Agency A-List 2018

David Miami Is Ad Age's Agency Innovator of the Year

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The Goliaths at David: (top row) Anselmo Ramos, Gastón Bigio, Fernando Musa and Veronica Beach; (bottom row) Tony Kalathara, Paulo Fogaca, Jon Carlaw and Carmen Rodriguez.
The Goliaths at David: (top row) Anselmo Ramos, Gastón Bigio, Fernando Musa and Veronica Beach; (bottom row) Tony Kalathara, Paulo Fogaca, Jon Carlaw and Carmen Rodriguez. Credit: David Miami

In 2017, Miami-based David's daring and creative zeal led it to some strange and interesting places.

For Burger King, it turned several real fires at BK stores into a print campaign reminding consumers of its flame-grilled offerings, and it created the press-generating "Google Home of the Whopper" campaign that used a simple 15-second TV spot to prompt virtual assistants to deliver Whopper monologues. After both initiatives earned a Cannes Lions Grand Prix, David kept the burger buzz going with a moving campaign about bullying filmed in an actual BK. In it, both a high school junior (played by an actor) and a Whopper Jr. were "bullied"—the burger basically smashed to bits—to see which one generated more complaints from real-life customers.

But great work was hardly limited to the fast-food chain. For Kraft Heinz, for instance, David "borrowed" from "Mad Men" by executing Don Draper's failed pitch for a ketchup campaign that showed how certain foods, like fries and steak, are "incomplete" without a dollop of the sauce. The tagline (as was Draper's): "Pass the Heinz."

David adopts fictional 'Mad Men' creative director Don Draper's idea for Heinz ketchup.
David adopts fictional 'Mad Men' creative director Don Draper's idea for Heinz ketchup. Credit: AMC

Collectively, the shop's ideas were non-formulaic and inspired. Whether a simple print campaign, a complex digital hack or even a bit of thievery, the work made David's clients the center of attention in an era when attention drifts easily from one quick hit to the next. It's for this we award David Miami our 2018 Innovator of the Year, the new name for our long-running Creativity Agency of the Year honor.

Indeed, last year's powerful body of work might be the best yet to come from the Ogilvy network shop born as a tribute, of sorts, to the name on its shingle: legendary agency founder David Ogilvy. Co-founders Anselmo Ramos, Gastón Bigio and Fernando Musa opened David in Buenos Aires and São Paulo in 2012, and then, in 2014, they took a chance on Miami.

The creative is the result of the agency being "always on," says Chief Creative Officer Ramos. Even if the team hasn't been briefed, "we're always bringing proactive ideas to our clients, to the point that they say, 'Guys, enough! I don't have the budget.' "

The "Mad Men" project "started with an email saying, 'Wouldn't it be amazing?' It wasn't linked to a brief," says Kraft Heinz Senior VP, Head of Brand and R&D U.S. Michelle St. Jacques. "They're not thinking about your brand just against your brief; they're thinking about how you can make the brand be a part of culture and conversation."

In November, David added another big brand name to its roster: Budweiser. "They spent a lot of time with us understanding our challenges, which gave them flexibility to constantly pitch ideas," says Ricardo Marques, VP of marketing for Budweiser at Anheuser-Busch InBev. The first work the agency delivered was a stunt in an Atlanta bar, where a fake-news broadcast announcing Prohibition's return rattled the customers. Next was a touching spot in last month's Super Bowl highlighting AB InBev's program to provide water to disaster victims.

"Our challenge to them was, 'How can we put a spotlight on the human side of Budweiser?' " says Marques. "They brought [back] a spot showing our human side while also celebrating our own employees."

"David certainly dreams big and they challenge us to make our creative as iconic as our 150-year-old brand," says Kraft Heinz's St. Jacques. "The David guys are addicted to creativity and big ideas, and they make you, as a brand partner, just as addicted to them."

David makes sure people know that Burger King's burgers are flame-grilled with ads showing actual stores on fire.
David makes sure people know that Burger King's burgers are flame-grilled with ads showing actual stores on fire. Credit: Burger King

Such addiction comes naturally from a bunch of ad nerds. Ramos cops to being the sort of dude who asked his English teacher at school to use One Show and D&AD annuals for instruction: "I had to learn every word of every ad." It's passion like this that the agency's leaders have demanded in all the talent that comes on board, he says. "[David staffers] watch every fucking thing. They know every ad from every agency from every country ever."

"The only way to be 'always on' is to be a little obsessed about this industry," says fellow Chief Creative Officer Bigio. "[And] when you're an ad nerd, you're a nerd about everything. You're a nerd about net neutrality [a BK campaign used Whoppers to teach the general public about the term]. You're a nerd about understanding Google Home. Our team loves so much about what's going on, about technology."

The resilience of the team will be tested soon enough. Chief Creatives Ramos and Bigio announced at the end of last year that they would be are departing in March to open an independent agency, while Musa will continue to steer the Ogilvy shop as chairman.

"We've built something together that goes beyond the three founders," says Musa. "We're going to miss the guys, but the passion of doing great work comes not just from the founders, but from everybody we chose for our agency. My job now is to [show] the clients and the team that it's business as usual."

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