The senior art director at DDB Colombia tells LBB’s Laura Swinton about falling in love with the creativity and camaraderie of the advertising industry
Alejandra Rozo Ruda’s first day in advertising was a blur. The aspiring graphic designer had fallen into advertising by accident, getting a job upon her graduation from Jorge Tadeo Lozano college in Bogotá. Upon walking through the doors of Leo Burnett she was slapped with a flurry of terms and buzzwords and didn’t even have enough time to freeze in the headlights.
“I didn't understand anything they said to me: technicalities! Deliverables! I had never improvised as much in my life as I did that day. The internal pressure was such that I made 14 versions of one piece to show my boss. Imagine the 14 versions of a flyer!” recalls Alejandra. “It had zero practical use but later, after millions of versions, it served to refine my creative process... I think that's the most challenging aspect of my personality, I never give up and I don't like to settle for little.”
Despite the whirlwind introduction to the industry – or perhaps thanks to the thrill of it - Alejandra fell in love with advertising, the camaraderie and creativity.
“I was unaware that this was going to completely catch my guts and here I am, happy,” she reflects. “There were two lessons I learned in the process. The first is that things are easier when you love what you do and if you don't feel them in your gut, it's better to change direction. The second is that everything always works out better when you work with friends. I could say that they are my mantras.”
Alejandra was soon getting her teeth stuck into juicy creative briefs. One of the projects she’s proudest of was DNA Discounts for Aeroméxico. The stunt challenged racism against Latin Americans in the USA and went viral. “I never imagined doing a campaign with such a powerful social and global impact. Being able to create an ingenious brand statement facing a context of racism that, as Latin Americans, we have to fight daily. That was too enriching for me, there is nothing more inspiring than giving a voice to a whole planet. And to stay fresh in this field, it is important to listen to the world.”
In November, Alejandra joined DDB Colombia as a senior art director. She’s also heavily involved in local attempts to challenge gender inequality in the industry. That’s why she is part of a collective of women in Colombian advertising. The Circle of Creatives in Colombia aims to unite, inspire, and empower women and to make women visible through creativity. Alejandra is motivated by change that she is seeing, though feels that there is still much to be done.
“Something that excites me is to see how the role of women in the industry has evolved and how, little by little, the gap of opportunities in the creative field for us has been closing down,” says Alejandra. “There are still many things to improve, many women to make visible, but I find it inspiring to see that more and more creative women are giving something to talk about and leaving the path prepared for the new generations. However, the lack of female participation and visibility in festivals and talks in Latin America continues to frustrate me.”
Outside of work, Alejandra has a number of creative projects on the go at any one time. She loves music and describes herself as ‘an amateur playlist creator’ and she’s also working on something rather fun called Postcards from Nowhere. It’s a collection of postcards sent from fictional places like Mordor, Hogwarts, Bikini Bottom and the Emerald City. As well as being a chance for Alejandra to have fun with her graphic design skills, she’s also enjoying the chance to tell stories, exploring the daily dilemmas faced by much-loved characters.
Those projects find their roots in Alejandra’s childhood. She was constantly playing and drawing and challenging herself – even back then she knew she wanted to make a living from art and creativity. “Now that I think about it, I was always the girl with her hands and uniform full of paint,” she says, painting a picture of a little girl clutching seven pencil cases, wielding 87 different kinds of blue markers and eight shades of pink. Even as a child, Alejandra knew that she had to challenge her perfectionist tendencies. “I was a perfectionist, although from time to time I would make a truce with myself to experiment and let the colour out of the line.”
All of that experimentation and improvisation is paying off – particularly now when clients are looking to move fast to pivot and overcome the challenges of lockdown and Covid-19. From a professional perspective, Alejandra feels like she has drawn from the creative flexibility that she’s spent her whole life developing. “I am currently in Bogotá and I see the lockdown in different ways, first as a creative push. Like that license that life gives you, to experience processes, techniques, with all the freedom to fail. And I also see it as a litmus test for the planet, as the stage in which we all have to deconstruct and reinvent to continue on the path.”