Y&R Italy’s new executive creative director on scandalous encounters in motels, shooting his first ad at the age of 10 and the most important word in his job title
At the start of this year Vicky Gitto stepped down from his position as executive creative director at Y&R Italy, leaving a big pair of boots to fill after spending eight years driving the agency forward to its position as one of the country’s most celebrated agencies. Now that pair of boots has been perfectly filled by Francesco Poletti, as he returns to his homeland after four years at Jung von Matt in Hamburg. The new ECD brings with him his cross-cultural, multidisciplinary insights and a strong pedigree of creative work.
LBB’s Alex Reeves caught up with Francesco to find out how he’ll be leading the agency into the future.
LBB> What are your first memories relating to advertising?
FP> I was kind of obsessed by TVC ‘making ofs’. I liked to watch how commercials were made, since I was a kid. I think at that time I was already willing to learn the job.
LBB> You originally studied science at the Instituto San Celso. What was your graduate job before you re-trained in advertising? And what did you learn from that experience?
FP> Yes, I had scientific studies and I was very bad at it. Can you imagine: numbers? No, I can’t. Then I started several jobs before finding my way in advertising, such as: a waiter - you have to be a waiter once in a life; a keyboard player/demonstrator; a painter; a call center operator; a private investigator (yes, I did it. For one week, but I did it); a soldier (it was mandatory in my country). What did I learn? Several things. For example, when you are in a motel with your lover always check out if there is a future creative director hiding in the dark to take pics of you.
LBB> When did you first consider going into advertising as a career?
FP> Probably I had it under my skin. I remember when I was shooting my first commercial at 10, with my father’s VHS camera, forcing all my relatives to act. Then I studied, did many jobs before following the call of advertising. I started late, at 26, but then I moved fast.
LBB> Why did you make the leap to move to Germany and Jung von Matt in 2014?
FP> The will to face a bigger market and go international. Jung von Matt is a legendary agency, I find myself very lucky to have worked there for almost four years. Without being fired.
LBB> Which recent projects are you most proud of?
FP> The next is still going to come. Ok, beside super cool answers… I am really proud of my last job for a very famous automotive brand. I am proud because it’s all about storytelling. It’s a global campaign and I hope that it helps to set the end of these lifestyle commercials where you see a car passing by and people moving their heads dancing like in a bad telco commercial. It’s automotive, people don’t want to see guys moving their heads, they want to see cars and ideas.
FP> Thanks, I appreciate it. It was great especially because one of them decided not to show up the day of the shooting.
I think respect is key even when you are a superstar. But our client reacted in a very elegant way. So after one month, we went back to shoot the missing player again, and you guys, and the 20 million people on the web, didn’t notice!
LBB> What was it that attracted you back to Italy to work at Y&R?
FP> Basically Y&R itself. It’s a great and glorious agency, so I was very honoured when I received the first call.
LBB> You've recently worked as a fairly hands-on creative director, keeping up your copywriting. Will you miss being directly involved in your new ECD role?
FP> No, I will not. I’ll try to find any free single minute to deliver some creative thoughts, inputs, headlines or claims. In my new role, the most important word stands between ‘executive’ and ‘director’.
LBB> What's it like to return to Italy's industry after so long in another market?
FP> No money, continuous emergency state, people smoking. So, for the first issue I can’t do a lot, I can only remind everybody a very simple truth: if you want something well done, you need to pay for it. Like in Germany. For the emergency state: Yes, here I can do something. Like remind everybody no organ transplants are going to take place in an advertising agency. To kill the word emergency there is a simple path to follow: stop, think, execute. For the smokers: c’mon guys, in 2018 still thinking you look like James Dean? No, you just stink.
LBB> What lesson or piece of advice do you wish you'd had earlier in your career?
FP> As I previously said I am a lucky guy. I had great Maestros and I received the right lessons and advices I needed. One of them was: Don’t do what clients ask. Do what they need.
LBB> What are your main aims and ambitions for Y&R as you join?
FP> Creativity first. Not only for awards. For the sake of creativity. My aim is to put on air something that people can see daily. Relevant creative campaigns, not one-shot ads.
I think that - as advertising people - we owe the audience fun, laughter, tears and shivers, in one word: emotions.
Then, of the same importance, is to build the best environment ever, inside the agency. I would like to create an international, multicultural, multi-fun, multi-awarded, multi-everything agency where people are proud and happy to work.
LBB> What do you like to do in your spare time? Any unique passions?
FP> Beyond taking care of my lovely daughters? My job.