Brazilian Bridge

P.J. Pereira heads north to AKQA to help close the continental interactive gap.

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P.J. Pereira
At just 28, Rio de Janeiro native P.J. Pereira already has a lifetime's worth of achievements. By the age of 20, he published his first book, which became a Brazilian business best-seller. After the self-taught computer programmer launched the internet department of Brazil's DM9, he left to start his own interactive shop, Agencia Click, which after its first year became the most awarded shop of its kind, garnering the most cyber hardware at Cannes, including the 2001 Grand Prix. Now, Pereira has moved north, leaving the sunny Rio shores for the milder clime of San Francisco, where he'll be executive creative director of the Bay Area headquarters of interactive agency AKQA, and come June, he'll be jury president of the 2005 Cannes Cyber Lions. To top that off, he's also a painter who has exhibited in galleries, and -- although he admits he's kind of out of shape right now -- he has a black belt in Chinese kenpo.

This Renaissance man's ego should be sky high considering all the landmarks he's reached, but Pereira is about as down to earth as you can get, as demonstrated in his work and philosophies. Agencia Click, with clients that included Coca-Cola, Fiat, MSN and World Wildlife Federation, became known for work that embraced the emotive potential of the web, at a time when the industry was wondering if such a thing was even possible. Its 2001 Cyber Grand Prix winner, "Blind" for the São Paulo Eye Bank, remains exemplary to this day. The deceptively simple banner, which at first appears as a random smattering of dots, turns out, after a rollover of the mouse, to be a braille message with text reading "donate cornea."

"I think that piece is a symbol of what I still believe is good in interactive advertising," he says. "Even though the internet happens inside the computer, which seems to be a very cold machine, it's a very emotional platform. If you watch a teenager playing a videogame, he probably has more adrenaline in his blood than when he's watching any movie. The braille piece was really important for me to show that we can create a very emotional reaction through an interactive experience. What's funny about it is when you show it, it's completely different from when you mouse over it yourself and read the braille. You really have to experience it. The interactive platform, when it sparks your emotion, is much more powerful than any other kind of thing."

At AKQA, Pereira will be tackling a broad base of clients -- Visa, Nike, BMW, PalmOne, and Xbox -- all of which undoubtedly will require more than just banners. But the thinking on even massive projects, he says, is just the same. "If you're able to generate spontaneous excitement or emotion from a small rectangle, then you're able to do lots of other different things in bigger environments. Even when you're working on something large, it's still about the little details. And it's in the details that you really make something happen."

As for why Pereira decided to leave the shop he co-founded, "It was time for me to become global, to do more influential work worldwide. Budget-wise, we'll have much more freedom to make bigger dreams come true. Both the European and American markets are experienced and mature in using the web as a business tool; the broadband penetration is much bigger. It's a whole new creative playground." While he remains a partner at Agencia Click, as an ECD at AKQA he becomes a member of the agency's ambitious new "global council," an international team of equally accomplished mavens, comprised also of recent New York office hires Lars Bastholm, from Denmark's Framfab, and Rei Inamoto, formerly of R/GA, as well as James Hilton and Daniel Bonner, both from AKQA's London office. The council will be responsible for maintaining the shop's creative standards worldwide and pushing forward with innovations in the industry.

Meanwhile, Pereira's next big charge looms in June, with the Cannes cyber jury. "That's an honor and a very scary one. We're going to give the whole world the notion of what was good and new creatively in the past year. It's about honoring what's been done in the past but also inspiring what's to be done in the future. It's a huge responsibility, but it gives me a whole new opportunity to rethink the market and the work that has been done in the world."
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