Juries, David Guerrero: “If something’s good it’s not easy and if it’s easy it’s not good”

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Juries, David Guerrero: “If something’s good it’s not easy and if it’s easy it’s not good”

David Guerrero is Creative Chairman, BBDO Guerrero, Manila, and Jury President of Film Lotus, Outdoor Lotus, Press Lotus and Radio & Audio Lotus. He founded BBDO Guerrero in 1998, after just 10 years in the business.


Among its best-known campaigns is WARC Grand-Prix winning global tourism push, It’s more fun in the Philippines. Its campaign for P&G’s Pantene tackled the issue of gender-based inequality in the workplace, was recognised by UN Women in New York, and won the ADFEST Effectiveness Grand Prix. And, in a first-of-its-kind partnership, the zero-plastic shampoo bar called The dissolving bottle, has just gone on sale in the EU.

Guerrero is also a recent Harvard graduate with an MLA in Creative Writing and Literature and his book on creativity, You have to go through a lot of crap to get to good ideas, has been nominated for a 2024 National Book Award in the Philippines.

Why advertising. How did you get your start?
Guerrero said: I did start out wanting to go into some kind of “serious” job in journalism or even development economics, but I got a sense of the role advertising could play in society when I saw it in UK political campaigns. Initially, it was used by one side – primarily with work by the Saatchi brothers for Margaret Thatcher and the Conservatives – and then by the opposition Labour Party, which a few years later learned to fight back with campaigns primarily by BMP/DDB. I hadn’t trained for it, but I had a sense that if I went back to school I could do it. So, I took out a loan and joined the School of Communication Arts in its second year of existence. It was supported by the industry so many of the visiting teachers were people like Paul Arden, John Hegarty and other prominent practitioners. Eventually, I got placements in London with Ogilvy, BMP and WCRS before getting hired at an agency called Ayer Barker. That lasted until I took off for an opportunity in Hong Kong with JWT, then McCann and finally reached my paternal homeland in the Philippines with an offer to lead the creative department at Ogilvy in Manila. And that lasted until the day I got a call to partner up with BBDO in setting up the agency I’ve been running until the present day.

What are the five most important things you have learned along the way.
Guerrero: Are there five things? Let’s see. First is, if something’s good it’s not easy and if it’s easy it’s not good. You need to surprise people with your work and people are smarter than you think. So, you have to work harder than you would like to make something interesting.

Second, the idea is everything and it’s nothing. Yes, you need a great idea at the core of any project. But just because you have an idea it won’t be any good until you’ve made it the best it can be. It’s a constant battle to see an idea through. And you can’t relax until the work is completed.

Third, you have to be confident but not too confident. If you’re not confident enough you won’t get any good work off the ground. But if you get over-confident you might end up crashing and burning. Fourth, and this is particularly true today, advertising is a team sport. You can’t make good work in isolation. You need to strengthen it by inviting collaborators and drawing on the skill and expertise of people around you and often the audience as well.

Fifth, and most important, you need to be honest with yourself. If you can make something you are truly happy with then you will find your audience. As the physicist Robert Feynman says, the one rule is that you must not fool yourself. And you are the easiest person to fool.

What does it take to be a creative leader? What skills did you need/use to get to where you are today?
Guerrero: First and foremost, you must love the work. And by the work I mean the joy and challenge of creating assets that will be valuable to clients and enjoyed by the audience. You must also find people who can bring that joy to the work they do. If your agency brings together people who love finding original answers to an ever-changing set of problems, then you will all have fun and probably make some good ads along the way.

Advertising has changed during your career. What has the industry gained? What has it lost? What will ensure its health in the future?
Guerrero: Yes, in some ways it has changed hugely. For example, the categories I’m judging at this year’s ADFEST probably comprised the entire show 20 years ago. The extent to which that has changed is most visible in the breadth and depth of expression that work now has across the board. So, the industry has gained hugely in the size of the canvas we can express ourselves. This is all driven by the evolution in media from one-way communication to interactive. And from forced-choice to user-driven. And in the level of accountability that implies for brands. So, clients and brands have had to become more responsive to social trends and at the same time start to serve people in ways they never had to think about before. Yes, brands can still nudge behaviour but they can’t do so in a vacuum. It’s a two-way process now which is great to see.

In terms of what we have lost, as a result of these changes we no longer spend as much time crafting elaborate brand messages, although there is still a role for that. However ,we do spend a lot of time crafting brand platforms and ecosystems that address multiple audiences in a variety of ways. Creativity is now expressed more often in terms of concrete actions – products and services that allow people to express their values. As more of the traditional craft skills such as illustration and copy become machine-replaceable by AI, the next level is the skill of directing those tools in surprising and useful ways. And in ways that can’t simply be automated or bought.

Ingenuity and creativity will still win the day. And that’s where we should be focusing our efforts – in developing the creative skills to get beyond the temptation of the obvious, easy solutions that anyone with a subscription to an ai service can access.

What are you most proud of and why?
Guerrero: I’m most proud of the work that I’ve done – or helped do – in the Philippines. And perhaps most of all the work done to promote the country as a tourism destination, with our crowd-sourced, It’s more fun in the Philippines, campaign which won the WARC Asia Grand Prix. Other than that, it’s seeing the success of the various talented creative people who have come through the agency and gone on to careers in other countries – and the people who continue to join us in taking that vision of a vibrant creative culture in the Philippines to greater heights.