We Believers wins over clients with extraordinary ideas and commitment
Last year, while the world struggled to adapt to virtual working during the pandemic, it was business as usual for We Believers.
“We’re no longer the weird guys who work from home, which is how it used to be with clients before the pandemic,” says the agency’s Co-Founder and President Marco Vega.
When Vega and Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer Gustavo Lauria opened the agency in 2014, its headquarters were already “based in the cloud,” with staffers working from their abodes in cities including New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Buenos Aires and Mexico City. Built on a foundation of low overhead and flexibility for staff, the agency’s untethered model has allowed it to double down on what it believes matters most—impactful ideas and the talents required to dream them up. “We said, ‘Let’s invest in the people, because fancy offices don’t come up with ideas,’” says Lauria.
A vet of agencies including Y&R and DDB, Lauria long had aspirations to open his own shop and was raring to go after an eight year-run as a creative director at La Comunidad. So in 2012, he called up Vega, a former McKinsey consultant and Procter & Gamble engineer-turned-planner whom he had come to respect over the years. Vega, however, had just signed on to a leadership post at Vidal Partnership and asked Lauria to join him instead. It was during that time the pair did a “trial run” working together and discovered they had real chemistry, which gave them the confidence to finally go out on their own in 2014.
“When we decided it was time, we were both in our early 40s, coming into the best period of our personal lives,” Vega recalls. “We said, ‘Let’s start We Believers to do the best work of our careers.’ That was, and continues to be, top of mind.”
That investment has paid off in We Believers’ string of consistently breakthrough ideas that do more than just “sell”—they also set out to change the world. In 2020, those included arguably the most ambitious campaign in its short history. Burger King’s “Cow’s Menu” push unabashedly acknowledged the brand’s contribution to climate change—and set out to fix it. We Believers helped BK conceive a new diet for cattle designed to reduce their belches and farts by feeding them methane-reducing herbs and plants.
Working with scientists, they found that adding 100 grams of lemongrass to cows’ daily feed in the final four months of their life could reduce daily methane emissions by up to 33 percent. The effort was promoted in a music video-style ad directed by Michel Gondry and led to environmentally friendly burgers sold at Burger Kings in Austin, L.A., Miami, New York and Portland, 12.5 billion global impressions and a 200% lift in consumer perception of BK as a sustainable brand.
The agency calls its approach “creative activism.” Before “Cow’s Menu,” that thinking manifested in “Edible Six-Pack Rings” for Saltwater Brewery, an invention the agency debuted in 2016 as an alternative to the plastic that tethers canned beverages together, notoriously endangering sea life. It went on to win multiple Cannes Lions, including Gold in the Innovation category.
In 2020, We Believers also worked with DoorDash on a Hispanic market campaign that aimed to help both struggling local restaurants and the local art scene at a time when many celebrations, such as Art Basel, were put on hold or muted during the pandemic. The “Art for Foodies” effort reimagined the art auction via the DoorDash ordering platform and allowed consumers to bid on works created by Hispanic artists through the purchase of DoorDash orders from Hispanic-run businesses.
With live sports were put on hold due to COVID, the agency also sifted through historic soccer archives for Corona and put together a "match of ages" between Mexico's biggest football teams that spanned 70 years to keep fans entertained and the brand top of mind. A campaign for Bacardi-owned spirits brand Stillhouse set out to protect the homes of Florida panhandle residents who were victims of Hurricane Michael with "unbreakable" custom shutters.
Such “big” thinking has been good for business. The agency’s revenue jumped from $7.2 million to $10.2 million in 2020. After a tough 2019 that saw the loss of two of its biggest clients, We Believers recovered with account wins including Corona and Modelo in Mexico and Burger King in Argentina. And in the U.S., wins included E&J Gallo Winery's Barefoot Wine and Bacardi’s Stillhouse Spirits; Hispanic market project work for DoorDash; and Hispanic agency-of-record status for Boston Beer’s Truly Hard Seltzer and Twisted Tea. The shop also won global agency-of-record duties for Barilla’s Wasa.
Today, Lauria and Vega oversee a team of about 40 across the world. Together, the two leaders are like the advertising version of Kobe and Shaq. Vega describes Lauria as the storyteller and big creative thinker who dreams up the ideas. “Without the creative idea, great innovation would fall short from really capturing the minds and hearts of consumers,” he says. Lauria calls Vega a rare talent who combines strategy, consulting and engineering to make those big ideas happen: “Marco gets excited about those ideas and jumps in like a Labrador.”
Marcelo Páscoa, VP of brand marketing for Coors and former VP-global head of brand marketing at Burger King, watched the pair and their team bring “Cow’s Menu” to life over two years. Initially, it was just a lofty idea the agency presented to him and former Restaurant Brands International Global CMO Fernando Machado at Cannes. One year later, after the We Believers team traveled the globe consulting and working with scientists, they returned with a solution.
“What is unique about We Believers is that they are truly willing to commit unconditionally to an idea,” Pascoa says. “This means having their most senior leaders working tirelessly to bring it to life, regardless of technology challenges, how much effort will be needed into crafting the idea to the very best version of itself, how deep they will have to dive into a subject and everything they will need to learn to crack a specific campaign. It is a level of commitment that is very rarely seen.”
And their commitment goes beyond the run of your average campaign. The research Burger King began with “Cow’s Menu” is expanding in pilots and testing across the U.S., Austria, Ireland, Mexico and Brazil, via partnerships with some of the world’s largest meat producers. We Believers rolled out the edible six-pack rings into a standalone product and company, E6PR, which is now valued at $40 million. The rings have been adopted in 25 countries on five continents, by brands including Corona Mexico, Guinness U.S., Molson Coors in Canada and more than 180 craft breweries.
“That feeling of working on things that only make sense in the Powerpoint but don’t do anything else, spending months writing scripts, taking planes for a TV spot that people don’t pay attention to—it doesn’t make sense,” Lauria says. “We want to make the impossible possible and inspire people.”
And the agency’s shingle serves as a constant reminder to continue in that vein. “It’s based on a very simple concept,” he says. “When you truly believe in something, it will happen.”