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5 minutes with...

5 Minutes with… Juan Pablo Jurado

The CEO of Wunderman Thompson LATAM on his earlier career at Adidas, launching a digital agency in the late ‘90s, and the virtues of fishing in the rain forest

5 Minutes with… Juan Pablo Jurado

Juan Pablo Jurado is the chief executive officer of Wunderman Thompson Latin America. He’s been a key figure there long before JWT and Wunderman merged - he sold his agency Stopromotion to Wunderman way back in 2002. Prior to running regional operations for the agency, he led Wunderman's Buenos Aires office as president. Under his watch, it became Argentina's largest agency, with more than 450 employees. Before launching Stopromotion in 1997, he spent 13 years working in the marketing department at adidas - a period of time, he feels, that prepped him perfectly for a career in advertising agencies. Outside of work he loves nothing more than hanging with his family or escaping to the depths of the Amazonian rainforest to fish and he's also a big rugby fan.

LBB's Addison Capper chatted with Juan Pablo to find out about the most creative and difficult markets within Latin America, his time as a marketer, and navigating the JWT-Wunderman merger.

 

LBB> You became the CEO of Wunderman Thompson LATAM in August of last year after leading the region for Wunderman. How are you ensuring that Wunderman Thompson has its own culture and distinct tone of voice, but still keeps true to its foundations? And how do you see that culture moving forward?

Juan Pablo> Building a strong culture in a company will allow you to have solid foundations and it means all your talent knows certainly what the company wants and where it’s going.

The first meeting between Wunderman and Thompson in the region was the ‘Inspire’ meeting, where we precisely started building and developing a strong culture within Wunderman Thompson.

For us, talent is, undoubtedly, the most important asset for a company such as WT. Thus, culture is one of the main bedrocks of this company.

We are working towards a culture based on teamwork and a sense of belonging to a company that is looking ahead to this great cultural change in the industry. We are not just an agency anymore; we are much more than that. And the people who work in WT have to feel part of that philosophy of change.

 

LBB> How have you found the role over the past four months? What have you learned and how have you found the merger of the two brands?

Juan Pablo> Over the last four months, I have felt that people are strongly committed and involved in this culture of paradigm changes in our industry; they understand that we have to work together towards a common purpose and a differential positioning in the markets. We are the creativity, data and technology agency focused on people.

I am feeling really at ease in this role as the regional CEO of WT. It is a fascinating challenge for me. As I said before, talent is our most important asset and that is precisely the main challenge. But I enjoy all kinds of challenges, especially this, because we are committed to creating a new company that combines technology, data and creativity to offer our clients solutions that have an impact on their business results.

I believe I have learnt a lot from this alliance, especially in terms of culture. They were two agencies with two very different cultures and building a company with a single culture was a big challenge. I have learnt to take the best practices from each company to develop even stronger ones.

 

LBB> Latin America often gets pigeonholed into one entity but it’s an incredibly diverse region with so many different cultures and quirks. As a regional CEO, how do you keep on top of happenings within each market within the region, both from an agency perspective and within culture?

Juan Pablo> This is a very interesting question. Many people would say Latam because most of the countries, except for Brazil, share the same language and all the countries are the same. But this is not true - each country has its own idiosyncrasy, culture, way of thinking and, thus, communicating.

The Mexican culture is really different from the Argentine, the Argentine is really different from the Brazilian, and so on.

From my point of view, this is something you work on - by being in contact with each of the countries, visiting them, learning from them, working collaboratively with the people from each country to create a bond as a WT brand. There, we all have the same culture indeed.

 

LBB> Which markets within the region are particularly interesting or exciting for you at the moment and why?

Juan Pablo> WT has a great presence in many countries of the region but I would say that the top five countries within the region are Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Colombia and Mexico.

Brazil: It is an amazing market with a superlative talent. To me, Brazil is a continent itself due to its turnover, budget and potential for growth.

Argentina: It is an office with a very interesting diversity of capabilities and talent. It is an office with 500 people. WT is the biggest agency in Argentina in a very wide concept of agency.

Peru: It is the third biggest agency in the region, with a remarkable talent and business development.

Colombia: This office expanded a lot during 2019 and it has great potential to keep going through that track.

Mexico: It will be one of the star agencies of WT in 2020 with a very wide capabilities platform. It is what the market is waiting for.

 

LBB> I wanted to ask you about Chile – in recent year’s it’s been an appealing market for foreign companies due to its stable economy but was obviously recently rocked by large scale riots. How do you see the situation there from an advertising perspective?

Juan Pablo> Indeed. Chile is one of the countries that stumbled in 2019. Companies have always considered this country as the most stable in Latin America economy-wise.

The social situation that it has been going through over the last few months has resulted in an investment retraction on the side of the clients. We are hopeful that the social situation will be more stable in 2020 and that companies will return to their usual investments.

 

LBB> Let's talk about you a bit. Prior to working in advertising, you worked as marketing director at adidas - what lessons did you learn during your time as a client that still serve you well today as an agency leader?

Juan Pablo> Working for adidas has been a lifelong experience. Imagine, I started working there when I was 19 and I left at 32. Those years are fundamental in one’s life.

I believe that working on the client’s side for so long and interacting with such important agencies taught me how to be more aware of the needs of and problems face by both sides.

When I founded my own agency with my partner and moved to agency side, it was one of my main assets. I knew the clients’ problems and how to help them solve them, especially internally. Sometimes agencies do not realise that the client also has internal clients that they have to negotiate and deal with.

Agencies have an idea and say ,‘this client just doesn’t get it’, ‘they take too long to answer’, ‘they don’t greenlight my ideas’... Understanding these kinds of issues and how to approach them has only been possible thanks to my 13 years as a client.

 

LBB> Your first foray into advertising was launching the agency Stopromotion in 1997 (which you later merged with Wunderman) - what can you tell me about that time? What inspired you to launch your own agency and what were the foundations that you launched it on?

Juan Pablo> Making the decision to leave adidas after 13 years was a big deal for me.

I had decided that I wanted to jump to another company, as 13 years in the same place was too much. I needed to learn new things.

A headhunter came into contact with me to offer me a position as an NB director in a big company. I knew nothing about that company so I called the agency that owned the account, who knew its CEO, and I told them: “I’m being offered this position. What’s your opinion?”. They said to me: “Don’t you even think of leaving, come develop a business with me.”

I never thought I would move from being a client to being at an agency. Long story short, we ended up starting a business together. A business that was really different to what was common at the time. We did really well and, in 2002, we merged with Wunderman.

Since 2002, I have been Wunderman Argentina´s CEO and I am currently WT Latam´s CEO.

 

LBB> What have been the biggest changes you’ve witnessed over your career?

Juan Pablo> Some of the main changes I have seen were precisely when we opened Stopromotion in the late ‘90s, as the advertising business was starting to change radically, and many traditional agencies didn’t see it or didn’t want to see it. I believe that was the moment when the great change of the industry began. It then expanded towards the early 2000s with data, digital, analytics and so on, to finally become an industry that is a hundred percent different to what it was 10 years ago.

Changes are still dizzying, and in 10 years we will be standing in a new business we can’t even imagine.


LBB> Where did you grow up and what kind of kid were you?

Juan Pablo> I was a restless boy who constantly wanted to explore new opportunities, especially when talking about business.

I started playing rugby when I was a little boy. I have learnt a lot from this sport, to which I am eternally grateful. It has taught me about values, teamwork and many other things I still make use of today.

It has taught me a lot about human values and respect, as well as understanding a single person can’t do things well if they don’t collaborate with other people. These are the foundations of our values at WT: listening, in it together, creative bravery and positivity.

 

LBB> How did you end up working in marketing in the first place? Was it something that you always wanted to do or more of a happy accident?

Juan Pablo> I ended up working in advertising because my father worked in the industry all his life and I acquired a taste for it.

 

LBB> In your spare time you're passionate about fishing in exotic places. What's the most exotic place you've ever landed a fish? And what is it about fishing that you love?

Juan Pablo> Fishing keeps me grounded, especially because it is something I share with my kids.

The Amazon is the most exotic place I have been to. It is an amazing place where you can learn a lot and see incredible things. What attracts me the most about the Amazon is that you are totally disconnected from everything. No one can hear from me and I can’t hear from anyone. There aren’t many places in the world where that can happen. We have to take care of it.

Everyone thinks the best thing about going fishing is the actual fishing. But for me fishing is about sharing with others, enjoying the landscape, having a good laugh, relaxing, reflecting, and fishing. Fishing is about all that.

 

LBB> What else do you like to do to wind down?

Juan Pablo> Spending my time with my wife and kids.

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