He’s neither from São Paulo nor Rio. He comes from far away. Pelotas, a city in southern Brazil. He created CUBOCC in 2004. In 2010, he wanted to sell part of the agency to Interpublic and try something new. Now, ten years later, chosen by GQ as one of the most inspiring CEOs in the country, Martini is the founder of a platform with almost twenty creative companies called FLAGCX, which, though in the spotlight of the Brazilian creative industry since the very beginning, is still a mystery to many leaders.
But why does this happen? Maybe for two reasons. Either because they haven’t stopped to look, or because they’re afraid to find out there’s a new path branching off from there.
Having often talked to leaders from different agencies in the world, I decided to meet Martini in person this year. But it took a while until that happened. Not because he doesn’t like to talk, but because he’s got a very tight schedule. So if you’re young, if he somehow inspires you, and you want to meet up with him, go ahead. Try it. Pursue it. But be patient. This is my first word of advice. Getting into the FLAGCX universe requires perseverance. Although its DNA is made up by many, access is for a few.
But let’s get straight to it, what makes FLAGCX special? How is Martini breaking new ground in Brazil? There are a number of answers, but for practical reasons I’ll highlight what strikes me the most. Five things that stand out when I look over at all the agencies and leaders who are currently surprising the world with new methodologies of working.
A CEO is not enough. Get yourself a CLAN.
It is said that love and work don’t mix together, but if there’s someone Martini cherishes and holds close to him, that’s Luisa. She’s a leader who, in addition to being his wife and partner, also runs the CLAN — a special area dedicated to shining a light on the “Flag culture” in the group. Well, in a time of gender equality, that’s something I really admire and see as very powerful, because while one looks at the operation, the other looks at the people. Two forces then combine, converge, and complement each other. Full time.
Don’t hire art directors and copywriters. Find Makers.
If you’ve ever wondered how the FLAGCX team is built, now is the time to stop and look. Its multidisciplinary, super connected professionals will hardly tell you they’re just Art Directors, Planners, Copywriters, or Technologists. They’re all Makers there. An experimental team that mostly works on side projects and generally just look to co-create projects with other Makers. The dynamic reminds me so much of Tokyo’s Six Inc, as well as NY’s Breakfast, and I think that’s particularly brilliant.
Don’t get your team stuck in one model. Free yourself.
If you like the comfort zone, FLAGCX is not for you. As the business model is still reinventing itself to a full extent, professionals will often cross functions and evolve their operating areas. So, more important than being something is thinking global and doing something. No matter what position you are. The most important point is to be ready to create, rediscover yourself, and experiment. An attitude similar to what’s happening both at Big Spaceship in NY and Castro in Buenos Aires.
Don’t create a brand. Design an experience.
Drawing a great deal on Luisa’s influence, FLAGCX is a universe in black & white, underground and futuristic. The hallway, for example, is a challenge to be crossed. It’s completely dark, and lights up by a sensor. You get used to it with time. But it is in itself an experience. What about the meeting room? Amazing. One of the coolest I’ve seen in the world, the likes of which I’d only found at Sid Lee.
Don’t expect others to understand what you want to do. Just do it.
While many leaders are still discussing the future of advertising in the Berlin School, Martini is at Singularity looking at the future of technology and robotics. And as this goes against conventions, there is a delay. A disruption. So, as restless, reserved, and observant as he is, he might even come across as antisocial (a “cyborg,” as the Brazilian creative industry will call it), but what happens is that he’s got a different mindset. While most look on one side, he dares to face another. And that’s exactly what makes the world stop and look.
Finally, if you’re a pessimist and have come this far, and are now wondering: will FLAGCX have a future in Brazil? Well, I think that’s too early to answer. To be quite honest, maybe that’s the least relevant question at this point.
Especially because, for me, the most important thing has been keeping track of what Martini is making happen. Not only him. Luisa, Gus, Matheus Lee, Matheus Barros, Helene, André Matarazzo. After all, in an industry in which most leaders are still clinging onto old beliefs, it’s really special to know that they’re together breaking a system and creating a new one.
Collective one. Which is also for a few.
FLAGCX (SP) — Sid Lee (Montreal) — Big Spaceship (NYC) — Breakfast (NYC) — Six Inc (Tokyo) — Castro (Buenos Aires)
André Chaves, Connector at Papel&Caneta.org, project that has been connecting leaders and young creatives from different agencies around the world, so everyone can inspire each other and work together to make positive change happen.