The Creative Mashup – Why Brazil is Leading the Communications Game

My latest post for Advertising Week. Enjoy! (link to original posting here)

If caipirinhas, capoeira, and Carnival have taught us anything, it’s that certain greatness is produced solely under the supervision of Brazil. Throw in the likes of soccer players and Victoria Secret angels, and you’ll very well assume there’s trace amounts of superhero-inducing tonic in the water.

Who are these people? How do they create such magnificent things?

These are just a few of the questions I started asking myself upon seeing RiP!: A Remix Manifesto – a documentary exploring the past, present and potential future of copyright laws. The examination of mashup culture makes up a big part of the film, bringing us all the way down to Rio de Janeiro where musicians and students alike mix the world’s music to generate new tracks.

This is the inherent beauty of the mashup: creating new out of old. Once reserved for hotrods and your parent’s wardrobe, the latest trend in digging up the past is arguably more accessible and certainly easier to share. From the newest hits to oldest oldies, the mashup stands tall as the unifier of musical genres – with only one goal in mind: making something awesome.

(Still have no clue what I’m talking about? Have a listen to Girl Talk‘s All Day album, then warm up to Marc Johnce’s Friday Night I Wanna Dance With Somebody before heading out to the next Bootie party in your neck of the woods. You’ll be more than caught up.)

This desire to create something great it part of the reason mashup culture has become such a big phenomenon. Good things happen when people are allowed to let their creative juices flow. And this is something Brazil has nicely adapted.

When popular Brazilian musician Gilberto Gil became the country’s Minister of Culture in 2003, he started working with Creative Commons and sponsored an initiative named Cultural Points. By giving grants, video and music equipment and training to poor communities, the program has offered youth the tools to create, produce and express themselves like never before. Without worry of the big bad government stepping in because of a hundred year old copyright, a new generation’s creativity is fuelled by the world’s art and encouraged to re-imagine it at will. (You can read a lot more about Gil in this NYTimes article.)

It was a fairly inspiring segment in the documentary. And it really got me thinking about Brazil. Surely this land of cultural diversity is a place that can pull from enough influences to create the kind of colourful marvels in the communications world that we’ve become accustomed to seeing at Carnival.

And this is exactly what I found.

With eyes and ears opened, I soon started noticing that Brazil was popping up all over the place. From fashion to advertising, it seems everyone’s game is stepped way up. If you aren’t already paying attention to them, you should be. Even MDC has made mention of wanting to expand south of the equator. And those guys have picked some winners, literally.

Through fostering the development of new interpretations, Brazil has created a culture of ingenuity like no other. The creative know-how seems inherent, as ideas come out so seamless, you’ll wonder why no one thought of them earlier. Here are a few examples, showing not only a great idea, but a solid use of the mashup in advertising.

Giovanni+Draft FCB – ArtCenter
With over 40 large scale printers in Sao Paulo, it’s a bit tough to stand out. But that was the task at hand for Giovanni+Draft FCB whose client, Art Center, needed to make an impression. And how did they go about doing that? Print something ad people really, really like and do it really, really well.

Santa Clara – Polen Paper
Think printing is a tough client? Try paper. Those blank sheets of fibre literally have nothing to say for themselves. Unless of course you do it for them; which is exactly what Santa Clara did for Polen Paper. Nifty little books were produced, using Brazil’s best Tweets to fill the pages of high quality paper.

And while we’re on the subject of Twitter, it’s worth pointing out that Brazil’s doing a pretty stellar job here too. At 8.79%, it boasts the second highest number of users around the world and the third highest penetration rate, with 23.7% of its population spilling their thoughts in 140 characters or less. Second and third place don’t do it for you? Don’t worry, they’ve got the golden statue too.

The most influential person on Twitter is Rafinha Bastos, a Brazilian comedian and journalist.

Clearly, this is a country that knows how to communicate with its people.

Read those words carefully: communicate with. The time of speaking to the masses is over, they’re ready to have a conversation. This may be the greatest thing we can learn from Brazil. By re-appropriate existing elements (with existing positive associations) communications are more dynamic and inclusive than ever. This means that the advertising produced will become as relevant as possible.

Now, with a slew of multinationals joining the ad community in Brazil and the infinite possibilities emanating from the upcoming 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, it’s safe to say Brazil’s star will continue to rise. Better brush up on your Portuguese and find some shades.


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