U.S. Hispanic Creative Pablo Buffagni Starts BBQ Agency

Veteran of Conill and Grupo Gallegos Returns to Ad Industry

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Pablo Buffagni, one of the best-known U.S. Hispanic creative directors, is returning in a new role. He's combining his creative expertise with a talent for asado, the Argentine word for barbecue, in a new creative agency called BBQ.

Pablo Buffagni
Pablo Buffagni

Until April, Mr. Buffagni was chief creative officer of independent Hispanic shop Grupo Gallegos. Before that, he spent a decade at Saatchi & Saatchi's U.S. Hispanic agency Conill, leaving his job there as chief creative officer in 2012 to join Grupo Gallegos. There was been widespread speculation about what Mr. Buffagni would do next.

"All the agencies have acronyms like BBDO, DDB, AKQA and I thought about asados, and [that led to] barbecues, and BBQ, which looks like a corporate logo," he said. "Coming from Argentina, and doing asados almost every week, I thought it's a nice metaphor for the U.S. Every culture has its own recipes, and their own approach. In the end, you have to fix something for everyone, and the side dishes may be different."

The agency's new website continues the comparison with "the universe of barbecue, a good analogy for brands serving the new America."

Mr. Buffagni said he plans to hire a small core team, and be flexible about bringing others to the table as needed for accounts and projects, working directly with clients or with other multicultural or general market agencies. He sees new opportunities as marketers consolidate projects and move toward a more total market approach that leaves a lot of general market agencies scrambling for Hispanic expertise.

"I want to take advantage of the experience I have working with Toyota, T-Mobile, and Got Milk," he said.

Mr. Buffagni is one of the most-awarded creatives in the U.S. Hispanic market, and is known for his innovative use of nontraditional advertising. He was the first U.S. Hispanic creative to win a Gold Lion in the film category at the Cannes Lions festival, and has swept local Hispanic awards in the U.S. His previous long-time shop Conill was Ad Age's Multicultural Agency of the Year in 2007 and again in 2011.

Since leaving Grupo Gallegos earlier this year, he's continued to work on a long-time pro bono project called Fundacion Forever, which helps poor children in El Salvador, and has handled a few projects for small clients like an Argentine Malbec wine vineyard.

And yes, prospective clients will be invited to an asado prepared by Mr. Buffagni, aka Chef Pablo. A few of his barbecue secrets:

1. He uses only salt to season the meat.

2. He cooks with charcoal, not gas.

3. Once the meat is on the grill, don't move it around.

4. For vegetarians, grill peppers and poach an egg inside, with cheese.