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5 Minutes with… Leonardo Chiesi


The chief creative officer of MRM Santiago and Graphene by IPG speaks to LBB’s Ben Conway about Chile’s underdog spirit and why the industry is blinded by numbers

5 Minutes with… Leonardo Chiesi

This June, Leonardo Chiesi was appointed chief creative officer of MRM Santiago and Graphene by IPG. With 15 years of experience in the advertising industry, the CCO is a copywriter at heart, and has worked for McCann and the IPG group for the majority of his career - primarily in Santiago, Chile.

He has created stand-out work for a variety of local and regional clients such as Nestlé, Santander, Jumbo, Entel, TVN and LATAM Airlines, with many of his projects being recognised at a diverse range of international festivals, including Cannes Lions, The One Show, Webby Awards and the Effies. Last year, his team was awarded four Grand Prix, and six Gold and one Silver at the ACHAP awards for the 'Fly Over Cyber Monday' campaign - an annual contest that celebrates the best in the Chilean creative industry. 

Ahead of his ‘Big Guata’ (‘Big Belly’) talk at the upcoming creativity and communications festival, El Ojo de Iberoamérica, on Friday November 11th, Leonardo spoke with LBB’s Ben Conway about being a creative stowaway on a rocket to Mars, and why new tech and trends have to be used as ‘tools’ not ‘truths’. 

LBB> Over the summer, you were appointed CCO of MRM Santiago and Graphene - what are some of your new responsibilities in this role? How is your time split between the two?


Leonardo> I’m glad to be working with both agencies’ talents and creative departments. Although MRM and Graphene's daily work is different (because of the nature of each client’s business), I do encourage people at both agencies to connect and create together. There are huge opportunities for crossover between talents working in diverse markets and industries, and I believe that every person - not only creatives - has the capability to come up with new ideas, insights, data and perspectives that can help us create fresh ideas for clients at Graphene and MRM.

LBB> You are a copywriter by nature - how has your copywriting experience influenced your creative leadership role?


Leonardo> Personally, I believe that copywriting is not only a powerful tool for crafting ads, but for communicating at every level. So yes, being a copywriter has helped me build relationships with my teams and clients, craft more compelling stories, connect deeper, and express my ideas in simple and clear ways. [It’s also helped me] tell better and sell better. It’s an important part of everything we do: from a banner to a TVC, from writing an email to pitching a keynote.

LBB> You’ve worked at various McCann agencies throughout your career, and now you’re at MRM. What has your journey with McCann been like? How has the network changed over time?


Leonardo> I’ve been at McCann Worldgroup for almost 13 years, and view this network as a home. It’s been a very inspiring and provocative workspace where I feel the most diverse points of view, and all forms of talent have a safe place to create and develop their careers. Although time passes and there have been obvious changes and tweaks following new trends, technologies, and internal leaderships, the purpose and heart of the network has stayed the same. I love this consistency because it has to do with a deep belief that lives beyond trends.

LBB> You’ve also worked in Santiago for a significant portion of your career - what is the city like? And what is the creative/ad scene like in the city - and more widely, in Chile? 


Leonardo> Chileans are creative by nature. It’s the typical underdog story. Chile is constantly being hit by nature (earthquakes), social crises and injustice, so people here have a very particular sarcastic sense of humour. They’re resilient and are used to ‘hacking’ things on a daily basis to make things work for them. This works on a similar level in the ad industry, where Chile has been able to win a spot on the global stage, with clever, low-cost, lateral ideas.

LBB> What are the topics and trends that are affecting life in Chile right now? How are they influencing your work and how you communicate with your audience?


Leonardo> The social and economic situation in Chile has affected the way we work, because it has affected the way we live. In late 2019, Chile experienced a social outburst that resulted in a referendum to vote for a new constitution. Then, two years later, people voted against the new constitution.

So, things can get a bit confusing down here. There’s still a social unconformity regarding injustice and inequality between social classes that has happened in the last decades. On the other hand, people don’t seem to trust the same politicians that have perpetuated this reality to fix things. This, and the global contingency contribute to a general feeling of uncertainty.

LBB> Locally in Santiago, and internationally, what in the industry gets you excited and what frustrates you? What can the industry be doing better?

Leonardo> I love the way we can build relationships between brands and people. [We can] own a brand’s voice and develop its personality, solve real problems, and drive change in different industries - and hopefully the world, too. I truly believe this, and I get frustrated when anybody works hard against it;when people from the client, agency or any internal or external partner think that what we do doesn’t have a real impact.

I also get frustrated by injustice. In our industry, injustice can appear in different ways: a bright talent that’s not under the spotlight, work that’s not getting fair pay, or an idea that’s not capable of seeing light.

LBB> Tell us about 'Fly Over Cyber Monday' and your other recent, award-winning work! Which projects are you proudest of?   

Leonardo> ‘Fly Over Cyber Monday’ is one of the pieces of work that makes me proudest - not just because of awards, but because of the process. Every year, ‘Cyber Monday’ is a brief on creative’s desks all over the world, and we managed to turn a plain retail brief into a huge opportunity. Having an airline engage in a sort of ‘fight’ with the whole local retail industry also made it more exciting.

‘The Sacrifice’ by Greenpeace is also one of the latest works that I love, because it was a fresh way to spotlight a huge problem in Chile.

LBB> Tell us about the festival, El Ojo Iberoamérica - what will you be speaking about at your ‘Big Guata’ conference?


Leonardo> Advertising today is all into data and new tech. The problem is that many people in our industry are blindfolded by numbers, and are forgetting the human component that puts the beauty into everything we do. At MRM, we say ‘relationships’ is our middle name, and this is something I have always believed in. New trends, new media and new technologies will keep coming, and it’s our responsibility to use them as new tools, not new truths.

Raw numbers can show a lot, but they’re not capable of connecting with people. That’s our job.

LBB> The festival has a ‘Latin criteria and perspective’ - can you elaborate on this? What are some quintessential ‘Latin’ perspectives in the ad industry? How has your work at MRM reflected these criteria?


Leonardo> I believe that a ‘Latin criteria and perspective’ has to do with something I mentioned earlier: we’re the underdogs. We create from that starting point. It has to do with hacking stuff, taking shortcuts, questioning the status quo, looking for legal loopholes and using social power to generate change.

It’s very unlikely that the first brand to send something in a rocket to Mars will be from our region. But, it’s more likely that a creative from our region manages to sneak something between the luggage of the American brand that will.

LBB> What projects are you currently working on or excited about? What can we look forward to seeing from MRM in the near future?


Leonardo> Last Cyber Monday, we made LATAM Airlines team up with small repair shops from Chile, Perú, Colombia and Uruguay, and convinced people to get their stuff repaired instead of buying it new - and with the money they saved, get some vacations. I love this project because it hacks the retail industry and it has a sustainability angle. Not only did it help LATAM sell tickets, but also it raised awareness of hundreds of smaller tech, shoe, clothes and bike repair shops, and drove clients to their shops. 

I’m also excited about a campaign we aired with NotCo for its product ‘NotMilk’. After two years of being sued by milk associations in Chile (similar to what happened with Uber and Taxi associations), we transformed the legal argument from the dairy farmers’ lawyers into the new NotMilk brand concept. People loved it, and it turned out to be the best way to put an end to the legal fights.


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McCann Santiago, Wed, 09 Nov 2022 17:17:00 GMT