Creative director at Alma on a bible verse that inspires his philosophy, deliberately finding the worst ideas for his briefs and why a scary idea is often the right one
Daniel Correa is a creative director at Miami-based ad agency Alma. He has previously worked as a creative director and art director in various companies spanning South America and the Middle East – from Impact BBDO in Dubai to Dentsu in Brazil and Ogilvy in Argentina. His career now boasts an impressive collection of international awards, including Cannes Lion Gold for Branded Content and Entertainment, three Gold Effie awards and several One Show awards and merits. Since joining Alma in 2018, Daniel has worked on projects for the likes of Miller Lite and Pepsi, utilising a very driven and unique creative approach that is not afraid to dabble with potentially frightening or risky concepts.
I’m a hard work type of creative. I believe that if you’re just a little talented, you can craft the shit out of your skills and become great at what you do. The brain is a muscle that needs to be exercised to perform better so that’s what I try to do on daily basis.
It sounds cliché, but curiosity is the best tool I know to train the brain. For example, I’m always curious about the impact that a new ingredient will have on a meal every time I cook – shout out to my brave wife who keeps her cool when the ingredient turns out to be… not that impactful – and I like to explore topics that I would normally have no interest in at all.
I’m fascinated by people who actually think the opposite way to me about everything in life. I learn a lot from them and their ‘controversial’ perspectives. I think that knowing and understanding both sides of a topic can dramatically increase the chances of finding a great insight. That doesn’t mean that a conversation will necessarily change my mind about something I deeply believe, but what if it does? Change is a great sign that your brain is getting into much better shape.
I remember a saying from the Bible (I’m not Catholic, just curious) that goes: “Be either hot or cold; don’t be lukewarm because I’ll spit you out.” I think that is a great filter for any creative product. A powerful piece of work should make us feel something. Good or bad, but at least something. If it doesn’t, people probably won’t give a damn.
On a personal level, ideas that scare me are the ones that excite me the most. It could be because it defies the status quo, because it seems impossible to achieve or because it’s just too risky. In any case, if fear is involved, I know it’s something that is not vanilla, and at least has a chance to stand out among all the content we see out there.
Attention is a very valuable currency, and with the insane amount of content we scroll through every single day, the really scary thing is to do ‘lukewarm’ advertising.
There’s an interesting thing I usually do at the beginning of a creative process, which is to find the worst and most wrong ideas possible under the brief. I mean the ideas that not only could get me fired but could also put me in jail. I think this is much more exciting than kicking it off on the ‘right’ track. First, because it breaks the ice and makes the brainstorm session really fun right off the bat. Imagine the level of absurd ideas you will come up with.
Secondly, this removes all the pressure from the task, even if it’s just for an hour or so. And last, it stimulates the brain to be as creative as possible, and that can get you motivated AF by believing that anything is possible, even when the brief you have in hand is for a digital banner.
Then, when reality kicks in, I slowly start to lower the craziness of the ideas until I reach the edgy line between scary and great. Obviously, there’s also no rules. Sometimes a ‘scary’ idea might be the right one – you never know. You just need to have a little common sense to judge it. And by the way, I don’t recommend this approach if you don’t have a great sense of self-awareness. It could really get you in trouble!
When I was first introduced to the photographer Oliviero Toscani in college, I was blown away. His provocative style and unconventional campaigns for Benetton showed me another side of advertising that felt more exciting than anything I had seen before. It gave me a new perspective about the role of a brand and the impact it can have on society. And I carry that with me every single day.
I think Toscani was a true pioneer and somehow inspired the kind of advertising we are creating today. The main difference is that the culturally relevant and impactful United Colors of Benetton campaigns sparked conversations around the world about the biggest social issues in life – all done 30+ years ago and without any kind of social media. And to me, that’s a great example of how powerful an idea can be and how far it can travel if it just makes us feel something. I really do feel very inspired now just by writing this, so let me take advantage of it and go think up some wrong ideas.