Gama's Ads

Work, Sometimes Controversial, Is For VW, GE, Levi's, Johnnie Walker and Anti-Smoking Groups in Brazil

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Brazil's advertising is such an integral part of popular culture that a museum exhibition of Alexandre Gama's creative journey featuring more than 100 ads done at four Sao Paulo agencies -- DM9 DDB, Almap BBDO, Young & Rubicam and Neogama BBH -- makes perfect sense.

In a stroll through the month-long show at Sao Paulo's Museu de Arte Brasileira, Mr. Gama, who is global chief creative officer of BBH and CEO of Neogama/BBH, points out Apple's first ad in Brazil, print work for GE's frost-free freezer and Ford's Ka launch, Levi's ads with faces made of denim, and wispy smoke sculptures in anti-smoking ads.

The place of honor goes to Johnnie Walker's 2011 "Rock Giant" portraying Brazil as a giant that awakes. Besides being a technically-complex blockbuster TV spot, the awakening-giant image was appropriated as a rallying cry in last year's massive street protests. The protestors' viral parody plays on a huge screen next to the original spot. The museum took the last frame from the spot, blew it up and used software to create the outline of the giant within a wood frame, providing a giant entrance to the "Rock Giant" section.

Another area features a model of Neogama/BBH's Sao Paulo office, built in 2004, and a camera that shows the agency's interior and staffers in real time.

One early ad from the pope's 1992 visit to Brazil plays on insurance company Itau Seguros role in insuring the Popemobile with the line "Not even the Pope leaves everything in God's hands."

In 1994, there was the controversial task of bringing back the Beetle, dropped in favor of more modern cars, when Brazil's then-president Itamar Franco asked Volkswagen to resume production of the affordable but outdated vehicle. The return didn't last long, but it was heralded by big outdoor ads with lines like "It's confirmed, re-incarnation exists" (offending a Catholic country) and "Potholes, I'm back" (offending Sao Paulo's mayor, who defensively launched Operation Fill Potholes).

The giant outdoor board where the VW and other billboard ads are displayed is itself a curiosity. Sao Paulo banned outdoor ads in 2007.

"I brought my daughters here, and they said 'what's that, daddy?'" Mr. Gama said.