Creatives Now: Thiago Zanato

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The Internet revolution arrived in Brazil at the perfect moment for Thiago Zanato, the now 29-year-old associate creative director at San Francisco digital agency AKQA. "I was just a kid that liked computers," he says. "And I went to advertising school. With the dot-com boom, it magically happened that two of my biggest interests merged." Back then, he says, the early versions of Photoshop and Flash "were super easy to learn if you were just a little bit dorky," which he cops to being. He joined AgênciaClick, where he rose to the position of design director at the leading agency in a market that was quick to embrace interactive advertising. "The thing about the Brazilian digital agencies was that Brazilians can deal with really small budgets, and that's why they did well," he says. "Now, half the Brazilians I used to work with [have] left—and I'm one of them." In fact, Zanato followed a fellow countryman—P.J. Pereira—from AgênciaClick to AKQA in 2005, when Pereira (who set out on his own in late 2007) was named ECD at the San Francisco shop.

Since then, Zanato has demonstrated that he can deal with big budgets as well—provided by the likes of Nike and Microsoft. His 2007 showpiece was the website for the Halo 3 "Believe" campaign, which allows users to navigate through a real-life diorama that was created to honor the achievements of the game's protagonist, Master Chief. "It's funny," he says of the site, which was created using old school filmmaking techniques. "You do digital and you're totally obsessed with it, but then you realize that going back to analog is the coolest thing you can do." Nevertheless, Zanato has seen a lot of progress in digital advertising in his young career. Whereas interactive agencies used to be slaves to more traditional shops, he says "it's gotten much better now, and we're driving some of the campaigns." And more change is surely on the way, which is just the way Zanato likes it.

"I think the reason why I do well in advertising is because I don't like to do the same thing over and over," he says. "I force myself to change just for fun, because I get bored. But that's what the industry requires you to do, too. You have to adapt so much. If you like changing and doing different things and approaching things differently, it's the right industry to be in."
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