Getting to No. 1: Advertising’s Rocky Balboa

Fuel Lisboa took home the title of Agency of the Year. El Ojo de Iberoamérica, which honors work in communication, creative, and other forms of advertising, chose the team as the top agency in Portugal. And Creative Directors Marcelo Lourenço and Pedro Bexiga won the honor of Creatives of the Year. In this Q&A, Marcelo and Pedro talk about the strategy behind the success.

Pedro Bexiga and Marcelo Lourenço

So, you won big this year at the El Ojo awards. In addition to a Gold and a Bronze award, you also were named Agency of the Year and Pedro Bexiga and Marcelo Lourenço were named Portuguese Creatives of the Year. What is the secret to your success?

We simply do not give up. We came up with a great campaign and the client rejected it. We went back to the agency, spent half a day mourning the idea, and start working on another one. It’s a house policy to be as excited at the first attempt as at the 20th—at some point, the client will approve it, and it has to be a great idea.

Agency culture is a huge part of your success. How do you motivate the team to keep driving client business forward?

Being a creative leader is much like being a parent: The best way to inspire something is by example. Besides being creative directors we are still very hungry creatives, working hands-on in campaigns, ideas, and never giving up. Like the Rocky Balboa line: “The fight isn’t over until it’s over.” We used that metaphor in a newspaper interview and they made article’s headline “Marcelo Lourenço and Pedro Bexiga—The Advertising’s Rocky Balboa”. And the nickname kind of stuck with us—there’s a lot of clients calling us that. We think it’s kind of silly, but a great honor nevertheless.

And how’s the team celebrating this win?

We didn’t have the time to celebrate—the agency is working around the clock toward two huge pitches. After that, we will come up with something that involves lots of beers and a belly dancer and ends with everybody singing the Benfica and the Sporting anthems.

So, how do you promote teamwork?

Fuel Lisboa was created in 2007 among the biggest economic crisis in recent European history. So, the agency was born slim and flexible with this startup feeling that remains part of the agency spirit to this day. At Fuel, a great idea could come from anyone, at any department of the agency. Also, from the start, we have mixed digital creative and traditional. The result has been great. And we try to make people have fun at work—to be stupid is one idea away to create something really awesome.

In the last year, what do you think has been the agency’s biggest accomplishment?

Our biggest hit was definitely “Let’s Put Sequeira into its Rightful Place” campaign. It has won several gold awards and three Grand Prix so far. “Doctor,” a film we created for gender violence, is also starting to collect awards and nominations. We also won the “Portuguese Lottery” pitch—this time for the whole account. And at the ECC (European Creative Council), Fuel Lisboa got the second-best score among all the agencies in Europe, only behind BETC Paris. It has been a great year for the agency.

If there’s one piece of advice you’d give to agencies looking to be recognized as best in class in their local markets, what would it be?

Be the Rocky Balboa’s of your market—never give it up.

When adding to your team, what do you look for in a potential hire?

We only hire people who believe that a hard selling campaign is not a bad name—it’s actually a compliment.

What’s next for the agency?

We are very excited about our new content department. As usual, at Fuel, we believe there’s a way to make everything better. Content is our next challenge.