As his engine-greased headshot hints, André Moreira’s work these days has an automotive bent. But he’s not changing any head gaskets. Instead, as executive creative director and partner at The&Partnership, he oversees the creative development of all the agency’s work for car brands Toyota and Lexus – as well as Aon and Mars – across Europe, working closely with creative leads and clients in each of the markets.
Prior to joining The&Partnership, André spent six years at Havas, developing the global creative for clients including Peugeot, Huawei and Chivas Regal. Prior to that, he held roles at Albion London, 180 Amsterdam and BBDO in Lisbon, where he grew up.
Along the way he’s won his fair share of awards, created the world’s first one-shot film festival and helped the UK Basketball team qualify for its own Olympics. Which is a big deal for him, as you’ll find out when you read this interview.
LBB’s Alex Reeves caught up with him to find out more about his journey and perspective on creativity.
LBB> Where did you grow up and what sort of kid were you? Were there any clues back then as to the career path you’d end up taking?
André> I was lucky enough to grow up in beautiful Lisbon and in a very supportive family. Being an only child, I had to constantly find ways to occupy myself. Which typically meant comic books, drawing and LEGO. Mostly in that order. I vividly remember walking back from the nearest corner shop, the latest Marvel or DC issue in hand, only to arrive home, draw up my particular version of the stories I had just read, and play them out in the small brick world.
Fortunately, just before completely disappearing into my own thoughts, I was rescued by the beautiful game (which, contrary to popular opinion, is actually basketball). It quickly became an obsession and I spent most of my teenage years playing and watching it. I loved the teamwork, the competition, and, above all, the creativity – it was the Magic, Bird and Jordan era, after all. That very particular mix of individual freedom within a team structure, that only basketball provides, has influenced me since.
LBB> How did you get into advertising? Purposeful decision or more of an accident?
André> A bit of both. As I mentioned before, I always loved drawing and creativity in general but wasn’t sure my skills were good enough. So I ended up pursuing something more akin to Media Studies at university. Fortunately, in my own time (beyond failing as a semi-pro basketball player), I kept playing around with design, photography, illustration, etc… Those parallel endeavours – in particular, an Adobe Creative Suite course – led me to a junior artworker placement at a tiny local ad agency. As soon as I had a taste of that world, all remaining doubt faded away and I focused on becoming a full-time advertising creative.
Funnily enough, when I look back, I can’t help but feel that the self-taught, continuous learning attitude developed in those early years, combined with the academic grounding in the social sciences that came with my uni degree, gave me an edge over a more traditional art-school creative upbringing.
LBB> In the early days of your career, what were some projects/clients that particularly helped you to grow and understand the business?
André> More than projects or clients, it was a person. Pedro Bidarra, my ECD at BBDO Lisbon.
He had an infectious belief in the power of our craft, combined with the highest standards of anyone I’ve ever met. Although not always the easiest person to work with, I learned everything from him and I’m forever in his debt.
LBB> Looking back, what was the Portuguese ad industry like then?
André> There was the Portuguese ad industry and then there was BBDO Lisbon. Under Bidarra’s guidance we won ‘Agency of the Year’ for almost all of my eight years there, a bucket-load of national and international awards and the opportunity to pitch on (and win) several global BBDO projects. This was particularly inspiring to me and confirmed what I already suspected – talent isn’t (shouldn’t) be limited by geography. Soon after, I moved to London.
LBB> When you moved to London in 2007, what were the biggest changes to adapt to?
André> I’m going to be specific and direct with this one as it might prove useful to other creatives in a similar situation. Essentially, you have to take into account that the people you show your book to won’t necessarily say what’s on their mind — or do so in a direct way. As a result, my advice would be to prepare a series of questions to gently coax the feedback out of them. For example… ‘which idea(s) would you remove from this portfolio?’ This makes it easy for someone to ‘dislike’ a particular piece of work, without having to say so. I learned this lesson the hard way, after lugging around a big folder of A1 proofs around town (yes, I am that old) without being offered any job, all the while receiving great compliments on the work I was presenting.
LBB> What’s the thing you’re most proud of in your career so far?
André> Up until recently, I would have said establishing myself as a creative director in London, but setting up an entire European network for Toyota from scratch in less than a year, and then growing it into a multi-client global one in less than three, has definitely edged ahead. Proud.
LBB> What are you recently most proud of and why?
André> That’s like playing favourites with your kids… but I do have one: ‘Beyond Zero’, for Toyota.
It sparked from an EV Strategy, but has since spread through the business like (electric) wild-fire to become Toyota’s company vision. Even finding its way onto the shiny, metallic badges of their new all-electric range — so, next time you see a Toyota BZ on the road, remember where you heard it first.
LBB> I find it really intriguing what you changed with Ben’s Original in 2020. What do you think was key to navigating that work?
André> There are moments when the best thing a brand can do is to take an honest look at itself. So we did. Truth became our main ingredient. To which we added fresh perspectives, a sprinkle of courage, a large dollop of empathy and, like in every successful dish, a lot of heart and hard work from everyone involved. [We] ended up with a pretty original recipe.
LBB> What are your most exciting plans for The&Partnership at this moment?
André> Bringing it all together. In the last five years, our bespoke &Model approach has helped, and in turn attracted, some of the world’s best brands (and people). Now we need to figure out how to make sure all our amazing talent from around the world makes the most of the opportunity.
LBB> Outside of work, what’s inspiring you right now?
André> ‘Top Gun’ and ‘The Minions’. Specifically, how and why those two particular franchises became the biggest film hits of 2022 — one, no doubt fueled by nostalgia and Scientology, the other by TikTok and Tuxedos — and more broadly, how ideas spread and stick in today’s attention-deprived world.