Feature

Why are Argentine creatives so great?

Last week, WPP announced that it wanted to sprinkle some "Argentinian pixie dust" on adland by opening up a London outpost of the Argentinian hotshop Santo.

Lux...Santo's 'neon girl' spot was a winner at Cannes
Lux...Santo's 'neon girl' spot was a winner at Cannes
Just searching "Argentinian advertising" on YouTube reveals a bizarre, yet brilliant, collection of commercials featuring anything from children dancing in rabbit suits while baking a cake, to women fleeing plastic surgery by breaking into street dance.

With this sort of creative abandon and joyful presence, Argentinian ads appear to have an almost simplistic, universal appeal, and it is becoming apparent why WPP is making this investment.

This passion for original, entertaining and surrealist ads is already striking a chord with UK audiences, as the great and the good of the Argentinian ad scene, such as Fallon's Juan Cabral and Lowe Worldwide's Fernando Vega-Olmos, make their mark on UK creativity.

With ads such as Cabral's "gorilla" and "balls" and the Cannes-awarded "neon girl" spot for Lux from Santo achieving global popularity, there is clearly something in the Buenos Aires water that enables its creative protégés to produce ads that achieve international cut-through.

Arguably, Argentina's cultural make-up plays a big part in its success. As Olmos and Carlos Bayala, the creative director at Madre Buenos Aires, Mother's Argentinian agency, point out, successive waves of immigration have created a cultural melting pot of nationalities including Italian, German, Polish, Croatian, Armenian, Turkish, British, French and Irish.

Sense of the absurd

These perspectives, combined with the Argentinian ability to react quickly to an unstable political and economic climate has, as Tony Wright, the Lowe Worldwide chairman, points out: "Led to a well-developed sense of the wonders of the absurd."

He continues: "The magic is that this absurdity is connected to a very powerful and single-minded sense of the brand proposition, so it is both breathtaking and simple. That is why it works globally - these are universal human ideas."

But perhaps the key factor that enables Argentine ads to cross international borders is their visually led nature.

Karina Wilsher, the managing director at Fallon, explains: "When Juan presented the idea for ‘balls', it was just one sentence explaining balls being blasted down a street in San Francisco. I'm sure the fact he comes up with such pure thoughts that are really visual has something to do with why the work translates so well."

English rivalry

Bayala also feels that our shared tendency towards self-deprecation  has led to a common creative ground being found between the UK and Argentina.

"Yes, there was a war between ourselves and England two-and-a-half decades ago and there is a huge football rivalry, but we both seem to cope well with those serious and not-serious issues, sometimes using that sense of humour to poke each other with intelligence," he adds.

Although there are lessons for the UK to learn from Argentina, given adland's obsession with process, it may never fully embrace this romantically simplistic, unburdened and optimistic approach to creativity.

Wright says: "The best Argentinian agencies do not focus on the debates we have in the US
or UK about models, structures and politics. It's all about getting the job done brilliantly despite all the external confusion."