GLOBAL HEADLINE MAKERS: JUAN PABLO VALENCIA (KAZAKHSTAN)

Our regular column features creative stars who are making headlines. In this edition we meet Juan Pablo Valencia. Hailing from Chile, Juan Pablo recently became ECD of Cheil Kazakhstan. But he has spent several years putting the country on the creative map.

It’s not so often that you meet someone who works in Kazakhstan but started their career in Chile. So the obvious question to Juan Pablo Valencia, executive creative director of Cheil Kazakhstan, is: “How did you end up there?”

In fact, his adventure began in Moscow, when he joined BBDO Russia as art director. “They were establishing new creative teams to work for Russia’s biggest telecommunication brand, Beeline. So I took the challenge, and it was the right decision.”

Although he wasn’t familiar with the country, some aspects of its culture were not entirely alien to him. As a kid, he was into chess and mathematics. Then a friend pointed out the unlikely connection between chess and advertising. “Strategy, tactics, making creative and fast decisions – these are part of my everyday job.”

Advertising school led to a summer internship at BBDO Chile, and then to a job at the agency. He finished his studies in parallel with his new post. “They told me I’d learn more at an agency than at school, and they were right!”

After learning his trade in Chile, he was ready for an international experience. So he moved to Russia, despite not knowing a word of the language. Luckily, he says, “I met a fantastic team that supported me all the time.”

Over three years he moved up to creative group head and then creative director. As well as winning the agency’s first awards, his team brought in new business and worked for clients such as Mars, Pepsico, Procter & Gamble and Wrigley.

Then came an offer to lead TBWA Central Asia & Caucasus in Kazakhstan. Another place he knew little about, apart from a few movie clichés. The reality was different. “Kazakhstan has a rich and unique culture, history, traditions, great food, and fantastic people and hospitality. All these points and the good results at the agency made me decide to stay longer.”

The agency brought Kazakhstan its first international awards. “We were the most awarded TBWA agency in the region, including Russia and Ukraine. We got more than 150 international awards and honors in around three years. But mainly, we changed the perception of the market. Creativity and good ideas work everywhere. It’s not the place or the size of the agency, but the ambitions you want to achieve.”

He’s been at Cheil just over six months, but has already produced work he’s proud of, such as the Epica award-winning visual “Paintbrushes”, for Samsung’s SUHD TVs.

Another example is an integrated campaign for Samsung featuring boxing champ Gennady Gennadyevich Golovkin, known as GGG. “He is a national hero for the young generation here,” Juan Pablo says. “The results and feedback from people are very positive. It’s a large scale campaign and I can say it has been a fantastic experience – already a benchmark for the agency.”

Asked about his creative approach, he has a rational response – maybe that’s the chess player coming through. “Everyone thinks creativity is very subjective, but I believe it can be objective and measurable as well. We work with briefs, budgets, and a clear objective. Thus we can evaluate the results, so we can prove if one idea works better than another.”

Of course, he adds, there’s no such thing as a “wizard” who can tell an idea will work in advance. “Nevertheless, I think there are certain parameters we can take into account to see if an idea will be powerful or a failure. Firstly, it needs to solve the problem or do the job in the brief. To do that it needs to be fresh, unique, distinctive and ‘never seen before’. Something that delivers an experience, as well as positive feedback for the message and the brand.”

But he adds that creatives have a responsibility as communicators. “We have the power in our hands to create and spread messages. If our ideas can sell, improve an image, build brands and so on, we can also apply those skills to our country, society and families, by adding values and positive emotions. That’s great advertising, in my opinion: when it changes the world for better.”

When he evaluates an idea, he often asks himself: “If my son, daughter or wife were to see this, would I be proud or ashamed?”

In terms of inspiration, he says, he looks at life’s details. “We usually expect big things to be inspiring. But there are a lot of great things happening all around us if we stop to look at them. A nice song, an interesting book or a positive article, seeing other people doing their job passionately, hearing success stories, a good movie, drinking a coffee or a beer with a friend, a great pass in a football game…”

Professionally, however, he has a simpler recipe. “I think the best source of inspiration for creatives is a good brief. If a brief is ambitious, clear, precise and intensive, half the work is done!”

By Mark Tungate, editorial director, Epica Awards 

Juan-Pablo Valencia
Executive Creative Director Cheil