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Beto Fernandez Talks Creative Activism

M.AD Insighter Series

Insighter | /ˌin • site • er/

noun

1. an outstanding creative professional with tips and tricks to spare. Someone to learn from.

“the M.AD Insighter Series is free to attend on Zoom, every Wednesday at 4pm”

On Oct 21, 2020, Beto Fernandez (Founder of Activista) joined us live over Zoom to take part in our Insighter Series: weekly conversations between creative professionals and young, aspiring creatives looking to advance.

Take a look at Beto’s presentation below.

Don’t have time for the full video? Check out the transcribed version of Beto’s presentation right here:

Video Transcript:

Beto Fernandez: Thank you. Thank you very much. It’s really good to be with you guys. This weekend, I’ve been part of the hackathon and it was a thrilling experience for me. It was really exciting to see the level of talent and the level of a great idea that everybody from my Miami Ad School had presented in such a short amount of time.

Beto Fernandez: And I sat on that call but I was not surprised. Not because the idea was not surprising, but I was not surprised because I’m used to work with creatives from Miami Ad School in my whole career, and they’re always amazing, always amazing. They always surprise me positively. So in that sense, I was not surprised because I was expecting something amazing and I was right. So, it’s always a pleasure to be talking to you guys. Very clever and the understand of creativity is really good.

Beto Fernandez: So, again, my name is Beto Fernandez. I’m from Brazil. I’m like an old dinosaur of this industry. I’ve been working over 25 years in advertising. And in 2012 I met [Paco Conder 00:01:09], a Spaniard, and he moved to Brazil to work at Ogilvy, and I was at Ogilvy as well. And then we start teaming up and we start creating the kind of ideas that we felt really, really positive about, ideas that are not just good ideas people talk about, but that could help to shape a better world.

Beto Fernandez: And there’s something amazing when you start doing that, and you feel the impact and the power of that, you feel like that’s the only thing I want to do. And we try to force more and more for every single piece of work we do, be more around that up to the point we are very fortunate to be able to open here in Los Angeles, our own agency that is focused only in that kind of work, which is Activista, Los Angeles.

Beto Fernandez: So I’m going to talk a little bit about the power of activist ideas and why that is so relevant and important nowadays. I have a little deck here, but it’s always the best when we have some sort of collaboration. I know this is really massive. There’s a lot of people around here, but don’t feel afraid of to jump in, you make any question or any comment at any moment, and we can turn this into more a conversation than me just here talking, because if you let me talk, I’m going to be talking for five hours, so be ready for that. So, that’s it. So I’m going to share my screen now.

Beto Fernandez: All right. So the power of change with your ideas. So we start with a phrase that really defines what me and Paco think and the mood we have and the mantra that guide us at Activista is [inaudible 00:02:59] that say, “Act is my rent for living on the planet.” So I think this is amazing because they find exactly the necessity of us to think and to be grateful to everything that’s around us. And we have to pay that gratitude doing things for a better world.

Beto Fernandez: So we really have to start thinking in activism, not just like as a nice thing or… No, it’s like, we should be doing that more and more. And we should be doing that in our personal life, and if possible, in our professional life as well. And this is like a super relevant now because now we have this brand activism that is kind of maybe the most like a popular word that people are talking about. All the brands are talking about.

Beto Fernandez: And there’s a reason for that. If you think on this history of the communication, we are in kind of a third great phase, let’s say. This is like you never find in a book, like this is the way I use to organize the thoughts. But if you go back on the day in the ’60s, when advertising start, the relationship between brands and people were they treat people as consumers. They need people as consumers. And that’s how advertising started. And because there’s consumers, the job of advertising were explain the products. And that was important because most of the products were novelties. People didn’t know how to use them.

Beto Fernandez: So if you go back on the advertising on the ’60s and the early ’70s, most of the ads were explaining how to use like a vacuum cleaner, a laundry machine. All these products were so … Microwave. They’re novelties and advertising have a massive job of explaining how those things works. And so I’m treating you as a consumer. So the ads are kind of a folder, flyer explaining you how to use my product in an exciting way. But that was the core of what advertising was supposed to do.

Beto Fernandez: Then we have a second phase where the relationship between brands and people becomes off the fence. So now people know how to use most of the products. There is no a need to explanation. And it got to a point where everything became a commodity. There’s no really big differentiation. So we have to create emotional connections with people. And so brands start to think like, “I have to galvanize fans, I have to gather fans to my brand.” And a good example of that is Apple who would think different, on Nike you would just do it because they are really explaining, trying to get people by the emotional connection. Like, thinking likewise. “I like how you think. I think likewise. So that’s why I will buy your products.”

And now we are in a third phase where it’s not consumers… Obviously they’re consumers, but on the core. Consumers, not fans, but now it’s allies. So brands need allies and consumers want on to see brands and allies.

What I mean is, I believe that I’m fighting for a better world, and I want to relate with people that are likewise. So that’s why they’re looking for allies. And a great example of that is the amazing work of Patagonia, who are maybe the best brand. They start that and the best brand doing that. And they’re so bold. They made this amazing ad where they’re telling you to don’t buy a product they are selling just to the point of saying, “Hey, you don’t have to over-consume, over-buy things because that’s not great for the planet.”

Beto Fernandez: So those are the three phases. And the reason why we’re living in this third phase, there’s a clear reason for that, which is Gen Z. That’s why everything’s changing. And if you work in advertising, you’re going to see more and more in every single brief, the Gen Z being mentioned that, and we have to please gen Z. And that’s really, really natural because by 2020, Gen Z will be accounted for almost half of the consumers in the world, which is a lot. So half of the consumers make a huge impact with the consumption of the brands, with the products that are on the market.

The beauty of gen Z is that they are the most racially and culturally diverse generation in America history. And this goes all over the world.

But the data that I have is from America, but this goes all over the world. So gen Z, the notion of like sexual diversity, gender diversity, racial diversity, they don’t really grasp the idea of discussing it because for them, it’s a natural thing. Whereas like in the world we live, it’s not like that.

Beto Fernandez: The world we live being established with like the predominant of like a white male man… Like, the world gravitates more around that. And for Gen Z, that doesn’t make sense. So obviously, the impact of this massive change on the consumers is impacting the way the brands behave, which is an amazing thing. And at the same time, they are different. See what happened… Like this is the picture of the Congress of America. So you see like there, they could be more diverse self like what the Gen Z is. Like, you see majority of men, majority like a white man, old white man, were rich.

Beto Fernandez: So that’s the guys that are making the laws, in like they’re supposed to be changing the world or making the world better, but they are far, far away from the strata of what Gen Z is. So no wonder Gen Z is not willing to vote. So almost half of the Gen Z in the last election, they didn’t vote. And it’s not because they don’t care, it’s just because they don’t believe that the system the way it is, is able to provoke the change that is needed.

Beto Fernandez: But they are very, very active. So they are not voting, but they are doing something else. And a good example of that is the works off like Emma and Greta for March For Our Lives, from the climate change conversation led by Greta.

They are not waiting for the politicians to change the world. They are going to the streets and they are acting, they are doing things. They are forcing the change by themselves, which is a very, very, a great attitude and a different mindset from the previous generation. And this obviously is impacting the whole world we live around.

Beto Fernandez: So like phrases like this, “When leaders act like kids, kids become leaders.” And I think that maybe there is no better quote that represent the times we live in than that one. We don’t have great leaders around the world, we have some. And guess what? Most of the great leaders around the world are female leaders, which is really great. So most of them are not great. And then the young generation are standing up and doing things and acting provoking the change. And this is great for us.

Beto Fernandez: And these generate something that’s called wallet activism. So the Gen Z, they vote with their dollars. So instead of… Obviously they vote, but like they start to understand. The whole generation start to understand that more important than voting for this politician to change the law, the way I buy things can change the law easier and quicker. A very quick example of that is, if I want the restaurants nearby beaches to stop using plastic, and then I vote to somebody that will go to the Congress to propose a law for them to vote to bend the law to be approved, and then to change something, they simply stop going to restaurants that are still using plastic. They don’t go there anymore. And then the economy power will force the restaurants to change their behaviors.

Beto Fernandez: And like even California, we see a lot of restaurants adopting banning plastic from their restaurants just because of force of consumption, not because of force of the law. So this is wallet activism. And this is a huge thing. So I’m saying this just to say that that’s what’s surrounding us. That’s the reason why brands are changing. And that’s a huge power that we that work in communication will have to understand and explore and try to use it to help to make a better word.

So that means that a lot of brands are trying to do the right thing. But not necessarily doing the right thing, they just like, they see the trend and they want to be part of the trend.

But you need to understand that right now we live with the social media era. Everything is transparent, everybody knows everything, and there is a dialogue. So you don’t even post something and then people just listen and that’s it. There’s a lot of backlash if you do something wrong.

Beto Fernandez: And so the brands need to understand that committing to do something good needs to be a full commitment. You cannot be just a fake advertising part of my brand, but the rest is still lying. So you have to think in the 360 around, what’s around your brand? Everything matters. And a great example for when people don’t think about that is this thing when National Geographic, an amazing magazine by the way, they did this issue about plastic and overuse of plastic around the world. Just condemning that and saying, this is really bad for the environment. And guess how people received this magazine at home? They received, oh my God, like this. With the plastic bag, which is kind of make no sense.

Beto Fernandez: So you just have to think it through. When you do something, it cannot be just a layer, just like the old West houses, just the front part of it and the rest is empty. You have to think as a whole. So far brands to do that, they have to commit as a whole. And if we work with brands, we have to understand that if we join projects, we have to make sure that [inaudible 00:13:05] the projects [inaudible 00:13:06] is a 360 commitment to whatever the topic we’re dealing with.

Beto Fernandez: And obviously, when you commit, there’s risks. And brands avoid risks. But we live in a time where risks are more welcoming than never. A great, great example of that is what Nike did. Oh, I’m sorry. Sorry. I just jumped ahead [inaudible 00:13:25]. So sorry for that. I changed the order then I changed it again [inaudible 00:13:30], so that’s why I have to do. Sorry for that.

Beto Fernandez: So commitment, I was talking about commitment. So the thing is, this is creating something that’s quite interesting, which is the CEO activists. So everything about the brand matters. So it’s not just the advertising that counts, everything they do counts and the CEO that usually is always right to be [inaudible 00:13:55] by the massive consumers. People don’t relate with the CEO of rants, now they are more like voicy, they’re more present, they are acting more because consumers care. They want to see that the brand commits with that fully, not just with the ads.

Beto Fernandez: And a great example is when Brian Chesky from Airbnb jumped in to support refugees, or like when Dick’s Sports got to jump in to ban assault rifles from their stores after the last mass shooting in America, or like when Starbucks also commit to help refugees and the CEO was there. It’s always the CEO going in interviews and taking a stand about a topic. So this is a way to say, if you want to do good, you have to commit as a whole, it’s not just a layer of advertising.

Beto Fernandez: And I was talking about, when you do this, there’s risks. So the best example of that is Nike. Nike did a campaign supporting Colin Kaepernick, the football player that was banned by NFL because he simply in a pacific way was protesting for Black Lives Matter against another crimes against black people. But he was doing a passive protest, which is like after the recent Black Lives Matter, everybody said, “Hey, why you don’t protest passively?” When Kaepernick did that, he was simply fire. And that’s it. So, that’s how the challenge is at the top.

Beto Fernandez: But again, he was not working. He’s not working for several years already, just because of that. And Nike decide to use him in a campaign talking about that you have to believe in your dreams, believe in what you believe no matter if that costs everything you have. And this is something that’s very true to Nike all over. And the best way to show that is to pick this very kind of a controversial character with Colin Kaepernick, and to use as the hero of your ad.

Beto Fernandez: No surprisingly, what happened the next day was a lot of backlash, a lot. Because America today is divided. Half is in favor of Black Lives Matter and half is in favor of this bullshit of All Lives Matter, which is simply bullshit, but is an excuse to go against black people having the same rights of white people. And what happened is that people start burning Nike shoes and the sales went down and I even have a very famous consumer saying nice words about Nike. Yeah, Donald Trump wrote some shit about Nike. Somebody wants to say something? Okay.

Beto Fernandez: But when you do something, you have people that are passionate about. And this is just… Like, Nike was not saying anything bad, was not really saying any shit about anybody or being mean to anybody, was simply supporting the freedom of speech and the right for everybody being treated equally. That’s the only thing Nike were fighting for. So what happened is the backlash reversed and people that are in favor of that sentiment start to act and to voice their opinion more and more. Anyway, amazing things like this happen.

Beto Fernandez: Oh my God! It’s not playing. Oh, God. I don’t know why this video is not playing on Zoom. But anyway, this is, he was in an interview and he brought his Nike shoes and he was… Before the beginning of the interview, he was there to promote his new Showtime show called Kidding. And he start interview saying, “Hey, first of all, let me just do this.” And he put his foot over the table with two Nike shoes. Like, “Let me just use this freedom.”

Nike shoes that are amazing for America and this was not an ad. Like, he did that just because he truly believed that what Nike was doing was amazing. So have that kind of content generated for your brand. Like, there’s no money that can buy that. So this was an amazing example.

Beto Fernandez: And obviously what happened is Nike hit the all time high after the backlash in terms of the value in the stock market and they jumped the sales in 31% because people that believe in Nike they start buying, supporting because I want to see what this brand is doing more and more. We need more of that in the world. And it’s a way people are voting in favor of that. So that happens as well. So these are a very good example of how you should take risks, but you should do this in a way that is true to your brand and is a full commitment, not something just for the advertising side of it.

Beto Fernandez: So this is kind of the background of the world around. So that’s the reason why we work in creating the activists. That makes a lot of sense now. We started doing this work, as I said, some years ago, but now I think that there’s no better time for that.

And a nice phrase we like from Ross Perot that defines also what we think about activism is, “The activist is not the person who says the river is dirty, the activist is the person who cleans up the river.”

Beto Fernandez: And that’s why we thought in the name, activist, Activista. Actually, we thought Activista for two reasons. First of all, because there’s act in the name. So we think, act. You have to act. Stop talking about act, do something about. Whatever you believe, do something about. So for instance, if you live in America and now we are going to be voting for president, don’t just say, “Oh, the current president is a risk for the world, for the environment.” If you truly believe that, you have to vote and have to convince other people to vote. You have to act.

Beto Fernandez: And the same thing goes to Brazil where we have this Bolsonaro who’s like a crazy, crazy president, maybe worse than Trump. And whatever you leave in the world, if something bad is happening, don’t just talk about, act, convince people, move, do something because that’s how we can change the world for better.

Beto Fernandez: So, that’s why we create Activista, an agency that is committed to drive social, cultural, and economic change through the power of the ideas. We truly believe that we can do that. And also there’s something amazing that, brands take a lot of the time in our lives with ads, with media buying.

We are surrounded by ads all the time. So if you convince more and more brands to use at least a bit of that time to provoke some good, this will be amazing for the world we live in.

Beto Fernandez: And then we have a set of principles that guides the way we think here in Activista. So the number one principle we have is, we only deliver what we call extraordinary ideas. We don’t work with other things, just extraordinary ideas. And the definition of extraordinary ideas for us is this, it’s something that can inspire people, something that can inspire conversation, something that can leave a positive impact in the world and something that ultimately can provoke a change. That’s why we call an extraordinary idea.

Beto Fernandez: And the very first example of an extraordinary idea was the idea that joined me and Paco to start working together where we were working for a global project for Dove. And we helped to craft the brief and we ended up with what some… Like, we helped the client to go to a one-line brief. And this is kind of important, but this is more technical. And the brief was just this, “Only 4% of women believe they are beautiful. We need to inspire the other 96% to think the same.”

Beto Fernandez: And if you want to inspire people, provoke change you… Like, if you get this brief and you just try to think as a normal creative, you’ll start with mechanics. What do I mean, mechanics? Mechanics is, ‘Okay, so only 4% think they are beautiful, the rest don’t think they are beautiful. So let’s take a woman that don’t think they’re beautiful and let’s make a catwalk, only with this normal woman in a catwalk.’ You know?

Beto Fernandez: So if this is mechanic [inaudible 00:23:08] beauty, fashion, marvels normal person, they’re going to put a normal person in a place of a fashion model where women are beautiful. So that will… This is just mechanic. There’s nothing there, it’s empty. Just mechanic. So just think in your mother, in your sister, in a, well, a friend, a girlfriend that you have, how they would react to that. If they will feel change inside just by seeing a normal woman in a catwalk, nothing will happen. It’s just like, “Okay, fine. Great.” There’s nothing there because there’s no insight.

If you want to provoke people to think and to provoke change and to inspire people, you have to go to find insights.

Beto Fernandez: And the insight we found was this. Was, if you take for instance, those two women here on the screen, and this was an actual research that I discovered, if you ask the one on the left, what you think is beautiful on the one on the right? She was able to say 50 things, 60 things. And then we ask her what she thinks is beautiful on herself. And she was able to say three or four things. And the same thing happens the other way around. So the other woman on the right said also 50 or 60 things that she thinks is beautiful on her friend, but she was able to point three or four things she thinks is beautiful on herself.

Beto Fernandez: So, if you’d analyze that, you’re going to see that then it’s not a matter of beauty. It’s not a matter of judging beauty, because if I’m very critical, I will be critical with me and with the others the same way. If I’m very picky of like, I just like a perfect this, a perfect that, I cannot identify beauty in others the same way I cannot in myself. But no, I see beauty in others, I just don’t see in myself.

Beto Fernandez: So it proves for me that this is not just women, but it’s more strong on women because of all this mass of communication, advertising, media, pop culture, pressure women much more than men. But this is a human behavior. You become very critical to yourself. You judge yourself worse than others.

Beto Fernandez: Then I thought on something that happened to my wife when we was going to a party. And we got to a party and then she went to the restroom. And when she came back, she was really mad with me. And she was mad because she have, I don’t remember how to say, a pimple on the face. Is pimple right? I’m going to remember the name off later. Yeah. She have a pimple here. Pimple, yeah. She have a pimple here. And she was mad with me because she said, “See this huge thing here. You let me leave home with this and you said nothing.” And then I was in a crossroad because if I say that I’ve seen, then I’m judged because I have said nothing. If I say that I don’t, I haven’t seen it, she will say, “You never pay attention to me.” You know? So like, “Shit! What happened?” But the reality is I didn’t notice.

Beto Fernandez: And I didn’t notice because that was not relevant. But for the person that have a pimple here, it seems that the only thing people are seeing is the pimple, nothing else.

And this goes to the way you see your own beauty. If you have amazing eyes but you don’t like your nose, you think the only thing people will see is your nose. They won’t notice your eyes.

Beto Fernandez: So that’s where we start to craft the idea of, what if people could draw themselves? If people could draw themselves, they would enhance the things they hate and diminish the things they love because they don’t pay attention. So if you have beautiful eyes, in the sketch the eyes will be very tiny. And if you don’t like your nose, your nose will be huge because that’s how you see yourself. And then if they could sketch themselves and then compare it to real photo of them, they would see how different they are. The reality from how they see themselves.

Beto Fernandez: And that’s the insight that brought us to this novelty and for the first time to combine something that was never done before, which is beauty and criminal sketches of like a robbery, like this kind of criminal things with the sketch of criminals with beauty. And with that idea, we create the Dove Real Beauty Sketches. So the heart of the ideas inside… Obviously, there’s this amazing set of using, since people cannot draw themselves, then we’ve got an amazing idea.

Beto Fernandez: We have a great, great, amazing team for Miami Ad School, by the way, that came up with the idea of, let’s use a FDI sketch artist, and we’re going to sketch people without people knowing [inaudible 00:28:09] in sketch when they talk about themselves. And that’s how we create Dove Real Beauty Sketches. And this became the most watched ad ever on YouTube with 180 million views. [inaudible 00:28:21] and more and more. It was a massive thing.

Beto Fernandez: That’s the first principle. So only extraordinary idea. So the reason why I explained so deeply, Dove Sketches, is for you to understand that when I talk about extraordinary ideas, something that can inspire people and provoke a change, if you feel don’t have something deeply insightful there, you can never inspire people.

If we start with just mechanical solutions, then you’re going to, at most, be irrelevant to your peers, to other people that work in advertising.

Beto Fernandez: They will care, “Oh, I love this language. I love this style, I love this solution.” But it is a visual solution just relevant to people that work in advertising. And we have to appeal people that don’t care about advertising. The second principle that we have in order to make bold ideas is, don’t try to please everyone. [inaudible 00:29:14].

Speaker 3: Sorry. [inaudible 00:29:18]. I just had a question.

Speaker 5: Okay. I’ll just ask real quick. So, when you’re talking about this Dove Real Beauty Sketches campaign, you pointed out that stat, that 96% of women don’t think they’re beautiful. Would you say that’s the insight or was it after, when you were elaborating on how-

Beto Fernandez: No, that is the starting point. So, first of all, that’s the brief. But it’s a very good starting points because it’s shocking. So this is something that when you are creating to provoke some changes, you have to try to avoid the bullshit in the brief because most of the briefs has a lot of bullshit information. So I have to first to discuss the brief up to the point you get something is interesting to start working.

Beto Fernandez: So when you tell me that 90% of women think they are not beautiful, just look around. Everybody you know, how many people you think are beautiful. If you’re a very, very picky woman or man, if you’re very, very picky, you’re going to think that at least 40% of people you know, 50% of people you know is beautiful. Really, really beautiful. So the math doesn’t add up. Like, how just 4% think that they’re beautiful? So there’s something truly, truly, truly wrong there.

Beto Fernandez: So that’s why we start digging for the insight. And so the insight that come out of that was this discovery that people can see beauty on others, but they don’t see the same beauty on themselves. And that is the nuggets that we work around with to come up with the idea. But the brief was a very good trigger to get there.

Speaker 5: Thank you for explaining.

Speaker 3: So I had a question. But I saw the Dove project, I thought it was beautiful. But going back to the Nike conversation and this idea of not pleasing everyone, I have a hard time with this in advertising and getting into as a career. Because social media gives people so much information, as to Nike, in my research, their sales dropped 38%, and I felt that the backlash was because of the way that these companies actually manufacture and produce.

Speaker 3: So people have more insight to the way Nike produces their products, correct? Overseas. And how a lot of it is not ethical. And this idea of not pleasing everyone, we don’t really know what the 46% of 18 to 29-year-olds that aren’t really loading. So when a company takes a stance, when they aren’t really 100% ethical in totality, doesn’t that make it very confusing in terms of creating this idea of ethics and morality in activism, when it comes to making it political? Like, shouldn’t advertisers just stay away from anything that has to do with politics, especially if that brand is not ethical themselves?

Beto Fernandez: Yeah. I think that is a very, very, very good point. A very good question. So this goes to the point or what I said before which is, the companies cannot just use one or two layers of their work or their presence in our lives just to try to say something, they are going to be analyzed in a full. So what you’re saying is totally true, and Nike is not 100% ethical. But first of all, to change the world for better, if you wait for perfection, then we’re never going to get anywhere. Because [inaudible 00:33:10] will be excused in nothing.

Beto Fernandez: So when somebody do something we have to… If what they’re doing in that territory is right, then we should applaud them, should help them then. Obviously, we are in the baby steps of this new phase and brands are learning how to deal with it. And even brand ambassadors, a lot of people are trying to say, “Oh, let me do something for LGBTQ.” And then people go back three, four years ago, and you said some shit about LGBTQ back in the day. So people are learning that you have to be more mindful of the things we say.

Beto Fernandez: And even the language about misogyny and… Like, our society is evolving. So for instance, like, not Chris Rock, was to be the announcer of the Oscars and he gave up, what’s his name? Oh, Kevin Hart. Kevin Hart was supposed to be the host of the Oscars and they discovered that some years ago he says some bad things about LGBTQ and he ended up being forced to give up on that. And he was saying sorry, and people are learning that things you say can harm people.

Beto Fernandez: Jokes, I’m Brazil, people make jokes about black people all the time, and they don’t think it’s a big thing in Brazil. But we have started learning that that’s not the case. We should behave differently. So even if you’d never done it with a bad purpose, you’ll been part of something that’s caused some harm. So you have to learn, educate yourself and change your behavior. And brands are doing the same.

Beto Fernandez: And obviously [crosstalk 00:35:01], there’s brands that are not complete like Nike. They have a lot of shading in terms of the whole process. And they’re being judged about that. And obviously, they need to be mindful. And I don’t believe will stop doing great things for LGBTQ or Black Lives Matter because of that. They’re going to keep pushing on that and are going to try to improve the other parts step-by-step until they get to a point where they can get better. But I think this is part of this transition we are getting where some brands will be kind of good, kind of bad, doing good, doing bad, learning with the goods and bad. But I think brands acting like that, the outcome will be positive for all of us.

Speaker 3: Thank you for the clarification because I found it interesting that this, in the 46% of these not voting and just this feeling of, there’s a split within the country, right? And sentiment. Because I think in advertising right now, it’s really shifting to one type of sentiment. I mean, in your opinion, would you say that right now, it’s the hardest time to do? To put these type of topics out there in advertising, because things are so split and because social media gives people so much access to information.

Beto Fernandez: Yeah. It’s tough. It’s tough because what happened is that, let’s say if you’re saying that Black Lives Matter and I don’t want things to change, I want to Make America Great Again, which is the time where if you’re male, if you are white, you have all the opportunities in the society. So you don’t want things to change, you’re not very happy with the changes. Because there’s no way you can debate that, it’s easier for you to diminish me personally, or me as a company about raising up these voices and these opinions. So it’s a way to try to keep the status quo the way they used to be. So that’s why it’s important that brands believe that they can change and they can progress.

Beto Fernandez: Another point that is nice to mention is, the market share of brands, in terms of the totality of the population are very small. Even like the selling brands, it’s not 70% of the market. It doesn’t exist, something like that. So for most of brands we’re talking about 10, eight, 12% of the market is their market share. So if half of America is one way, half of America is other, if you do something that can please half of America, it’s 50%. It’s far more than your market share.

Beto Fernandez: So have space to grow and to galvanize the love of the people for your brand in that territory. You don’t have necessarily to worry with the other part. Obviously, you have to worry in the sense of, if you’re not doing the best practices as a company, the other side will try to attack you [inaudible 00:38:11] message because they can’t, but in other things that you have, just try to diminish you as a voice that is saying that.

Speaker 3: Got it. Okay. I understood that it’s based on the market. Yeah, it’s based on your overall totality of your market share and who your audience is in totality. [crosstalk 00:38:32].

Beto Fernandez: Yeah. Just think like any brand, what’s the market share? Just analyze the amount of people that can buy or potentially can buy that brand versus the division of America of like Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter in that sense. So there’s much more people there than what’s your brand [crosstalk 00:38:55] aims for. You know?

Speaker 3: Right. Yeah. I understand that.

Beto Fernandez: Yeah. I remember one time I was talking with the guys from Heineken there, when they create that campaign of Open Your World, and they create the guy that was this kind of a hipster guy. The look, the beard, the style, the hipster style. And it was a global campaign and they were about to launch in Russia. And then the marketeers of Russia were saying that they were against it. And because 50% operations don’t feel appealed by that kind of look.

Beto Fernandez: And then he asked, “But what’s your market share, Heineken, in Russia? And then he goes like, “Oh, the market share is 1.3%.” So then he asked like, “Okay, you’re worried with 50%, it means that whatever campaign you’re running there, you’re telling me that you’re going to go from 1.7 to 51%. That’s why you’re worried with that 50%.” And then the guy were like, “Yeah, you’re right.” And that’s how he was able to run the campaign in Russia.

Because you’re going to see that in marketing, because of all the tests and things, you’re going to see that very often, we are led by the fear of doing something that doesn’t please everybody.

We try to pick something that’s more generic, that everybody can like, but very often when you… This goes to my next point here. Very often when you do that, you do something that nobody hates, but nobody loves. And we have to try to find love because that’s how we can create more powerful connections for the brands.

Speaker 3: Okay.

Beto Fernandez: That’s it?

Speaker 3: Yeah. It’s been really [crosstalk 00:40:40]. Yeah. It’s hard to have this idea of getting into advertising because at the end of the day, you believe in what’s right, but then there’s other people that see it in a completely different way, and have completely different information. So it’s-

Beto Fernandez: Yeah, you’re right. But that doesn’t go necessary only to political views, it goes to everything. Every single topic. Even like when you’re making a campaign and then you pick something to campaign, and then very often, you end up watering down whatever it is, just because you want to do something that can be more and nice to a bigger mass of people. And by doing that, probably, you’ve got… A very good example of when I say don’t try to please everyone is, if I do a quick research here, in everybody in this chat, what do you prefer, cat or dog? And then let’s say the result is to 55%, dogs, and 45%, cats, let’s say.

Beto Fernandez: So then I’m going to do a campaign using dogs because it’s the majority. And then you’re going to say, but like 45% of the consumers won’t like it then because they prefer cats. Okay, so then you end up doing something that’s half cat, half dog, because it will please everybody. And then people that like dogs don’t like that. And people that like cats don’t like that as well. And that’s what… I know it’s a very weird example but that’s what we’ve been doing very often at advertising. Watering down something in trying to combine things that shouldn’t be combined because I want the 100% to be happy, but then they are not met, but they’re not in love because they’re just like, “Whatever. I don’t care.”

Beto Fernandez: So it’s better for you to find something, in this example, with dogs, because then 50% will love you. Like, you get love at least from more than half of the audience than try to something that nobody will hate you. But nobody will really, really care of what you’re saying.

Beto Fernandez: And be mindful that advertising takes a lot of our lives. We are surrounded by advertising all the time. And it’s really tough because people don’t care about advertising. We work in advertising, we love advertising. But we have to think like the normal people there. We are crazy. But there are a lot of normal people out there that reasonably don’t like advertising. So that’s why when you think an ad, we have to do something that can attract [inaudible 00:43:14] entertaining, funny, emotional or because it’s insightful, or because it supports something that I believe or say something that I believe, so it touch me somehow, then I going to care about it and then that going to be part of my life. Otherwise, it just became landscape.

Most of the ads, they just became like this backgrounds from Microsoft computers, this sky background, it’s just that we don’t even pay attention that is there. Most of the ads are that. And that’s our biggest enemy. How can we do something that people care to talk about?

So out of 10, if three care to talk about, and four hate, it’s better than no haters, but nobody cares about. Because in the end of the day, we are paid by making people care about what we’re saying and care about the brands that we’re trying to promote. Makes sense?

Speaker 3: Thank you. Yes, thank you very much.

Beto Fernandez: And thank you for your question. A very, very, very good points. And I think you’re so right. And I think that what you’re doing is the example of what is happening in the life around us. So we have to be very considerate of that in every single project we’re getting. But at the same time, we are dying out of attention there. So we need to be bold in what we’re doing. That’s why brands are betting now in brand activism because they need to cut the bar of attention. We have to have a voice. And if you’re just saying safe things, you just become landscape and nobody are pay attention to you. You’re just on the background, people pay attention what happens in foreground, so you’re nothing.

Speaker 3: Okay. Thank you so much.

Beto Fernandez: Okay. So exactly what you said is great because it does represent this topic, is, it was with that kind of a mindset that we convince Burger King to make the Proud Whopper. So Burger King always had the campaign, Have It Your Way. It was a kind of a functional claim that was saying that, whatever you like to combine your sandwich, you can make there at Burger King. And we convinced them to change from Have It Your Way to Be Your Way.

Beto Fernandez: So I believe on freedom of like, I don’t judge you. So if you would like to have, number one combined, number two combined with like [inaudible 00:45:45], combining whatever, I don’t judge you. So the same way I don’t judge you inside the store, I don’t judge you in life. And we convinced them that the best way to represent the shift on the concept was to… Like, the Pride Week was coming, we said, “Hey, let’s do something in the Pride Week.” And then we decided to create the Proud Whopper just to say that, we should not judge people by their sexual choices, by their color, by nothing, we should not judge people. And we created the Proud Whopper. It was basically a special burger we launched during that week in San Francisco.

Beto Fernandez: And what happened is that people buy it. Some people buy it, some people to get really mad with it and said, “Hey, I don’t buy this in anyway.” And people in social media was criticizing. But when people started buying and eating it, they start to guess, what is the difference on the flavor on the Proud Whopper? Why the proper is different from the traditional Whopper. It’s more spicy, it’s more like has some sweets, but what’s different on the flavor? And then they start to realize that the flavor was the same. And inside the wrap, when you open the wrap with the burger, you have this message that say, “We are all the same inside,” which is we are selling exactly the same whopper you’re used to eat, exactly the same, we just change the first visible layer, which is exactly how people judge LGBTQ people, how people judge race and things like that. So, that was a beautiful way to spark conversation around the topic.

Beto Fernandez: And this became top trending on Twitter, over seven million views, billion [inaudible 00:47:34]. I mean, was a massive thing. And it was a very risk thing for the brand. Got some backlash, especially in Middle America, but was a massive case of success. And Burger King from that moment on, they started doing all the crazy shit you see from Burger King lately. That was the first kind of a crazy thing they did. We did that for them.

Beto Fernandez: Other principle we have in Activista is, if I want to convince a lot of people to go with me in a journey and do something, try to change something without changing anything.

The best way to convince people to do something, to have a massive amount of people collaborating with you.

What do I mean by that? If I tell to all you guys here on the chat to move to Cambodia, to try to build houses and schools for poor kids there, probably because I know you guys are very clever and emotionally connected, I believe all you guys will care a lot for that. But how many of you would change your life, take a ticket to Cambodia and start living there to build houses and schools to put kids? Probably nobody because it’s a lot of effort. It forces you to change a lot to do that.

Beto Fernandez: But if I asked you to do what you’re doing already, if you do this, if you do that, keep doing what you’re doing, but by doing that, you’re help me to change something, then the odds of you collaborating with me will be much higher. A good example of that is when we are working on a campaign for organ donation in Brazil. And first of all, we did… We always start campaigns with a lot of study. We discovered that in Brazil, to be an organ donator, you have to sign a paper saying, “Officially, I am an organ donator.” Like in America you have to have in your license, you have like, “I’m an organ donor,” in Brazil, you have to sign a paper saying that.

Beto Fernandez: But we discovered another part of the law that said that if any people from your family agrees that you’re organ donor, that’s enough. So when somebody die, they asked the parents or the brothers or like a whoever, like the most closest relative. If the closest relative agrees on the organ donation, that’s enough. Unless the person really said, “I’m against it,” then you cannot change the desire of the person in life. But if the person said nothing, and then if some relative says that, that’s enough.

Beto Fernandez: So we took that information and said, “Okay, fine.” Then we thought, how many people we can mobilize to talk about organ donation? Like, a lot of people care, but how many people care to be talking about it? They don’t care much. But in Brazil, there’s something people care a lot, and they talk a lot about it, which is soccer. Everybody is truly, truly passionate about soccer. And they love to brag about how crazy they are about their teams.

Beto Fernandez: So I start in different order because the project starts with a client coming to us saying, “We want a campaign to prove that we have the most crazy fans from our team.” Which is a very typical soccer team brief you receive, “Oh, I’m going to prove that my friends are more crazy about the team than any other fans of any other team.” And usually, these campaigns end up with showing people with tattoos, with the symbols of the team, the house all decorate with the colors of the team, or like a somebody that names all the child they have, with names of famous players and things like that.

Beto Fernandez: But we thought, “Okay, if they are really, really crazy, there is a lot of power in being the leader of a lot of crazy people.” Because if they’re crazy, they’re able to do amazing things. Why don’t we use this power to provoke some good change in the world? So with that idea, we come up with something that is called the Immortal Fans. So basically the idea is, if you like to brag about your team, you say, “I’m more crazy about my team than you are about your team.” We create this idea of Immortal Fan.

Beto Fernandez: And if you’re a Immortal Fan, it means that your eyes will still be seeing your team after your death, your lung will still be breathing for your team after you pass. All your organs will still be supporting your team after you die. So you’re going to become an immortal fan, you are a fun beyond life. So that’s a nice way for you to brag about, “I am so crazy about my team that I’m going to be supporting my team even after I’m passed.” And that was basically the idea.

Beto Fernandez: And what we are asking people to do, what they do already, to brag about their team. But when they’re bragging about their team, they are saying, “I am an organ donor,” to parents, to father, to the mother, to the brothers, to the friends, to everybody around them. And that’s the campaign we create. You could download the card online, and you start putting in your wallet and start telling everybody around you that you’re an Immortal Fan.

Beto Fernandez: And [inaudible 00:53:19] that idea, we increased the amount of donation in 54% in just one year. Initially, in the first year, we got 500,000 cards. People download 500,000 cards. And just to understand the scale of it, the staging of the team fits 35,000 people. So we got more cards than the amount of people that fit in the stadium of the team. And to understanding part of this, every person that says that is an organ donor is able to save up to seven lives when they die. And this is a lifetime commitment.

Beto Fernandez: So the campaign immediately got huge impact. And all the people… We invite a lot of people that were in the waiting line for organs in Brazil to be part of the campaign asking people to become organ donors, to become Immortal Fans. All the people we call, all of them got the organs within two months after the campaign was launched. And in the campaign kept growing even when we finished the project, because again, as I said, it’s an ongoing commitment.

Beto Fernandez: So the amount of cards, the last time I counted was almost 70,000 cards because people kept downloading the cards and the waiting list for heart and corneal transplants were reduced to zero. BBC in fact, two years later went to Brazil to cover this. And it showed that all the numbers kept raising up. And the amount of transplants per year, in one town, were up from five to 25, of one specific kind of organ, just because of that idea. Was a massive change on the conversation just with that idea. And the reason it was impactful is what I was asking people to do was, just keep doing what you do, brag about soccer, saying that you’re more crazy fans about your team than others. That’s why we got so many people getting on board on it.

Beto Fernandez: Another important point again, to be able to get attention of people, another trick is be part of culture, because people love culture and love things that are no pop. And try to be aware of things that are happening around you and try to use on behalf of a message. We did a personal project, me in Paco, when the pandemic started. All the agency were like slowing down in the amount of work, we have two project that was half the way and we have to stop, park the projects up till a next moment because of the crisis.

Beto Fernandez: So have a free time. And we decide to use that time to create projects to help stimulate people about the six feet away distance that a lot of people are not respecting here in California. We’re seeing in supermarkets in place, people are not respecting that in the beginning of the pandemia. And all over the world we’ve seen examples because again, a lot of deniers are saying this is not a thing and they’re not respecting it.

Beto Fernandez: So we decided to make a campaign to provoke conversation around that. And we create something we call the 6 Feet Covers. So we took famous covers of albums of bands all over the world and we redesign them with six feet distance between all the person in the cover. So this was the first one we did, Abbey Road. So instead of doing all together crossing the road, now they are six feet away. And we did that for Blondie, We did that for Queen, N.W.A, AC/DC, Jackson’s 5… I mean we did over 40 covers, was a massive thing, was a social media project we did. And this was amazing.

Beto Fernandez: Quickly, what happened is that the own artists of the bands start sharing on their own social media the idea. Like the Fleetwood, Mick from Fleetwood, John Ramone, Paul Stanley from the Kiss, Debbie from Blondie, the guys from Pet Shop Boys were sharing… Like, everybody from all the bands. Oasis, everybody was sharing [inaudible 00:58:21], massive things, beautiful projects.

Beto Fernandez: And also this inspired artists all over the world. A lot of people were copying. Probably some of you guys. I’ve seen even some copies of that. A lot of people have copied our project, which is very welcoming because more people are doing art around that more. We’re spreading more the information. We got that global media coverage in over 30 language and everything with zero budget. This is to prove that if you’re saying something that is meaningful, important, if you’re using culture as part of it, you can create massive impact with low budget.

Beto Fernandez: And finally, this is maybe the most important principle we have in Activista which is, act not ads. So the idea is to think we create acts not ads. And the difference is that in ads, last the time of the media buying, an act can last forever. A great example of what is an act is what we did for sport to receive the Immortal Fans idea that still are being effective today. Even though you see no ad there, the idea is still there, it still lives there, people that committed to be organ donor, they’re still committed to that because it’s a lifetime commitment. So an act can last much longer than an ad.

Beto Fernandez: We are working here in America to Surfrider Foundation. And they asked to make a campaign to help more people to be aware and to care about the oceans of America. And usually, when people do this kind of a climate change and environmental kind of campaigns, most of the campaigns try to show the menace, as in, to scare people about the problems. And the problem there is that this is not truly effective, because people start to disconnect it with that because they’re so used to see that everybody going to die, the world going to end and that kind of things, people are not paying attention to that kind of message anymore.

Beto Fernandez: So decided to do something different. And because me and Paco, we are a Brazil and Spanish living in America, we could notice something that most of America didn’t notice which is, here there’s a kind of a crazy law for flags, and for the America’s symbols. This is not common, nowhere in the world. In Brazil, not even during the World Cup of soccer you see a lot of flags in the streets. People use much more of the jersey of the national team than the flags. But here in America, everywhere we go, not just 4th of July, the whole year, you see flags.

Beto Fernandez: It’s almost like this, I cannot remember a day in America… Now I work in the home but when I was working, leaving the house, I couldn’t remember a day that I haven’t seen a flag at least once. You see flags. The real flags, or flags in tattoos, or flags in shirts, in caps, in jumpers, or posters, you see flags always. And we thought, the flag in America symbols, they fight for the country. Like, America, they’re very protective of their country, they love this idea of like, protecting my country. But when they talk about protecting the country, they only talk about the land. Even the anthem talk about the land, the land of the brave, they always mentioned the land. And the flag per se represent the territories and the state, which is land.

Beto Fernandez: But we discovered something amazing, the amount of territory that belongs to America, in the oceans, if you think like the borders of America, the oceans, that our territory of America, that amount is bigger than the land itself. So there is more America in the ocean than in the land. And with that notion, we created The United States and Oceans of America. So we created a new flag with the waves, and we create a new name, rebranded the name, and we launch it to Surfrider. And that was massive.

Beto Fernandez: First of all, we didn’t thought… Actually, we thought immediately, maybe it could be like go to jail or be expelled off the country if we’re playing with these kind of national symbols, but the client was okay. And we launched the campaign and the client just told us two weeks later that the night we launched the campaign, he thought could be the last night of him as CEO of Surfrider because he thought he could lose the job because of this campaign. But the impact was the opposite, was truly, truly positive.

Beto Fernandez: We got [inaudible 01:03:23] of positive sentiment, which is huge because the conversation of like environmental thing is more a liberal kind of conversation. So every message Surfrider posted everywhere usually got a divided response. Almost half of people reply negatively to the message because of their republican background. But we launched this campaign during the primaries, during the midterm election in America and we got 98% of positive sentiment. And we were able to connect with a lot of celebrities that they embrace the cause. And they start to use the flag and show the flag, celebrities from sports, from surf, actors, musicians, people all over America were embracing the cause.

Beto Fernandez: And the beauty of this idea is that the mechanism we analyzed to come up with this idea, we analyzed the mechanism of Surfrider. And they need money to work. And they get money out of two things. They create these events to raise money, and they sell merchandise. So this idea work in these two ends. We create a video that they start to put on these events, and every time they put the video on these events, the amount of donations raised up to 40% because we bring up the patriot sentiment, and at the same time the flags. And all the apparel were on the flags. Every time they launch it, the new collection is sold out on and on and on. So they are selling a lot of merchandise, much more than they used to, because of this idea.

Beto Fernandez: And now we’re cutting deals with brands to create special editions of apparel, using the flag, just like we have a deal now with Billabong that is creating a special collection using this flag. And this again is an act because it’s an ongoing thing. It can live for up to 10, 12 years if they want it because it’s not an ad, it’s an act that can last much longer.

About the M.AD Insighters Series

Each week, we host a different practicing creative professional as they share insights and inspiration from their career. In the past, we’ve had the pleasure of hosting famous names like Jayanta Jenkins, David Butler, Steven Heller, and more. We take pride in sharing the diverse backgrounds and experiences of creatives from a variety of industries (and with a wide variety of viewpoints). It’s all part of our commitment to developing and encouraging young, creative minds.

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