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5 Minutes with... Camilo Afanador


VMLY&R COMMERCE | Geometry Colombia’s CEO on his 20 years developing the agency into a ‘Creative Commerce’ powerhouse, and the “exciting growth” yet to come, writes LBB’s Ben Conway

5 Minutes with... Camilo Afanador

In December, after two decades at the company now known as VMLY&R COMMERCE | Geometry Colombia, Camilo Afanador was appointed as CEO, taking over from close friend and colleague Xavier Serrano, with whom he helped turn G2 Colombia (as it was in 2003) into the agency it is today. Previously the regional chief experience officer, Camilo is now leading the company with its ‘Creative Commerce’ philosophy at the forefront and utilising his 20 years of experience in the WPP network to continue its growth as an “inspirational agency for talent and the industry in general”.

Speaking to LBB’s Ben Conway, Camilo discusses his personal journey with creativity - from the theatre to agency life - as well as how he helped VMLY&R COMMERCE | Geometry Colombia to evolve through ‘passion and specialisation’ and an unforgettable lesson about humility that changed his mindset.

LBB> What creative content inspired or interested you most when you were growing up? Do any TV shows, films or ads stand out to you?

Camilo> Since I was young, I’ve really liked the theatre. It’s a hobby that really connected with me.  From being in front of an audience to live presentations – from Disney and the theatre to concerts and stand-up, I liked seeing it all. The staging especially connected with me – I found it so inspiring and constructive. For me, being able to impact audiences and move them, understanding emotion as a motivation to move and change, is all incredibly and profoundly inspiring. It’s probably what moved me into this industry. 

At the same time though, I always found interest in business and management books as well as television. When I discovered various series, I became a faithful follower of them too. My deep love of both may be related to the power that these channels have to move people, to impact them in positive and unimaginable ways. Our job is to find those ways.

LBB> What’s the most important lesson/piece of advice you received early on in your career? How does it influence you and your work today?

Camilo> There’s always that one moment I remember clearly from when I was a young executive at my first advertising agency. I was a friend of the owner and thought the world, or at least the agency, revolved around me. A high dose of arrogance! One day, a director called me to his office. It felt like a scene from ‘Mad Men’. As I stood at the door with an attitude, the director looked at me and said, “I don't know why everyone says you're good at this... I don't think you do a good job.” That moment was very shocking. It was like a punch in the face; a punch that today I am very grateful for. It made me understand that quality is demonstrated with facts, real work, and especially humility, as it invites us to be better every single day. Today, I still remember that moment and share it with others whenever I can.

LBB> You joined G2 Colombia in 2003 - 20 years later, you’re still working there (albeit with a different name). How has the company evolved in that time? And how has the growth of the WPP network shaped how VMLY&R Commerce | Geometry Colombia operates today?

Camilo> Our evolution has always been based on passion and specialisation. We did this by incorporating talents in whom we noticed a passion for this business,  communications and all of its different areas. We have grown from a purely experiential offer to a complete end-to-end creative commerce company, now part of the VMLY&R COMMERCE global network and known as VMLY&R COMMERCE | Geometry in our local market.

We have developed a strong operational foundation based on three key elements: experiential, creativity, and digital coherence. Through them, we can deliver conversion at any time and through any channel.

Furthermore, we are an agency that articulates eight disciplines in totality to give the best results. In addition to the three mentioned above, we also have production, communications, strategy, consulting, and innovation – all in service of bringing greater creativity to the moments along a consumer’s purchase journey.

On this path, having a great partner like WPP has been fundamental, as it is an organisation with great talent that reaches all operations. It has provided many tools that generate certainty and credibility in our clients, and support in each of the areas of work – providing a guarantee of success in management.

LBB> You worked with the previous CEO Xavier Serrano from the very beginning in 2003 - how did that relationship influence how you work? What are some of your proudest achievements together? 

Camilo> Working together with Xavier has been the most powerful engine we have had in our history. With him, we found a way to complement our individual talents by generating a successful management formula for the organisation across all areas. Discipline, passion, and sensitivity to long-term talent have been just some of the areas we have developed over the years and still remain key drivers today. I am proud to have had the opportunity to work with Xavier in building this organisation – one that today has more than 300 specialised talents, global recognition, outstanding client results, and a local, regional, and global reputation of the highest level.

LBB> And how does it feel to part ways with a long-time collaborator, and step into his shoes as CEO? Did he offer any advice? 

Camilo> Xavier is a great friend and colleague with whom I have a close and constructive relationship – a closeness that is a constant contribution to me in every way. At the same time, this transition has been very natural, having shared with him 20 years of agency leadership. Thanks to this, the transition has been a smooth one. This has allowed us to continue with business as usual with a continued focus on the growth of our ‘Creative Commerce’ model, one of our main value offers.

LBB> What are some of your key goals with VMLY&R Commerce | Geometry Colombia for 2023? What are some target areas for growth and development? 

Camilo> This will be a year of exciting challenges and growth across many levels. We want to ensure we keep moving forward as an integrated agency with a strong focus on conversion. That is why all our conversation is around commerce. Today, brands are born and built in commerce channels. This means that people decide what, where, when, and how they want to buy. More and more of our brand interactions are happening across the omnichannel experience. This is exactly what we are addressing with our ‘Creative Commerce’ model, thus delivering creativity that inspires conversion.

We also want to be an inspirational agency for current and new talent, and for the industry in general. We want to be in tune with the global conversation around energy, education, and sustainability. And, of course, we continue to have big goals in terms of reputation and recognition that we strive to meet and exceed every day.

LBB> Outside of work, what do you do to decompress or stay fresh? And what do you think it is that drives and motivates you in work and in your life?

Camilo> My family – my wife and two daughters. Having projects with them is a source of inspiration and energy for me. I also enjoy playing tennis as often as I can; I love the sport. I also want to get back to the theatre. I did it in the past and I want to practice it again.

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VMLY&R COMMERCE Colombia, Fri, 05 May 2023 14:59:00 GMT