Meet the man charged with making Grey the most creative network in Europe

Javier Campopiano, the creative behind the award-winning "It's a Tide ad", has moved to Grey with a big ambition.

Javier Campopiano is just a few weeks into his job as chief creative officer, Grey Europe and global clients. Most people know Campopiano as the man behind the Cannes Grand Prix and D&AD black Pencil winner "It’s a Tide ad", made when he was chief creative officer of Saatchi & Saatchi New York. But Campopiano is entering a new chapter with a big goal: to make Grey the most creative advertising network in Europe. 

Campaign interviewed Campopiano about his first priorities on the job, the ads that made his career and the mistake that led to his best work. 

What tempted you to take this job?

I always wanted at some point in my career to experience Europe, both for work and life. It’s such an exciting place right now. 

The idea of working alongside Eduardo Maruri [the chief executive of Grey Europe] was exciting too. We’ve known each other for many years and I found his approach to this industry refreshing and ambitious. He has this interesting mix as a creative and businessman that I can learn from. He had his own agency in Latin America for many years and built up its reputation in a way that was completely unexpected, always with creativity at the core. [At Grey] we are on a mission to put creativity at the centre of everything we do, and that’s a mission I know I can be a part of. 

What from this region inspires you?

I love the work from the UK. In Argentina, we tend to look towards the UK as our KPI for creative output. The UK is similar to what we like to do – engage people in the story first and then try to sell them something. We’re always looking to the UK for the storytelling and the craft. Having the chance to interact with these creatives is really exciting. 

What are your first priorities on the job?

Our challenge is to become the most creative network in Europe. The KPIs for that are awards but also business wins and famous work that becomes part of culture. It's a challenge all creatives have today, but for us it’s super important that we don’t only win awards but we win those with work that is highly rooted in culture and famous among regular people. 

Talent is a priority. Our industry has lost its advantage when it comes to talent; talent has gone to other industries. We have a challenge as an industry to bring the best talent back to advertising. 

You are probably best known for Tide’s award-winning 2018 Super Bowl commercial, "It’s a Tide ad" [by Saatchi & Saatchi New York]. 

I hate that – I’m going to be the Tide ad guy for a while until I do something even better.

The Super Bowl has only one brief, which is winning the Super Bowl, and we were smart in how we approached the night. But we were also lucky – there’s a huge luck factor to everything we do. 

We were lucky with the celebrity [Stranger Things star David Harbour]. One of my daughters was a huge Stranger Things fan, and she said to me, "Why don’t you use this guy?" She didn’t even know the script, but it made sense to me. He ended up being such a key factor for the idea to be engaging and charming, because he was pretty famous but not a huge celebrity, and he was willing to do stuff that maybe a big celebrity wouldn't have. 

What other work illustrates your style?

I love Tide’s other Super Bowl ad, "Bradshaw stain" in 2017. We put a stain on Terry Bradshaw, one of the most famous announcers for the Super Bowl. He went on live TV talking about the game but he had this red stain on his shirt. People went crazy about it and started tweeting and talking about this guy with the huge stain. After the halftime show, the commercial started and revealed it was a hoax. That was more difficult to get done than "It’s a Tide ad". 

Before Tide, one of the pieces of work I was most proud of was a nice campaign for Walmart when it sponsored the Oscars. Walmart and the Oscars didn’t have so much in common because Walmart is seen as a popular brand and the Oscars is a bit more upscale. We found this solution where we gave a Walmart receipt to three Hollywood filmmakers and they had to come up with a short film based on that receipt, having all of its elements in their stories. 

At DraftFCB in Argentina I did some nice work for job search site Zonajobs, a film called "Grandma", which is probably too edgy for today. It portrays a grandma being killed over and over again, but it still makes you laugh and has a good insight. 

What is your biggest career mistake and what did you learn from it?

When I first moved to America, I was the typical Argentinian creative in the sense that we tend to be the general on a horse and people follow you, and even if they don’t you get to do what you want. I was coming from that background and had a huge culture shock, because in America if you don’t have everyone aligned, the chances are you’re not going to get what you want done.

I had to erase that part of my hard drive and learn how to approach work from a more collaborative standpoint, but at the same time try to keep the creative level high. I learned that the hard way at the beginning. That shaped my approach to leadership big time. I incorporated that and now that’s the only way I feel comfortable working. 

For a while after moving to America, I didn’t want to change my ways and I got so frustrated that I wasn't able to make the type of work I wanted to make. That’s part of a self-demanding personality and in a bad way. Sometimes you rush because you want to succeed too soon, but success needs time. If I didn’t change, I would have never made any of the stuff I managed to.

I so strongly believe in admitting your mistakes. Even in this industry, people tend to avoid admitting their mistakes, and when you ask someone what their biggest flaws are they’ll tell you things that are actually good. We need to allow people to talk openly about their mistakes, fears and concerns. If you’re not able to make a mistake, that’s not a creative environment.

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