Ad Age is marking Hispanic Heritage Month 2023 with our Honoring Creative Excellence package, in which members of the Hispanic community revisit some of their favorite creative projects. (Read the introduction here.) Today, guest editor Alejandro Clabiorne turns the spotlight to Roberto Alcazar, executive VP and managing partner at 305 Worldwide, who writes about the creative agency’s “culture-first” approach.
For me, heritage and Hispanic heritage are, of course, linked—not just through my ethnicity, but through all elements of culture and beyond. I am honored to share about 305 Worldwide’s “culture-first” work, inspired by heritage, born from heart and cultivating communities. But I’ll first share a bit of my story.
My first approach to a bicultural world started when I was 5. I was born in Madrid, Spain, but grew up in Maracaibo, Venezuela, through high school. At that early age, I had to quickly adapt to two accents (imagine British and American), two cuisines and two very different cultural mindsets—the one from the motherland coming to discover a new world and one of the warriors that were never, ever discovered. At that age, that’s all I knew, so I embraced both.
Fast-forward to my first job at an advertising agency in New York City. As a junior copywriter about three months into the job, my first boss got transferred to our Venezuela office. He stopped by my cubicle and asked me if I knew where Venezuela was, and then I was signed up for my first international transfer. I spent my first 10 years in advertising in four different countries. This gave me the opportunity to understand people from all backgrounds, places, realities and cultures. My work was to quickly learn the nuances of each market and consumer. The same words have different meanings. A compliment in one place can be an insult in another. The more I could find real insights, the more I could connect with more people around the globe.
Then it was time for me to come back to the U.S.—and for the first time, I heard the term “Hispanic market.” A market within a market? I had never been classified as Hispanic until I came to the U.S. I was Spaniard, Venezuelan or Latino, at the most. The Hispanic term (the way we know it today) was first used here out of the necessity to group us all within a political or economic context, and the term was starting to extend to marketing.
Soon enough, I was writing for one of the biggest ad agencies in the country as its official Hispanic creative director. And there, for the first time, I felt that what I considered my superpower—my heritage—ironically was putting me in a box. And I had a problem with that. My new work was not about finding the cultural insights where we all connect, but with budget allocations. And I started finding that many like me had the same feeling. It’s never one thing or the other, one culture or the other, but both together. Culture is active; it doesn’t stay in a box. It moves, grows, blends and expands. The notion that you can separate culture in percentages—50% this and 50% that—is unreal in practicality.
This is what inspired 305 Worldwide’s “culture-first”—an approach to universal truths that connect with our very own. I couldn’t be prouder of our work for GoGo squeeZ, a true partner for the past three years. Our debut campaign helped the brand break into parent culture and was honored with a Gold Telly Award in 2022. We launched with four powerful stories of four powerhouse kids. The first of the series featured Angelica “Cookie” Serratos, an 11-year-old girl who is undefeated in the typically male-dominated sport of wrestling.