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5 Minutes with… Edgardo Rivera


DDB Puerto Rico’s president and CEO discusses his career so far, the challenge of retaining talent and rebuilding after Hurricane Fiona, writes LBB’s Ben Conway

5 Minutes with… Edgardo Rivera

Edgardo Rivera, president and CEO of DDB Latina’s Puerto Rico office has recently taken on the mantle of president of the Sales and Marketing Executives Association of Puerto Rico (SMEPR). The organisation is a non-profit that has been running for over six decades and brings together over 500 sales, marketing and communications executives from businesses across the Island.

Tasked with the professional development of marketing executives and educating the region’s leaders and college students on global trends and innovations, Edgardo has taken on quite the responsibility, in addition to his duties at DDB, especially as the Island recovers from Hurricane Fiona.

Speaking to LBB’s Ben Conway, Edgardo discusses his goals and expectations for his new position at the SMEPR Association, partnering with non-profits and community leaders to help rebuild Puerto Rico after hurricanes, and following in his father’s advertising footsteps to contribute to DDB Latina’s recent Cannes success.

LBB> Congratulations on being appointed president of the SME Association of Puerto Rico. What does this appointment mean to you? How long have you been involved with this organisation?

Edgardo> Thanks! I’ve been involved with the SMEPR for the last three years. About five years ago, I had the opportunity to preside over the Advertising Association in Puerto Rico. It’s an industry that I am very familiar with, so I knew what was needed and what to expect. Presiding over the SME Association means something very different because of the variety of industries it represents. We have media, advertising, marketing, sales executives, and entrepreneurs among many of our members. It is a very fulfilling role because we are trying to move businesses forward in Puerto Rico, while at the same time, developing platforms and educational programs to connect and inspire younger generations.  

LBB> What are some of your main goals with the association - both short and long-term? What tools and actions does the SME have at its disposal to support marketing in Puerto Rico?

Edgardo> Our short-term goal is to make sure we are providing the highest quality of educational content for our members, so we can help them grow as professionals. We want to be a community where our members can exchange ideas and best practices. Our board is very focused on producing the highest quality events and award shows, and bringing top talent from all over the world to educate our membership base. Long-term, we are looking at the relevancy of the association and how it needs to evolve to be ahead of the curve. We are the point of reference for many industries, so we need to know what’s next to keep adding value.  

LBB> What creative content inspires or interests you?

Edgardo> I always have been fond of three things: great scripts, copywriting, and comedy. Any show with all three of these components always interests me the most. Advertising content has become more sober and dark, and we have forgotten that humour is the most powerful tool. That’s why people turn in to see the Super Bowl. So, any ad that tries to find humour to engage me gets my vote.

LBB> How did you get into advertising? What did you study at college? And where did you get your first ‘break’ into the industry?

Edgardo> Advertising has been with me since I was very young. My dad had a very successful career running different agencies, so I spent my days running around a lot of advertising people. I started working in the media department during the summers and by the time I graduated, I had been around most of the areas of an agency.  I went to school at Ball State University in Indiana on a tennis scholarship, and I majored in communications and journalism. 

I started my career as a junior account executive in a local agency in Puerto Rico, but I got my first break when I moved to Miami and worked for the DDB regional hub. We handled the ExxonMobil business for over 17 countries in Latin America from there and I got the chance to collaborate with some of the best agencies in the world. This experience opened my eyes to the possibilities of what could be attained from Puerto Rico.

LBB> After the recent Hurricane Fiona (and the long-lasting effects of Maria and Irma) - how is Puerto Rico recovering? Does the SMEPR work together to support the community? Does DDB have any initiatives too?

Edgardo> It was traumatising going through the experience of witnessing a category five hurricane with our eyes. It looked like an atomic bomb had gone off when we went around the island. So, when Fiona hit us - even though it was not as bad as Maria - you can guess the level of panic on the island. After Hurricane Maria, our infrastructure and electric grid were left shattered, and it has not improved much since then. This is crucial because anytime a storm hits the island, the electric grid goes down, causing a ripple effect on the health system, schools, and business owners. 

At DDB Puerto Rico, we have worked closely in the past with community leaders and partnered with brands and media companies to bring entertainment to places that were affected by the storms. We brought generators, kiosks, big screens, and music to provide hope to those affected. The SMEPR also has close ties to these impacted communities and to many non-profits that we have partnered with through the years.

LBB> It has been reported that these natural disasters and a lack of support from the US have driven many Puerto Ricans out of the country to live and work elsewhere. How have you seen the impacts of the hurricanes/earthquakes and the US federal government’s neglect first-hand?

Edgardo> It is simple. To rebuild, we need federal funds - and without those funds, we can’t move forward. It will take billions of dollars to rebuild our fragile infrastructure. Time is of the essence because climate change won’t go away, and storms will only keep getting bigger. The other side of the story is also complicated because when we receive these funds, I don’t know if our local government will have the capacity to allocate funds correctly. It’s a complicated issue.

LBB> Since many Puerto Ricans have searched for work and a life elsewhere since 2010 (on top of the existing industry-wide  ‘great resignation’ of talent) - how has this affected DDB Puerto Rico’s hiring processes, as well as how you work with clients and audiences on the island?

Edgardo> The great resignation has impacted us, like many others in the industry. After Hurricane Maria, our industry saw an increase in local talent leaving for the States to look for other opportunities. The added layer for us is that, as US citizens, our talent has the option of leaving to work anywhere in the states. So, we are not competing only locally; we must contend with agencies in the states and their compensation packages, which tend to be higher. This adds pressure on agency management to develop other tactics to retain talent, such as hybrid work, work-life balance initiatives, career development opportunities, etc.

LBB> What are some recent projects from DDB Puerto Rico that make you proud and why?   

Edgardo> We are very proud of a lot of the work we produce on a day-to-day basis for many of our clients. I will share two pieces that, even though they are for the same brand, have resonated differently with our audiences. One is a campaign we did for the arrival of Medalla Light Beer in the States called ‘Sounds from Home’. This campaign was one of the six finalists for the US Grand Effie in 2022. 

The other campaign resonated locally and has been one of the most talked about efforts for the brand. Medalla Light is a primary sponsor of the Puerto Rico Olympic Delegation, and for the first time, our women's basketball team qualified for the Tokyo Olympics. To celebrate this achievement, through artificial intelligence, we brought back Puerto Rico's most beloved commentator, who never got the opportunity to commentate on a women's game and has been dead for over 20 years. The case is called: ‘Ayúdalas Divina Pastora’ as it was one of their most famous phrases.

LBB> DDB Latina, as a group, had a very successful last two years at Cannes. What are your plans and expectations for the coming year at DDB Puerto Rico? 

Edgardo> We are part of the most successful creative and effective network in the region, so our primary goal, in terms of creative output, is to compete with our other offices and contribute with [award] recognitions. Our clients understand the importance of creativity and innovation, so we are working closely with them to develop world-class ideas that can deliver a Lion at Cannes while positively impacting the business.

LBB> Outside of work, what do you do to decompress or stay fresh? And what drives and motivates you in work and in your life?

Edgardo> I enjoy playing sports, from playing tennis to working out or playing beach tennis. I love the spirit of competing, and more than decompressing, it helps me stay fresh. My main driver is my family. My wife and three kids are why I get up and stay motivated.

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DDB Latina, Fri, 28 Oct 2022 14:55:00 GMT