Next in our Celebration of Creative Excellence for Hispanic Heritage Month, our guest editor, Hyphenated Founder Will Esparza, gives the stage to Gerardo Ortiz, VP-creative director at The SpringHill Company, the Emmy-winning media company founded by LeBron James and Maverick Carter. Ortiz is the son of Ofelia from Torreón, Mexico and Basilio, a native of Zacatecas, Mexico. He's also an alum of agencies including 72andSunny and TBWA\Chiat\Day and has created for brands including Nike, adidas, the NFL, P&G, ESPN, Uninterrupted, Gatorade, Samsung, Rockstar and more. Throughout his career, his approach has been to “make the work personal,” he says. “Personal in a way where I want to treat every person’s story that I’m telling with the same care and respect as if I were telling my own.”
Here, he shares a pair of campaigns, one for Pepsico's Rockstar Energy Drink inspired by traditional Mexican folklore music, and another for P&G, aimed at inspiring Black boys to think expansively about possibilities for their future.
Before I dive into the work that I want to feature, I want to say it’s the culmination of a lot of people's work, creativity and trust. If you like the way it’s written, the way it’s directed or you are like, “Oh shit, I don’t know how they produced this,” reach out and I'll give you the names of who did what as I hype them up.
For me, there are two pieces of work that exemplify my approach as a creative, one that relied on tapping into my personal experiences and another that revolved on just shutting up and listening. The first was a project called “Cobrar” with PepsiCo's Rockstar Energy Drink. The team and I worked with Rockstar to land on the idea of paying respects to the parents who made sacrifices to provide their children every opportunity to succeed, in the form of a “corrido” (Mexican folklore music). From there, they secured and briefed Mexican-American musical artist Snow Tha Product and simply got out of her way and gave her the space to tell her story with a song called “Cobrar” (translation: to charge; to collect). The idea was that she, along with her generation of children of immigrants, are here to collect the debt that is owed to their hardworking parents—a story that was very personal to me. The most amazing part was seeing people from the community make reaction videos to the music video, seeing in real time how every word and every decision made related to their family’s journey.
The other idea required me to just simply listen—to listen to the stories of my Black co-workers being asked if they played basketball solely based on the physical trait of being tall; listening to stories about how from childhood onward, Black boys are praised for their physical features, effectively planting seeds that might limit their direction in life to sports or entertainment. So we asked, “What if we planted more seeds?”
The result came in the form of a film called “These Hands,” in partnership with P&G. It’s the story of a conversation of a Black father opening up his son's mind to all the opportunities that are out there, but most importantly, it holds us as a society accountable to the systemic barriers along the path to those opportunities.
Both films include the stories of modern-day leaders creating change for their respective communities, showing that there are people currently in these spaces making an impact and kicking down the door for future generations. It’s a goal that I and the others featured in the Creative Excellence list have for the creative industry.