Inspiration Is Deeply Contagious: Gustavo Sarkis, Executive Creative Director, Conill

Gustavo Sarkis
Executive Creative Director Conill

Marketing/Creative Services
El Segundo, United States
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How did you get your start as a copywriter and what inspired you to pursue it as a career?

I started out as an intern at a local agency in my hometown in Brazil called Propeg. I was under an internship program where you would rotate through all departments for a period of time. I started in production, then when I got to the creative department, I didn’t go anywhere else.  I would just stay late working on every assignment possible for months until I got the creative director’s attention and he ended up hiring me as a junior writer.

I was inspired into advertising in a very early age, thanks to my friends’ dad, Duda Mendonça, who was one of the big shots in the Brazilian advertising industry. One day he brought home a Cannes Lions reel. We were all playing video games in the living room and he walked in and put the reel on. I was completely amazed by those ads. I remember asking, “Can you actually come up with stuff like that for a living?” From that day on, I started to think about pursuing a career in advertising.


How much has the role changed since you joined the industry? Do you believe the craft has suffered because of these changes?

I think the most critical change is in the role of the consumers. They went from being spectators to participants. They used to watch ads, now they interact with them at so many different levels. And they can react instantly to whatever message they receive.  Before then, a massive media buy could determine the popularity of a campaign. Nowadays, the success of an ad is in the hands of the consumers. If they like it, they will generate incredible buzz on social media. If they hate it, they will ignore it or criticize it. This changed how we think advertising. We went from talking about ourselves to sharing experiences and mindsets. 

The diversification of budgets across multiple channels has also had an enormous impact on how we approach the work. Production money that was once concentrated on a TV spot is now split between digital, social, experiential and activations, etc. There is less money and less time for each project and that affects the craft. On the other hand, there have never been so many different opportunities to produce great ideas out there.


What set of skills do you believe it takes for a copywriter to thrive in the current advertising landscape?

I think two set of skills are crucial: you have to be a good storyteller and a good problem solver.


Where do you seek inspiration that helps you in your craft?

In people who truly love what they do and put all of their heart and passion into it. It doesn’t matter if they are an art director, copywriter, chef or architect. When I see great work, I like to learn more about who did it and how they relate to their craft. Inspiration is deeply contagious. If you are inspired, you will most likely pass it on to someone else.


What’s the most challenging aspect of the job? What helps keep the work interesting for you?

In advertising, we are constantly exposing ourselves as we pitch ideas. Sometimes it’s hard to keep the initial passion and motivation when you are going through the third round of work. I think one of the greatest challenges for every creative is never losing that love. Passion is what keeps the work interesting.


Is there a part of the role that you feel is often misunderstood? If so what?

Sometimes we miss the fact that we are not just competing against other brands anymore. We are competing with all the content thats is out there, from streaming services to influencers. Consumers have never been so selective. Following best practices on social and digital is important, but that‘s not what is going to make your campaign successful; creativity is.


What advice would you give to young copywriters who’ve just entered the business?

Your first agency and your first creative directors will have a profound impact on your ideas and about how you think advertising. Therefore, my advice is: don’t work with someone you don’t admire. Starting with the right people can make a big difference in your career.