Follow Your North Star: An Interview with Rodrigo Jatene

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By Evan Robertson, Copywriter

Rodrigo Jatene is Chief Creative Officer for Grey West, where he oversees their Los Angeles and San Francisco offices. Before this role, Jatene was the Co-President and Chief Creative Officer of Grey Brazil. Throughout his career, he has won 58 Lions at Cannes, as well as numerous other awards and advertising honors. Beyond creating groundbreaking advertising, Jatene enjoys spending time with his family and competing in Triathlon and IronMan competitions. 

Evan: How did you initially find out about Miami Ad School and break into advertising?

Rodrigo: First off, I studied in Brazil for college and it’s a different type of foundation. We have an advertising school in Brazil, but it’s not really a proper foundation. It’s like a big communications school with an emphasis in advertising, but it wasn’t a university that helped me enter the market. I had to find something else to help me shape these foundations as a creative. Miami Ad School in Sao Paulo taught me to channel my creativity into constructing ideas that solve business problems. 

Evan: How crucial do you think it is to be a hybrid in the industry today? 

Rodrigo: It’s very important. I think as you move up in your career that your craft as an art director or as a copywriter -- doing just one part of your craft is just not enough. Once you become a CD, ECD, and then ECO or whatever; you need to know both sides of it and actually a lot about technology and strategy too. 

Evan: Is there advice you’d like to give to young creatives?

Rodrigo: There is one piece of advice, well it’s not even advice as much as it is a requirement to work in this industry and that is this: Stay curious and stay hungry. Everything changes all the time, but one thing that will not change is the power of ideas. To get to an idea you have to be hungry. You have to be curious. If you just feel comfortable wherever you are, you’re not going to succeed. You know what I mean? It’s about the constant pursuit of the great idea. An idea that helps your agency, helps the brand you’re working with, and defines you as a creative. That’s my thing - stay curious, stay hungry, and be the type of person that everybody in the industry would be willing to work with. 

"Stay curious and stay hungry"

- Rodrigo Jatene

Evan: I had the opportunity to check out some of your social media accounts and I saw you spend a lot of time travelling with your family.How do you manage to balance work and family in a productive way? 

R: It’s curious. You’re not the first person to tell me this and we don’t even know each other, but I think it’s clear to people because I treasure the relationship I have with my family. My kids, my wife, but also my extended family. It relates to what I just told you about being a student of life. It’s important to be nurtured and understand what people’s needs are. 

Evan: What inspires you?

Rodrigo: I think it’s life. Living an interesting life that brings you insights. Being curious is part of it. To just go through life just visiting is one thing, but if you’re really a student of life and you want to understand why people and businesses do the things they do and why things work the way they work. If you’re questioning it all the time you come out with ideas and insights to hold on to. That’s more or less how I think about this. It’s not just having a repertoire of what ideas are good enough. It’s about constantly finding new ones throughout your life. 

Evan: I saw your Brazillian Corruption Detector campaign that uses face-imaging software to single out dishonest candidates. Can you tell me more about this project? 

Rodrigo: This is something that solves a business problem for a client, but it also helps our clients, our agency, and ourselves as creatives to solve a societal problem that is bigger than this industry and anything else. I’m very interested in politics, but at the same time I’m more interested in the effect that politics have on society. If we can change something in politics that helps society be better and just do the right thing I think that we have to give everything we have towards that. I think as creatives, before anything else, we don’t serve brands; we serve, obviously, our agencies, we serve ourselves and our people. I don’t know why I’m saying that, but maybe because I have my parents and my family. They’re all doctors and surgeons. They’ve spent their lives inventing new ways to save people’s lives and I can’t do that because I don’t have the craft that they have to do that. But I do have other things to offer! I have ideas and I can use my ideas to help people in different ways. That’s my north star. 

Evan: Does your north star guide you towards your projects that you personally believe in? 

Rodrigo: Yeah, I think it does. I mean, we as people, we should follow a north star that does that all the time. Even if there is a client behind it or not we have to serve the society. So those north stars -- they work for me as a sidebar and I don’t care if clients buy into it or not. We as creatives can do something about this and if there’s a client attached to it, even better because then you’re putting together the two things that you love - the advertising and the commercial, the corporate side together with your personal interests. It’s always good to have your north star up there and your points of interest. Don’t lose sight of it because, I mean, briefs every now and then will come and they’ll be commonplace and ordinary. You’ll still have to tackle them with the same energy and interest that you’d tackle any kind of brief with a personal interest. But at the same time, don’t forget your personal interests because sometimes they come together and then you can actually feel your desires, your interests, and your will.  

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