Creative Spotlight Series: Pablo Buffagni of BBQ Agency

Having worked at JWT, DDB and Saatchi & Saatchi back in Argentina, Pablo moved to the U.S. to become the Head of Creative at Bromley, followed by Conill Saatchi & Saatchi, and Grupo Gallegos. A few years ago, he applied his Argentine barbecue skills and home tradition to work, in the form of fun and productive asado meetings with teams and clients. These great moments with friends served as the inspiration for the launch of self-founded BBQ Agency in 2014. Since then, BBQ has created work for clients and brands like Pepsi, Royal Prestige, Starbucks, Infinity Insurance, Chiles San Marcos and Chrysler for the US Hispanic Market and Latin America, featuring Danny Trejo, Nicky Jam, Fernanda Castillo and Mauricio Ochmann among others.

Pablo has worked for dozens of brands in many categories, including Pepsi, Got Milk, Starbucks, Toyota, Lexus, Mitsubishi, Pontiac, T-Mobile, Sprint, Comcast, Target, JCPenney, Clorox, Tide, Sony Playstation, Burger King and McDonald’s. In 2006, for Toyota, he created one of the first bilingual/bicultural TV Spots to air in the Superbowl.

Together with the teams that he had the honor to lead, he has been awarded with every major advertising award. At Cannes, he received the first Gold Film Lion and the first Media Lion for a US Hispanic agency, and represented the US as judge in the Outdoor Category. A former professor at the Catholic University of Argentina.

A moment with HispanicAd ……

Coming from 2020, and still in the middle of a pandemic, how do you see creativity in the U.S. Hispanic Market moving forward?  

I believe in utilizing the great talent and multi-category experience that Hispanic creatives have, to help clients and the community cope with times of crisis. We at BBQ have been doing it since before the pandemic, because the crisis worsened recently, but Hispanic advertising with original and relevant creativity had already been suffering for years. We should worry less about award rankings and more about our job, that is creating work that works in a relevant way in an increasingly fragmented media landscape. Advertising creativity is in a global crisis. If creatives try to escape the reality of the day to day, which is a reality where the overvaluation of data sometimes does not even allow ideas to be born, putting the priority in winning awards because it’s just more fun, we will keep losing credibility. We must fight for the leadership positions that we deserve with serious work and results.

What creative ideas or achievements do you think will help catapult your agency from 2020 into 2021?

We started with the lean and collaborative business model six years ago and that put us in a better place for the current times. Our essence is what helps us do well even during crisis. In addition, we were lucky to have several clients in categories that never stopped producing work, such as food, kitchen utensils, immigration regulations, and retail. We are improving our creative output step by step. I see many opportunities this year for us.

How much original Spanish- driven creative do you see moving forward in 2021?

I continue to see many opportunities to do creative in Spanish, depending on the category of products in which the brands work. Food, drinks, compact cars, entertainment, just to name a few, are categories in need of more original work in Spanish.

Do you see a need for the Latinx moniker in our industry?

No. I think it was a deformation of the original usage, which had to do with gender issues, and it gradually became a “cool” way of calling Hispanics. But I feel that it is confusing and that in the professional fields, we should use the official academic terminology and not be confused by trends.

From a creative perspective, how do you think the Hispanic opportunity can be made more attractive to the eyes of Corporate America?

I believe we have to move away from “self serving” campaigns and pseudo-social help messages and look for creative ideas that have to do with people’s reality and what works out there. Certain brands, especially some retailers, understand this very well. But with all the changes that have taken place lately in budget allocation and leadership roles, it amazes me to see that basic concepts that I learned 20 years ago when I came to these lands, or insights that always had to do with our culture, today are brought out as if they had just been discovered, and there is no one in leadership positions to say “señores, that’s the basics, let’s now seriously analyze what is relevant for this specific target.” I think the data is super important, but you have to know how to read into it and take the right conclusions, and your culture and experience have a role in that. Also, you have to know the nuances to be creatively relevant. If those of us who have the experience and know the cultural nuances to do it well, we get the ear of those who are in real need of our advice, and we express ourselves correctly, and they give us the tools, we should do well.

Creatives, have been, like most people, working remotely.  How has this affected creativity and how will this translate into the future once Covid 19 is under control and we have achieved some form of normalcy?

For us at BBQ, working remotely was normal before COVID. Even though we have an office and, of course, a patio with a bbq grill, most of us have been working remotely since our founding in 2015. I do not think it is an obstacle to creativity, you just have to learn to work in different conditions, taking advantage of technology. It’s actually a big opportunity for experienced people who have families to attend and don’t fancy anymore the idea of staying long hours playing ping-pong at the office, and for younger talent who love to manage their own calendars and working hours.

Do you see Latino culture permeating U.S. culture in the future as it used to do just a few years ago?

I do not think that it has decreased so much in reality. It seems to me that there is an issue of perception of the advertising market, because of how the creative budget distribution –and not so much the media budget– has been assigned lately.

Last year at the Super Bowl, we enjoyed Shakira and Jlo’s perreo. Lke it or not, politicians like AOC and Ted Cruz have a constant presence in the media. Every time I go to the supermarket, I see more Latin inspired food. My empanadas’ client keeps growing and empanadas were sold at the Rose Bowl before the COVID put a stop to it. One of the main characters in Cobra Kai is Miguel Díaz and he’s my son’s favorite character, of course. I just had tortilla soup bought at Chick-fil-A, imagine that!

We must not confuse the allocation of budget to relevant messages in advertising, with what happens on a day-to-day basis in the USA.

Having said that, I agree that some CMO’s are confused and are making the wrong decisions, and a lot has to do with politics and not with actual business potential.

Are you optimistic or pessimistic about 2021?

Optimistic, of course. It is the only way to continue working in advertising and do well.


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