Close-Up: Profile - Can Vega Olmos become JWT's new messiah?

The original boy from Buenos Aires, Fernando Vega Olmos, is facing a fresh challenge in a new JWT job.

The Argentine Fernando Vega Olmos is not a man who believes language is an obstacle to creativity.

So much so that when he delivered a speech at Cannes three years ago, he started it in English, but, after a few minutes, said "Fuck it, I'll do it in Spanish", much to the bemusement of the delegates.

Next year, he will join JWT in the newly created role of creative chairman for Continental Europe and Latin America. This appointment signals a change in JWT's worldwide management structure, where Craig Davis' role as the worldwide chief creative officer will be scrapped when he returns to Australia in 2009.

As a result, all of the lead regional creative heads will report to Bob Jeffrey, the global chief executive and chairman of JWT, who believes a closer relationship with regional creatives is more beneficial.

Describing the global chief creative officer role as "obsolete", Vega Olmos appears to have the same vision as Jeffrey. However, there may be more to the hiring than just Jeffrey's description of Vega Olmos as a "rock star" and a "messiah".

The creative built his reputation on award-winning Unilever work, which just happens to be JWT's biggest client. In fact, Vega Olmos even says he "would follow Simon Clift (Unilever's global chief marketing officer) through hell".

But despite this, Jeffrey flatly denies that his Unilever experience had anything to do with the hiring.

Vega Olmos' creative reputation precedes him, having racked up more than 500 awards since 1992, when he became the first Argentine creative to win a gold Lion at Cannes. Growing up in downtown Buenos Aires, he is the quintessential Argentine creative: extremely optimistic, yet self-deprecating and a champion of exaggeration.

"To survive in a country like Argentina - a country that had five presidents in two weeks - without going nuts, you accept that exaggeration is a part of your life. You need to develop an irony about reality," Vega Olmos says.

Half-shrink, half-writer, he started out studying psychology at Pontificia Universidad Catolica Argentina, but later decided to move into advertising because he loved to write.

His first copywriting job came in 1980 at one of the biggest agencies in Argentina, Gowland & McCann Erickson. Over the next two decades, he was fortunate enough to work with the two greats of Argentine advertising: David Ratto and Hugo Casares.

Throughout this period, Vega Olmos also worked with his future partner, Hernan Ponce. In 1997, the pair set up VegaOlmosPonce, which Lowe bought last year. "Hernan is a genius. The guy has such a fearless dedication to creative," Vega Olmos says.

While fulfilling his role as the president of VOP, Vega Olmos also became Lowe's worldwide creative director for Unilever in 2004. Then, in 2007, Lowe set up an agency in Madrid, Lowe Latina (Lola), and appointed Vega Olmos as its chairman.

But now it is a different story for Vega Olmos. Describing life, over recent years, as a "perpetual pitch", he became disillusioned with working on one global account.

He was attracted to the role at JWT because it is, as he says "a big agency with big clients and big iconimc global brands".

"It's a rich process when you put people together who have different origins, backgrounds and personal stories," he says. "The work that comes out is fresh, new and provocative. I give people room to shine and really admire talent."

Pablo Minces, the creative director of Santo, worked under Vega Olmos at VOP in the first three years of his career.

"Fernando is one of the most inspiring creative directors I have worked with," he says. "He gives creatives a lot of liberty to come up with great campaigns."

Jeffrey says he wants people on board who understand JWT's heritage and have ambitions for the future to drive the creative work beyond traditional advertising.

Vega Olmos' take on the future is twofold. Over the next decade, he believes we will see the true globalisation of the world, beyond the Anglo-American notion, through digital platforms, and the rise of co-branding, as seen by the collaboration between Nike and Apple, resulting in Nike+.

In that vein, he has a provocative co-branding idea of his own, in the form of two Unilever brands: Axe ice-cream anyone? The idea and its creator couldn't be from anywhere but Argentina.