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New Talent

New Talent: Joana Luis

McCann Barcelona art director on making the move from Portugal to Spain and growing up as Ronaldo’s neighbour

New Talent: Joana Luis

Growing up on the Portuguese island of Madeira, Joana Luis had a rebellious streak – she considered herself a ‘true’ artist, and wasn’t too keen on advertising or capitalism in general. It wasn’t until her professor - a creative director at a small agency in Oporto - introduced her to the world of adland, that she began to see the creative industry in a new light.

Sporting a new-found fascination with adland, Joana left Portugal and started a six-month internship at LOLA MullenLowe in Spain, where she honed her skills and picked up the language. Now an art director at McCann Barcelona, Joana has contributed to campaigns for the likes of Vueling airlines, Nesquik and Maggi over the past two years, and is loving every moment of her time there. 

Interested in finding out more about her work and time in Spain, LBB’s Liam Smith caught up with Joana to pick her brains. 

LBB> You're originally from Madeira - which is actually where Ronaldo is from! What was it like growing up there, and how did creativity impact your younger years?

Joana Luis> Yes, actually Ronaldo was my neighbour for some years! I have so many fond memories from my island. I come from a humble family from the countryside of Madeira, so growing up I was always in contact with nature and that’s one of the things that I most enjoyed. One day I found my great uncle’s sketchbooks, they had so many notes, doodles, drawings of people and buildings... Also I found out he made a couple of logos (that are still in use today). That was back in the ‘50s so we could say he was a graphic designer when there was no concept of graphic design! I think those sketchbooks were what impacted me the most to pursue a more artistic career.


LBB> How did you first get interested in advertising and art directing?

JL> As an art student I was very against advertising and capitalism, I thought of myself as a true artist and wanted to focus on things that really mattered to the world. But as a graphic design student I was taught a little bit of advertising. I had a professor that was also a creative director in a small agency in Porto, I really liked the way he approached the classes and he was the one who introduced me to the advertising world and how it worked. I saw that advertising can actually be modern and fun, that not everything is a boring soap spot, and that it needs a lot of creative thinking.


LBB> You then moved to Spain and took up an internship at LOLA MullenLowe. What made you decide to up sticks and make the move?

JL> I could’ve done the Erasmus programme and studied abroad, but that would’ve been the ‘easy’ choice and I wanted the real deal! To start my professional life in a different country AND learn a new language... It wasn’t an easy decision, but I know that when I’m outside of my comfort zone, that’s when I can really learn and push myself forward. Barcelona is a city with the perfect mixture between modern culture and past art, so I did all my research and found so many amazing studios and agencies, one of them was LOLA. At the time LOLA MullenLowe was (and still is!) doing a lot of interesting projects - projects that break the traditional advertising standards. I’ve always thought that if we are going to take up people’s time, it has to be with something truly worthy and entertaining. Being accepted at LOLA as an art director trainee was one of the best things that could’ve happened to me. It made me fall in love with advertising, and how to really think outside the box.


LBB> And what has your time at McCann Barcelona been like?

JL> I was lucky. I’ve started in a graphic design team. At the time I was doing a lot of banner ads and small digital content. At LOLA MullenLowe I was more of a thinker than an executor, and that’s always what I’ve aimed for in McCann. So step by step, when the time came I took my chance and landed in a creative team, it’s been great ever since! I’m learning so much and doing a lot of field work, also I work side-by-side with a copywriter, Ruben Pazos, and we have a great synergy thinking together. 

Working in an agency like McCann Barcelona can be hard, there’s a quality standard we always have to achieve, even in the small briefs. But most of my work is getting out there and that’s what feels most rewarding.


LBB> What other projects that you've worked on are you most proud of?

JL> I was initially part of McCann’s project for Beko’s ‘Eat like a Pro’. I was in the brainstorming for the initial idea, and helped with the first visuals. It’s a campaign aimed at raising awareness on the rapidly growing rates of childhood obesity around the world. It comes from the insight that children always do what their heroes do. Beko is one of the official partners of FC Barcelona, so we showed them that Messi, Suárez, Piqué and Iniesta eat healthy in order to play at their best, and they can be used as an important tool for parents to persuade the kids to eat healthy. It’s a huge campaign that involved many people here at the agency, and within a year it gained so much complexity and content!

LBB> What's your opinion on the current state of Spanish advertising?

JL> Advertising in Spain is in really great shape! I think there’s so much talent, and in the last three years that’s been proven. I can feel the motivation to do new things, but it’s still a country that’s afraid to get out of the most traditional formats and media.

Barcelona is starting to become an emerging creative hub. ‘The Doll That Chose to Drive’, from Proximity Barcelona is an inspiration for any creative that works here. To combat the gender stereotypes present in driving, Audi used animation to tell a story from the point of view of toys. Beko’s ‘Eat Like a Pro’, from McCann Barcelona, addresses the problem of childhood obesity by helping parents feed their children in a healthier way. It’s not only great when publicity uncovers these social problems, but it also actually helps solve them. In conclusion, I think it’s a country that just needs to lose the fear of innovation, and explore the possibilities offered by technology and social media.


LBB> What do you do outside of work to cool off?

JL> Oh you know… the usual! Beers, beers, beers, ukulele, and UNICORNS!


LBB> You recently worked on three Vueling campaigns (We Love Places, Getaways from the Afterlife and Voyage a Trois). Can you tell us a little bit about them?

JL> Those were all campaigns developed between our teams. I helped in every project in any way I could, by thinking up ideas or helping with the art direction. I was actually an ‘actor’ for the ‘We Love Places’ spot, but didn't pass through to the final montage… I’ve followed the project closely with my creative directors Xavi Gimeno (copywriter) and Fernando Alcazar (art director), I really love the photography in this spot. It sells lifestyle and attitude and I think it connects perfectly with Vueling’s audience. 

‘Getaways from the Afterlife’ is also a project developed within my team, especially by Ruben Pazos (copywriter) and Laura Grandío (art director). I think it’s a fun smart media usage, it was actually the most successful Shazam campaign in Spain. 

The ‘Voyage a Trois’ idea occurred to me and my creative duo, a 3 for 2 promotion that broke Valentine’s day standards and focused on other kinds of couples. We had to plan a website where you could register and invite two people to do a Voyage a Trois with you. If the two people accepted it then there was a match and the trio would receive a discount code for a Vueling flight. I developed the art direction of the project, I’m really proud of how pretty it was and how we also managed to do something that broke the Valentine’s couple clichés!

LBB> What were the challenges in launching these campaigns and how did you and McCann Spain overcome them?

JL> `We Love Places` was a well thought and well planned campaign, so there wasn’t any real major problems. But `Getaways from the Afterlife` and `Voyage a Trois`, were two beautiful babies with a very difficult birth. The `Voyage` idea occurred to us one month before its launch, we pitched it and fortunately the client fell in love with it. It seemed like a simple idea at first, but we only had three weeks to plan, design, program and test everything... I think I grew a few white hairs during that time! So... timing was for sure a challenge. And to help with the stress, the client made us change everything constantly! In the end, even through all the adversities, we made it, and we’re very proud of the outcome!