TBWA/RAAD’s newly appointed Regional Head of Strategy, Rafael Lavor speaks to Communicate about his personal strategy for success in his new role.
Following the appointment last week, in an exclusive interview Rafael Lavor walked us through his ambitions for running point on strategy for global brands at TBWA/RAAD.
Lavor has previously worked with renowned agencies such as AlmapBBDO, JWT, McCann, and CPB+, spearheaded strategy for brands such as Ford, GM, Volkswagen, Embraer, Nokia, Mastercard, Diageo, Amazon, Deezer, Uber, Stella Artois, and Activision. Under his lead, some of these brands were also awarded in Effie Brazil and Effie LATAM.
Before this appointment, he was based out of Sao Paulo, Brazil where he was leading strategy for a local agency. Being relatively new to the region, Lavor explains that he aims to ‘be as present as possible,’ to be able to build a workplace culture where his team is energized by his presence.
We know that TBWA/RAAD has been expanding and investing in strategy and planning for the last three years. How do you plan on contributing to that vision, especially in your role?
Ever since I’ve landed, I’ve been telling everyone here that my top priority is the team. With years of experience from across different regions and interactions with diverse cultural backgrounds, I believe that I have gathered many techniques that can help improve the team dynamics, here. This I think forms a majority of TBWA’s investment in me. This is the part of my job that I enjoy the most, growing and improving together, strategizing and planning together, and it is my top priority. That’s the difference I can make, at least in the short term.
Do you think that the role of strategy and its approach has changed after the pandemic? What do you think has evolved, or become more important than it used to be before the pandemic?
I think as strategists, we’ve become more flexible. I come from a very qualitative research background, there was a time when I used to do in-depth interviews, mediate focus groups, talk to people on the streets, etc. Today, we've combined all those tools with the digital ones and learned to use them throughout the pandemic, to get in-depth human insights. A human connection with consumers is also crucial to gather insights for creative.
If there's one thing that everybody learned during the pandemic is that every brand is a health brand. In a pandemic, it doesn't matter if you're a bank, or an automobile provider, or a telecommunications brand, you have to face the condition that everybody's dealing with and take account of the fact that certain aspects of your commercial dynamic can actually get people infected and you need to be very careful about it. Overall, many brands became a little more human, through the pandemic.
Since you are new to this region, what are you expecting from it in the terms of your new role?
This might sound a little cliché, but I expect to learn from all the cultures around me. In my specific role, I have these awesome people from Pakistan, India, Tunisia, Lebanon, France, the USA, Colombia, Egypt. They all come from different backgrounds with different experiences. Everything adds up to a learning experience for me.
This is one of the few cities in the world which has become home to ex-pats from across the globe. People from diverse cultural backgrounds live together in harmony, which is unlikely to happen in any other part of the world. It is a privilege to have this combination of diverse cultures and tolerance. I come from Sao Paulo, Brazil, while it is a heavily populated region, most of those residing are Brazilians. I've been reading about Dubai since I got the offer, just to get acquainted with the history and then maybe become a part of it, and being here is what makes my tenure here exciting. Although I've been learning so much from the team here at TBWA\RAAD, the cultural exposure I am going to have in this city is something I look forward to.
How do you plan on using the advantage of cultural diversity while working on the strategy for brands?
Since I am an outsider, I believe that I can take a fresh look at a lot of things. No, I'm not saying I'm going to uncover things that people never thought of before, but maybe I have the privilege of being in a place where I can connect with new associations, maybe bridge them together with existing ones. Sometimes the most obvious things are potentially the most creative ideas that can be used in campaigns. I think I could leverage from being an outsider. I add to the cultural diversity of this agency with my experience of working with different types of mindsets on tackling problems for brands.
You expressed your liking for the Disruption Practice at TBWA/RAAD. How will you explain it and what about it intrigued your interests?
TBWA has a couple of offices in Brazil. Although I’ve never worked with them before I’ve always heard of their own methodology of doing things. The Disruption Methodology is led by the strategic departments, and it's basically composed of three main elements. The first is the convention, which refers to the process of detecting the status quo. Which then leads to a vision, or an ambition, or maybe a place that we envision that our brand might occupy in the future.
Finally, we have the disruption, which refers to the idea that can break the convention and lead the brand into the vision that it has for itself. This, in my opinion, is one of the most elegant ways of summarizing the creative thinking process. The elegance around the Disruption Methodology is amazing because it’s easier to make things complex since everyone is talking about data analytics, and how we can add all these tools and analyses to everything. But when it comes down to it, we’re only trying to find these three things: the convention you need to break, the vision you need to embrace, and the disruption that is going to bring this great transformation. This was one of the things that intrigued me, it’s one of the few methodologies of creative thinking that has been trademarked. It is ingrained in TBWA’s DNA.
From the past two weeks, I've been reading all these examples of past campaigns and cases that they’ve worked on, and the disruption methodology is evident. You can try applying this to any type of problem that you have, and that’s what makes it unique.
What is your personal strategy for success?
It’s three things for me – have fun, be nice and never stop learning. I mean, one of the privileges in working in advertising is that this is not rocket science or medicine. Sometimes advertisers struggle with the fact that people don't care about advertising. Why would you build a career in it? It is one of those careers that can truly make a difference for businesses and brands. But it's also fun, you're allowed to learn and create.
The second one is to be a nice person. Advertising is a people’s business. Overall, it’s something that I always keep in mind, in dealing with everything daily.
Finally, it’s to never stop learning. I have this obsession with reading. I've been reading one book per week, for years. And every time I get to learn something new, I feel like I’m in a better position.
Are there any brands that you're looking forward to working with or any certain cases that you can't wait to get your hands on?
I cannot reveal too much of what I'm doing right now. But there are three brands I’m looking forward to working with. First, being KFC, of course, because it's a very cool brand that has been coming up with some amazing content throughout the years here in the region. Another brand that I want to work for is du, as a local brand, it has to tackle a massive competitor, which is Etisalat and I think being second in a market that is so tough and competitive always draws more curiosity and eagerness.
The third one is Nissan. Dubai is one of the few places in the world where you get to sell Lamborghinis. The market has this very specific way of working and I look forward to improving Nissan’s position in the region. Given that the dynamics could also be very challenging and of course, I will be eager to help.