101 Great Minds on
Music, Brands and Behavior


Washington Olivetto

Chairman of WMcCann Brazil and Chief Creative Officer of McCann Worldgroup for Latin America and Caribbean.


“If a picture is worth a thousand words, a song is worth a thousand pictures.”


Chairman of WMcCann Brazil and Chief Creative Officer of McCann Worldgroup for Latin America and Caribbean.


Olivetto is a global advertising icon and an immensely popular and influential fixture in Brazilian culture. One of the most awarded advertising creatives of all time, he has won more than 50 Cannes Lions in just the Film category, and was also the only Latin American to win a Grand Clio in 2001. In 2014, he received a Clio Lifetime Achievement Award and has been inducted in the One Show‘s Creative Hall of Fame. Olivetto is also a Member of the Council of the Berlin School of Creative Leadership, and has created the only two Brazilian commercials mentioned in Bernice Kanner’s book, “The 100 Best TV Commercials … And Why They Worked.”

Reese: Washington, thank you for taking the time for this interview project So tell me, in your opinion, how important is music in building a brand?

Olivetto: If it is true that a picture is worth a thousand words, we can say that in many cases, a song is worth a thousand pictures.

Reese: How important is music for you personally and for your work?

Olivetto: Music has been my social radar, both in my personal and professional life. I use pop music to understand where life and world are going.

Reese: Considering how profound our reaction to a piece of music can be – do you think the right choice of music can change consumer behavior?

Olivetto: I do, and I am proud to be one of the ad people that produced a lot of hits in this business, creating and recreating music hits. Rider sandals is one example. For more than 15 years, I produced several TV commercials with classics of the Brazilian pop music that have been recreated. We chose a classic and a pop idol who had never played that classic, generating a new version of a song loved by everyone. Those versions were transformed into soundtracks that not only helped Rider to sell more than 8 million pairs per month, but also boosted the careers of the music artists, who received gold record awards (back then, records were still sold) and experienced a greater demand for their concerts.

Reese: A lot of brands are what I call “mute brands,“ they disappear once you can‘t see the brand anymore. Do you believe a brand should be recognizable by its sound?

Olivetto: This is not a rule, nor an obligation, but when it happens, it is a privilege. Good music places a brand in the consumer’s emotional memory. Good music generates intimacy. The expression “they are playing our song” certainly has a reason to exist.

Reese: But how can a brand become more disciplined, and less arbitrary, about the use of audio in its brand communication? Do you believe brands should have an audio style guide?

Olivetto: No doubt, but an audio style guide should provide greater creative freedom compared to a visual one. A well-managed dose of irresponsibility is part of the music creative process.

Reese: Can you share your most memorable experience with music and how it influenced your work?

Olivetto: I had the opportunity to create several memorable campaigns with pop music to the point of having two CDs released by Warner Records, named W/Hits, containing songs created or recreated for my agency’s commercials. Because of this, the Brazilian composer Jorge Ben Jor, author of hits such as the classic “Mas que Nada”, immortalized by Sergio Mendes, decided to write a song in tribute to my agency called “W/Brasil”, which became a huge hit, selling more than 2 million copies only in 1991. Years later, Jorge Ben Jor who had already paid tribute to the professional side of me, decided to also honor me as a person: he wrote another hit called “Engenho de Dentro”, in which he highlights the words “Olivetto has a head of black person. High IQ and TNT on the left side”. I must confess that both musical tributes thrilled me more than any award I received during my entire life.

Reese: Is audio brand design part of your conversation when talking to a client about brand communication?

Olivetto: It is mandatory.

Reese: Where do you see the greatest challenge in finding a brand’s voice?

Olivetto: To be original, and still relevant.

Reese: What’s your current decision-making process involving music?

Olivetto: It can happen in a disciplined way, in daily work, which I consider ideal. But it can also happen in a moment of leisure. Two examples: once I was on vacation in Mustique, in the Caribbean, when I heard in the Basil’s Bar a song called “Maddy Maddy Cry”, performed by the until-then unknown Papa San and right away I pictured a commercial for our client Triton, a teen clothing brand, type of Brazilian Uniqlo. Another time, I was walking on the streets of New York when I listened to “I had a craziest dream” performed by Frank Sinatra, and I concluded that it would the ideal soundtrack for a commercial of one of our clients, Garoto Chocolates (Boy, in Portuguese), where boys watched adult women. Both commercials, with these soundtracks, were very successful.

Reese: How do you communicate music when briefing a composer/music company/music supervisor or publisher?

Olivetto: I have the privilege of being friends with the greatest names in Brazilian music. I have friends who began their careers in the days of vinyl (especially the Bossa Nova guys) and others who became famous after the age of download, such as Rappers and ‘Post
Tropicalistas’. Because of this, I sort of speak the same language of people in music business, which makes easier for me to brief accurately no matter if I need incidental music, a soundtrack or even a new hit, created or recreated.

Reese: What’s your evaluation process? Do you test audio assets used in your brand communication?

Olivetto: I only test if it is a client’s demand, but fortunately most of my clients trust me and my teams. I prefer to evaluate a piece believing in my intuition, which is quite strong. In music, where the emotional component is crucial, my advice is to be away from decisions based on rational factors.

Reese: Let‘s talk about the value of music. How do you determine how much you are willing to pay for music – licensed or scored?

Olivetto: Based on the great amount of work done using music when I was Creative Director at DPZ, until I became partner at W/Brasil and now at WMcCann, I have knowledge to brief negotiations on a case-by-case basis, with good results for all involved. Today, more than focusing on the remuneration coming from copyrights, or mechanical royalties, music artists are interested in the number of concerts that a hit boosted by the media can generate.

Reese: Is there a certain brand that you admire in their use of audio in their brand communication?

Olivetto: I’ll list two examples known worldwide: I really like the work with songs that my friend John Hegarty developed for many years in the Levi’s commercials. And I also like the soundtrack that Stella Artois began to use in its commercials, starting from the commercial ‘Jacques’, the florist, created in 1990.

Reese: Do you see a shift in how important music is becoming in your brand communication?

Olivetto: I see it both in negative and positive ways: in the advertising business in general, I see music being used to create or reinforce great ideas, which is very good. And I also see music being used to disguise the lack of a good idea, which is very bad.

Reese: Where do you see the challenges and opportunities when working with music in a branded social network environment?

Olivetto: Music is very powerful, particularly among the young audience, big fans of social media. Music is so powerful among them that one of the key questions made by music industry leaders to someone who wants to become a music star is: “Is what you do something that will interest people from 13 to 19 years old?”

Reese: What does the audio branding of the future look like?

Olivetto: I see the branding of the future with more intelligent life, more persuasion and less imposition.

Reese: Last question – this isn‘t necessarily music related. How does a big idea feel? Do you recognize it immediately when it arrives?

Olivetto: As Creative Director and Partner at an advertising agency, one of my main tasks has always been to recognize and praise great ideas, especially great ideas coming from other professionals. I have been training for a long time to do this, and again, in these perceptions, my strong intuition helps a lot.

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