The Greatest Idea I’ve Ever Had

By Ciro Sarmiento, CCO

“If this is our Latin American reality, imagine our films.”

(It was the smallest thing. Yet it led the way.)

I was a Colombian copywriter working in the gigantic US advertising industry, and spending my first year in a Hispanic shop in Austin, Texas. I was overwhelmed by how things get done in North America: the big budgets, the big brands, the time-consuming meetings. All of this was exciting and new.

In amongst clients like Anheuser-Busch and Kimberly-Clark there was a small client of ours: Cine Las Americas Latin American Film Festival.

My old boss, Sergio Alcocer, was the CCO back then and along with Diego (CD) they came up with a line – If this is our Latin American reality, imagine our films – to sell Latin movies to North American audiences. It was a complex brief, as the average American wants everything right away with minimum effort – which means they hate subtitles in movies.

How would we convince them that Latin films are far more interesting than Hollywood films?

Internally, all the creative teams were looking at TV scripts and nobody was looking at radio, so I thought it could be my chance. I’m an admirer of radio and the simplicity and impact that an audio ad can have on listeners. To me, radio is always the underdog of media and I felt a bit like an underdog too.

I took the concept line and started writing radio scripts, asking myself how I could make an American or a European experience what living in Latin America is like. How would I put them in someone else’s shoes? I decided to show the reality of countries like Venezuela, México or Bolivia and ‘transport’ this reality into first-world countries.

The casting process was intense as we wanted to convince people they were listening to actual radio news from the USA or UK. I give a lot of credit to Personal Music, Miami for finding the best talent possible and taking the music and sound design to a higher level.

Yes, it won golds everywhere in 2011 and 2012, but the reason this campaign has a special place in my heart is different

Sometimes the greatest idea you’ve ever had is not the biggest or most expensive, or even the most talked about. It wasn’t flashy and it wasn’t a case study either. It was pure and it came at a life-changing moment in my personal life. Somehow it showed the idiosyncrasy of where I come from; the scrappiness, resourcefulness and ingenuity of Latin Americans. We do so much with so little, and we put this big smile upon our face.

I listen to it now and then, and it makes me smile. Particularly because this bizarre reality is now part of a country like the United States. I could write dozens of scripts just about Donald Trump… the campaign still works!

 This article was originally published by D&AD
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