Creative Under Quarantine: Gustavo Lauria on DIY haircuts, CBD and working remotely with BK and Corona
Ad Age is kicking off a new series, Creative Under Quarantine, in which we’re asking agency execs to document their lives in isolation from the COVID-19 pandemic—the good, the bad, the frustrating, the funny and the mundane.
For the first edition, we have Gustavo Lauria, co-founder of agency We Believers, the shop behind the multiple Lion-winning "Edible Six-Pack Rings" and notable work for Burger King like the "Traffic Jam Whopper." Here, he tracks a week of his life in isolation across two continents, in which he went from his home in New York City (before the pandemic hit hard) to Buenos Aires, Argentina to be closer to his family. For his shop, working remotely is the norm. Headquartered in "the cloud," We Believers' 27 staffers are spread out across New York, Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Miami and Houston. But being isolated during the crisis threw a new hitch into the process, at least for its founder.
If you have a quarantine story to tell, get in touch with Ad Age’s Creativity Editor Ann-Christine Diaz at [email protected].
4 PM (NYC) The kid who lives in apartment 6H just asked if anyone’s told me I look like Tony Stark. I’d heard the comparison before, but this time it rang truer than others. While I’m clearly not the kind of guy who would risk his life just to save the universe, at this particular moment I feel I’m tapping into a superpower. The power of keeping cool while staying home all day every day. That’s basically my routine since we founded We Believers. The whole company works remotely from home. Six times a week between waking up and going back to sleep, I write, bounce ideas around, videoconference with the team, do a little meditation, try to stretch out the pain in on my left side, watch comedies, eat ham and cheese, sometimes burgers, perhaps a little ice cream (always stracciatella) then drink a beer or two. It’s a far cry from fighting Thanos, but if what’s being asked of everyone is staying indoors, it won’t freak me out in the least.
5PM I have to run to JFK. My mom convinced me that New York’s gearing up to be the next hotbed of coronavirus. Plus, she needs me in Buenos Aires and the Argentine government will be closing the country’s borders first thing tomorrow morning.
8 PM I can’t believe I’m cleaning the row of my 27K seat with a 99.9% effective alcohol-based wipe. What if this COVID thing is part of the other 0.1%?
9 PM “BEER!” That’s what I said three times to the flight attendant with no success. I wonder if it’s my accent or the facial mask I’m wearing …
9:15 PM I just realized I’m hiding from a pandemic virus behind a paper mask that the super of my building forgot after painting my apartment.
10 PM It’s a bumpy ride. So bumpy, I worry I might die before the virus has a chance to kill me. Meanwhile, the guy with a ponytail sitting in 26G is loudly sharing his pseudo-scientific theory that “the plane’s AC is so cold that it will kill any virus.”
10:15 PM Grabbing my “Le Petit Prince” moleskin and my lucky pen. If I’m going to die I'd rather do it with the smile I get when I have a good idea.
9 AM (Buenos Aires) The plane’s landing wakes me. Thank God I have the ability to sleep on any plane. Even Spirit or JetBlue. No way billionaire playboy philanthropist Tony Stark could pull that off.
10 AM The Uber driver is coughing non-stop, but I have a false sense of security because my super’s mask is keeping me safe.
10:05 AM The driver stops coughing to offer me his big bottle of hand sanitizer, and I seriously debate stealing it.
11 AM I arrived to the house my father usually rents out. The keys are in the mailbox, and Dad is waving his greeting from across the street. I wave back, pointing to the big bottle of hand sanitizer as to show off my foresight and preparedness.
11:15 AM Inventory time: I have WiFi, a bed, some vegetables, fruits, a package of spaghetti and a jar of tomato sauce. (Dad is from Italy). Also a CD player and some disks he left … Fausto Papetti and his sax might be my best choice, especially if I can’t find any comedies I like in the Argentinian version of Netflix.
1 PM Mom calls to give me an unrequested and extremely detailed update about the pandemic. She seems resolved to make sure that I’m panicking appropriately.
2:30 PM The spaghetti is ready and I realize that the only silverware I have is the bamboo set I always carry in my bag.
11 PM While there’s no silverware, it turns out my father left concentrated, organic CBD drops I brought for Mom on my previous trip.
12:15 AM I just had an idea I love. Texting [Burger King Global CMO Fernando] Machado to share it together with a video as a reference. He always answers quickly—day, night and once literally in the middle of his honeymoon.
12:21 AM There he is: "Ur links never work (Tears of Joy emoji) What do you think if we do the spot you mentioned at the last shoot, and we run it when the CV curve starts to come down?"
12:22 AM Me: "(Heart eyes emoji) Producing stuff now is a challenge, but let’s find a way. If you need a good comedy for the quarantine, check Broad City. Comedies are good before you sleep."
12:30 AM "Broad City? I'll check. Watch Don’t Fuck with Cats."
3 AM After rewatching some "Broad City" episodes, I read social posts of agencies who’re bragging about their ability to work remotely. Then I decide to try those CBD drops for the first time in my life.
3:30 AM I’m too tired to bother reading the directions, but there’s an eyedropper built into the lid and three squirts seems an appropriate number.
2:30 PM This may be the first time in a decade I’ve slept more than six hours in one stretch outside of air travel.
3:30 PM Spaghetti leftovers. I like them cold from the fridge, the way all leftovers are meant to be eaten.
5:30 PM I’m ready for a nap. Is it because of the CBD concentrate?
3:30 AM I can’t sleep, so I turn on the light to read the CBD drops instructions. Yesterday I took an extra two and a half squirts. Meditation sounds like a better solution now.
9 AM I woke up thinking that I want to make the most of this quarantine. If doctors don’t know how to cure the pain in my side, maybe a good cleanse will do the trick?
1:30 PM I tell my dad I don’t want any meat, sugar, gluten, dairy or alcohol. He asks if the diet has anything to do with the coronavirus.
2:30 PM Since flying in from the U.S., I’m not allowed to leave the house or have human contact for 14 days. Dad does my shopping, then leaves the fruits and veggies by my garage.
9 PM Minestrone soup will be my dinner every night this week. And for the next 30 days, I’ll keep up with YouTube’s "Yoga with Adriene."
8 AM I wake up feeling healthier than ever and ready to think up something that potentially shapes the entire future of advertising.
9 AM I think Fernando didn’t say anything about the Idea I sent last Friday night. … Let’s come up with something better.
1 PM I write a script I really like. To celebrate, I have two eggplants for lunch.
5 PM I’m not sure if I like oranges or bananas better, but for packaging design, bananas deserve the black pencil.
9 PM I got a text confirming that the launch of our biggest campaign of the year is getting delayed because of the virus. To swallow the bad news: Minestrone.
1:45 AM Thinking that I will not be able to go to a hair salon and I don’t even have a cap to cover my curls.
3 AM I get lots of messages from people who are worried about me in N.Y. My answer: I’m in Buenos Aires and doing fine, except for the 2 AM haircut I gave myself.
9 AM My hair doesn’t look that bad.
9:30 AM Thinking up ideas, with a stick of celery in hand, for our newest client: Corona. The beer, that is.
9 PM Still writing up ideas. With such a challenging brief, the hours have flown by.
10:30 PM Call with three of the creatives to work together.
1 AM I have it! Is it too late to text the client? Decide it’s fine, it’s earlier in Mexico anyway.
1:15 AM Text from the client: “Call me.”
1:30 AM He really likes it.
4 AM My art directors finish the comps and we send them on.
10 AM Sending a voice message to the client to push a little bit more and convince them to do it by saying how easy it would be to make it happen. This time I have a green apple in hand. (A good creative deserves better than celery.)
2 PM I didn't even do the first of a slated "30 days of Yoga with Adriene." Maybe I should, because the pain in my side has moved to my lower back and intensified.
4 PM Eating nothing but veggies and fruits is considerably more difficult when you spend the day thinking about Burger King and Corona beers.
4:15 PM I eat 15 walnuts and a tea with no milk, no sugar. I decide honey is OK.
11 PM My minestrone is ready. And you know what? It hasn’t really bothered me not having any stracciatella all this week.
2 AM Just learned about the genius who invented the ice cream. He was a Chinese emperor who ordered his soldiers to bring snow from the top of a mountain and mix it with fruits. Titanium for that guy!
8:30 AM My father brings me his electronic scale, but it has no batteries.
9 AM Happy to read that pollution levels are going down in China and fish are coming back to Venice.
9:30 AM I feel very dizzy. Not sure if it’s because of the diet, the clients, the CBD squirts or the coronavirus that found me once the airplane’s AC was no longer keeping me "safe."
9 PM No soup tonight, please! Decision made: I’ll have potatoes with potatoes and potatoes as a side.
2:45 AM I wake up remembering that I have rechargeable batteries for Dad’s scale.
11:15 AM I’m eating a Whopper and drinking a Corona when Mom calls and asks if I’m taking good care of myself. “Definitely,” I tell her. “Not only have I lost seven pounds, but I’ve had the AC blasting all week.”