Back in April, BLKJ Havas promoted Guilherme Machado to the role of Executive Creative Director. A Brazilian-born creative, Machado has worked in the industry across three continents, leaving home at 25 for Australia on a career path that started with Clemenger BBDO as a copywriter, followed by stints at DDB and McCann, until he landed in Singapore at BLKJ Havas in 2021 where he ascended from Associate Creative Director to his current role as ECD.
During his cross-continental creative journey, he’s worked with brands including McDonald’s, Virgin Airlines, eBay, and Volkswagen, and has worked on award-winning campaigns with nods from the likes of Cannes Lions, One Show, Effies, and the Webbys.
Over the course of our conversation “Gui” talks about what it’s like to now have the word “Executive” attached to his title (“Meetings! Lots of meetings.”), his aim to create “un-advertising,” new creative trends he sees in the industry, his take on the AI era, and more.
You recently said that “Creating work that doesn’t look like traditional advertisements has been a key motivator” since you started your career. Tell us more about that and your goal of making “un-advertising.”
What has consistently fascinated me about advertising is its capacity for the unexpected. I was lucky to realize quite soon in my career, that this element of surprise and deviation from the norm could actually result through a departure from conventional practices. It was then that I found my true motivation.
Un-advertising, as we like to call it, is a movement aimed at challenging the established norms within the advertising industry. It means leaving traditional approaches behind and seeking to revolutionize the way we see and engage with advertising.
We often find ourselves boxed into certain expectations when doing creative work for clients, whether that be following the latest social media trend or choosing the safe option instead of trying a different, bolder approach.
For me, by breaking the rules and defying expectations, un-advertising paves the way for innovative and unconventional strategies that captivate audiences in new and exciting ways.
The spirit of un-advertising is one that we are applying internally as a company, and also to the work we put out. We want to build a culture where people are empowered to experiment and take risks, so they can go on to create impactful, industry-disrupting campaigns and ideas.
Grant it, it hasn’t been that long in the new position, but what are some differences in your work week now that you have the word “Executive” in your title?
Meetings! Lots of meetings. As an ECD (that’s Executive Creative Director, fancy title alert), it’s my responsibility together with Joji, Lester, and Khalid (BLKJ Havas leadership) to keep the creative bar sky-high for all our clients. That means I’m knee-deep in pretty much every project. Thankfully, I have an incredible creative department by my side comprising real rock stars. But, of course, they still want to hear my two cents and creative inputs.
It’s a challenge, no doubt about it – but let’s bring it on!
There is a lot of talk about AI and its potential impact on the creative world. What’s your take on it?
It’s hard to tell. The pace of change is truly remarkable. It’s a real transformation that’s keeping us on our toes.
Right at this very moment, I find myself deeply in love with the power and potential of artificial intelligence, and I think it is a ground-breaking tool for fostering creativity. Right now, A.I. relies on our interaction and prompt to truly come alive. It’s all about our inputs, our guidance. We hold the key to unlocking its brilliance. So, there is no reason to fear it. At least for me. At least for now.
“Right at this very moment, I find myself deeply in love with the power and potential of artificial intelligence, and I think it is a ground-breaking tool for fostering creativity.”
Creative awards most often focus on purpose-driven campaigns. Do you think that gives them an advantage in the jury room over more creatively-driven campaigns?
I’ve always seen awards as a reflection of what’s happening in the world. In this current era, the generation that brands need to captivate is fiercely driven by a genuine desire to change the world. They’re not just spouting empty words; they mean business. If brands fail to forge connections with these change-seeking individuals, let’s just say their fate won’t be a pretty one. It’s no longer enough to simply talk the talk, it’s all about walking the walk.
Purpose-driven work is a remarkable phenomenon that we should nurture. In my opinion, embracing purpose is a win-win situation for everyone involved. It isn’t just about boosting brand image, it’s about making a positive impact on society, and aligning our goals with a greater good.
“I’d like to see more brands engage consumers with greater sensitivity and empathy for their situation. For example, really making a conscious effort to connect with consumers on issues that they care about, instead of simply adding to the “noise” in this already saturated advertising landscape.”
As the world continues to trudge through an economic slowdown, are there any particular creative trends you’re seeing or would like to see from brands to navigate the storm?
With global economic uncertainties and the rising cost of living, the pressure to reduce spending while remaining relevant and productive at work has increased significantly for the individual on the street.
Against this backdrop, I’d like to see more brands engage consumers with greater sensitivity and empathy for their situation. For example, really making a conscious effort to connect with consumers on issues that they care about, instead of simply adding to the “noise” in this already saturated advertising landscape.
What is some work you’ve done over the years that you are most proud of?
I’m proud of the work I’ve done across my career, beginning in Brazil and growing creatively in Australia. I’ve had some really successful, awarded campaigns, but I find genuine excitement and inspiration in the present and future. What really interests me is the work we’ve been doing at BLKJ Havas, and I’ll share about two recent ones.
The Durex Foreplay campaign was conceptualised as a result of surprising research, revealing that younger generations prefer gaming over engaging in sexual activities. This educational and awareness-building initiative presented finger movement tutorials for the bedroom inspired by popular mobile games. It addressed the issue in a fun, engaging way and achieved significant success – we’re particularly grateful to the clients for riding the wave with us.
The JBL Rap Your Gift initiative tied into the brand’s overall long-term goal around sustainability, and we are pleased to be able to help them with that. This is our first big project with them, and it aims to help consumers save on gift wrapping paper by replacing this with a rap song instead. It was launched in April, with amazing results produced to date, and has given people a completely new way to interact with the brand.
What can we expect from BLKJ Havas regionally in the near future?
As an agency, we will continue to champion creativity and originality across all that we do, embodying ‘un-advertising’ unapologetically on behalf of our clients, to connect with the hearts and minds of consumers. We are excited to deepen our work with clients on a regional platform, further expanding their visibility and influence with a number of truly impactful campaigns in the very near future.
Book everyone in the industry should read: The Inner Game of Tennis
Favorite show you’re watching lately: Severance (on Apple TV)
One album you would take to a deserted island: Tim Maia in Concert
Something you want to learn or wish you were better at: Tennis