General manager of Chile agency Dittborn & Unzueta, part of McCann Worldgroup, speaks to LBB’s Addison Capper about the country’s transformation since the 2019 protests and how fashion influences more than just the clothes we wear
Dittborn & Unzueta (DYU) is one of Chile's leading advertising agencies and part of McCann Worldgroup. Melanie Cantzler has spent 16 of her 25 years in communications at the agency. She was appointed its general manager just over two years ago.
Melanie has always been involved in communications ever since her earliest studies, but DYU was really her first proper foray into advertising. Prior to joining the agency as an account director, Melanie worked in London in the marketing division of Paxar, a global company dedicated to branding and labelling solutions, before returning to Chile and launching Fashion Boutique, an agency dedicated to consultation and communications directly in the fashion industry.
She sees fashion as more than just clothes, and something that permeates everyday life and the aesthetics that drive modern day advertising. She speaks about that and more with LBB's Addison Capper.
LBB> You studied fashion on top of communication. How did you wind up in advertising? Was it part of the plan or a bit of a happy accident?
Melanie> My career began in large fashion retailers and it was there that I made the decision to study fashion marketing. And yes! Advertising was a bit of a happy accident. I was living in Rome for a while and a good friend offered me a position at DYU (Dittborn & Unzueta) in charge of the Falabella account. I didn’t have a formal job back in Chile, so I accepted just to know what the advertising world was, especially the fashion communication that Falabella had at that time. It was a good experience to be on the service side and not as a client, but over time I realised that what I really liked was creativity, the world of ideas and, above all, the relevance of beautiful aesthetics in everything we do.
LBB> In fact, looking at your career, you actually specialised in fashion communications for some time. What is it about the fashion industry that you enjoy? Do you ever miss working in a specialised field like that?
Melanie> I realised that fashion is present in many things – not only clothes, but in a much larger scope. I was closely linked to understanding where fashion forecasting trends are born and how they are influencing our entire environment and learned how to interpret and apply fashion in a modern aesthetic in communications. I don’t miss working in a specialised field but… it will always be my dream to have my own clothing line!
LBB> When you were studying, what was the general perception of something like advertising as a career?
Melanie> When I decided to study advertising, my father looked at me and said, ‘is advertising a career?’ At that time there was only advertising in private institutes and not in traditional universities. No one understood what it meant to study advertising. So I was a pioneer in this race and I played an ‘evangelising’ role explaining and opening spaces on this subject for others. More than advertising, it is the importance of communications in our lives. Not only knowing how to sell a product, but understanding what the consumer wants, needs or longs for. How to connect brands with their customers in a relevant way and not only create purchase needs. That was my point of view (it still is) back then and the way I was able to explain this ‘strange’ career.
LBB> Tell me about Dittborn & Unzueta – it sits under the McCann umbrella in the Chilean market. Tell me more – how would you define the agency and what it does well?
Melanie> DYU is one of the largest agencies in Chile, part of McCann Worldgroup since 1997 and specialises in local brands. The agency was founded in 1992 as the first agency in Chile dedicated to direct marketing. What sets us apart from McCann is the freedom we have to undertake and innovate in a flexible and agile way. This means that our foundations are anchored in constant innovation and the flexibility to undertake projects without fear of making mistakes. And of course, we have a recognised seal in the market and brands for our high aesthetic level in everything we do. There is fashion again…
LBB> You're the managing director. How did you figure out what kind of leader you wanted to be – or what kind of leader you didn’t want to be?
Melanie> I think the hardest thing has been to value my female leadership and not question my decisions. In general, the leadership at DYU was male, so the change has been a great change in the way of leading. I always knew that my leadership would be focused on the well-being of people above all else. I firmly believe that when people work in a place that cares about them, good ideas and good work come without hesitation. And the most important thing for me is that I can ‘conduct the orchestra but the musicians are the ones who make magic’.
LBB> It's been a really challenging period with the pandemic – and that's an understatement. How do you cope with the responsibility of leading a team through such difficult waters?
Melanie> When I assumed the general management we had been in the pandemic for three months. The agency was economically and emotionally very affected and also with scared clients not knowing what to do. The only thing I thought was that we will get ahead as a team. Moving towards a horizontal structure has been key, where each area leader feels heard and supported to make decisions and get ahead and each collaborator feels that they are essential in their role and their contribution to the transformation of DYU. For me personally, the most difficult thing has been the emotional responsibility of 150 employees and their wellbeing at all levels.
LBB> What is the situation in Chile right now, socially and economically? The crisis of 2019 seemed to signal a big shift at the time – is that the case? How has it changed things?
Melanie> Chile is experiencing a profound transformation that began in 2019. And like any transformation, this is accompanied by uncertainty about what is to come. But at the same time there is an optimistic hope that we will be able to transition to a more egalitarian Chile. In that sense, brands today are looking for that space to play a relevant role in society. Not only sell, but contribute to this transformation where people really are at the centre of our work. And I'm talking not only about a position from marketing, but about playing a meaningful role in people's lives and in their well-being.
LBB> How do you see the advertising industry in Chile? Creatively, do you feel that it's strong?
Melanie> I believe that the level of creativity of a country in advertising is directly related to the type of society that each one has. I think the creative level in Chile is good, not exceptional. Perhaps we are more effective than creative. I think we need more provocation and daring. We are certainly not a country with those characteristics.
LBB> Which projects from your time at your agency are you most proud of and why?
Melanie> There are many projects that have excited me in the 16 years I've been at DYU. Perhaps the most recent is ‘Arriba Mujeres’, a regional campaign by Falabella (the largest retailer in the region). It is really an ode to women, where we make visible different feminine realities and give women strength to continue looking for those spaces of equality. It is not a feminist campaign. It is a message to seek equity.
LBB> Outside of work, what keeps you happy / relaxed / energised / inspired?
Melanie> Relaxed? I take a nap whenever I can, sleep relaxes me and fills me with energy.
Inspired? The trips and the conversations. I believe that in each conversation there is a contribution that you can transform into inspiration. And travel, well, it's a source of inspiration that lies in how different we are.