Three MTV Amigos

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MTV Latin America networks, home to the Spanish-language channels MTV Latin America, the newly launched VH1 Latin America and Nickelodeon Latin America, have become a hot place for creative, and that doesn't have anything to do with their tropical headquarters in Miami. In the last two years, MTV/LA won two Cannes Lions, most recently for a retrospective campaign entitled "Diez A -- os (Ten Years)," through Argentine agency/production company Injaus Films, and, most memorably, in 2003 for La Communidad's "Baby," featuring an overzealous breast-feeder. Now, the trio of networks has a trio of relatively new creative directors who have produced plenty of entertaining work in spots, IDs, promos and packages. While the three CDs-Fernando Lazarri, Jose "Pepe" Carmona and Jimmy Leroy-work closely together physically and watch football together while talking shop, their professional work is varied.

"Sometimes I find myself being a client," says Lazarri, creative director and director of on-air promos at VH1 Latin America, "and it's weird because I know all about the production of a spot and sometimes I micro-manage. We also act as an agency for clients like Reebok and Nokia, so we play all of those roles, sometimes at the same time." "Baby" and "Diez A -- os" both were created under Lazarri's tenure as creative director at MTV before he joined VH1 for its April 2004 launch. An Argentine graphic designer who has worked in computer animation and broadcast design, Lazarri joined MTV/LA in 2000. Working closely with the creative teams at VH1 in the U.S. and U.K., Lazarri calls the channel "more down to earth" and "true to real life" than sister station MTV. His latest projects have included 28 music IDs for VH1/LA that feature animated graphic design over video clips, set to a popular song. In addition to popping off the screen, the graphics, inspired by '60s record covers, also include words that comment on the song, whether by pointing out details in the visual or spelling out song lyrics. "I like them because they're energetic," Lazarri says. "The choice of the song that we use is critical, because we try to be strategic. We use both classic songs, like something from the Clash or an '80s hit, or we pick what I call new classics, things like the Black Eyed Peas or Outkast." Another project is a package for a show called Neo, which features exotic 3-D flowers on a white background. "It has very few elements, but what I like about that packaging is the combination of elements that show the power of the channel. There's something about the strong colors, the white background and the music that is happy and relaxed."

Carmona, creative director at MTV/LA, started his career at the network as a producer after finishing communications school in his native Mexico. After helping to launch a couple of lifestyle stations in Vietnam and Korea, he returned to MTV/LA as creative director less than a year ago. He finds himself in an enviable position in which edgy work is demanded, and sex appeal and gross-out humor are used liberally. Take, for example, "Diez A -- os," whose stars are two middle-aged cleaning ladies who reminisce about the network's milestones while cleaning up after its stars. In the Cannes-winning "Kiss," one laments the Britney-Madonna stunt until the other asks if she's ever tried it. They re-enact the lip-lock perfectly, then continue about their business nonchalantly.

Like VH1/LA, MTV/LA is shown in northern and southern regions of Latin America, the former comprising Mexico and Venezuela, the latter Argentina, Chile and Bolivia. Carmona praises agencies in both regions for strong work and a willingness to execute campaigns like "Diez A -- os," which in some cases requires thinking twice about concepts that must be translated into different dialects. "In the case of MTV, it's more about the voiceover," Carmona says. "We pay a lot of attention to the Argentines and the way that we produce the spots, because they're very proud of their accents and culture."

However, Nick/LA, shown in Brazil as well as the countries in the northern and southern markets, adds Portuguese to the mix. Fortunately, Leroy, a native Brazilian and veteran of MTV Brazil, started in Nick/LA's offices six months ago, like Lazarri bringing graphic and broadcast design to the mix. According to Leroy, who is working on new identity and promo packages, he'd like to continue in the vein of Nick/LA's last image campaign-a series of spots that emphasize childlike imagination-with variations on the same idea. "The campaign starts with the child's point of view, and the camera sees through the eyes of the child. When the imagination starts, it is animated," he says.

All three creatives, needless to say, must find time amid the constant barrage of deadlines and projects to keep their fingers on the pulse of youth culture. Intensive web surfing, TV watching and comics reading are de rigueur. "One of the things that's really good about our jobs," says Lazarri, "is that nothing is written anywhere, and that forces us to be looking for the methods and the processes and the technology all the time. It's an ever-changing job."

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