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5 Minutes with... Sandra Alfaro


DDB Chicago’s newly promoted president speaks to LBB’s Addison Capper about her creative journey so far and keeping the agency’s recent momentum going

5 Minutes with... Sandra Alfaro

Just 11 months after being appointed as DDB Chicago’s head of business leadership, Sandra Alfaro has been promoted to the role of president at the agency, where she will work alongside chief creative officer Rodrigo Jatene and chief strategy officer Milo Chao.

This news came simultaneously with the announcement that current DDB Chicago CEO Andrea Diquez will leave the business on November 1 to pursue another career opportunity. DDB Chicago’s strong awards show performances - wins at D&AD, One Show, Cannes Lions and a network win at the 2022 Effies - and its 25% growth over the past year, have set an impressive legacy for Sandra to follow as president, but she is excited to maintain the momentum with her integrated communications and leadership skills.

Speaking to LBB’s Addison Capper, Sandra discusses her ambitions for the agency and her presidency, the award-winning work from 2022 that she is proudest of, and the multilingual creative work that shaped who she is today.

LBB> Congratulations on the promotion to president! How is it going to be shifting your day-to-day priorities for DDB Chicago? 

Sandra> Thank you so much! It is very exciting and I’m thrilled to be part of such a powerhouse team. My priorities will continue to be sharply focused on our people, our product and creating amazing work for our clients. While my previous role was business leadership, our leadership team has worked so closely from day one, that we each got to input and make decisions together for the entire agency - so in some ways it won’t change that much. I’ve always had a passion for growth and new business, so I will continue to be very involved there, and culture is another passion of mine. We have a very special culture at DDB Chicago and we want to continue to ensure we have an inclusive and inspiring environment that attracts the best and most diverse talent.

LBB> DDB Chicago has been on a bit of a roll recently, so it isn't like you're stepping in to help ‘fix’ something. With that in mind, what are your main aims and ambitions in the role and how are you looking to achieve them?

Sandra> We have some great momentum at DDB Chicago and my goal is to keep it going. We’ve had tremendous growth and a great awards season this year, winning on our industries biggest stages, from Cannes Lions to D&AD, for our work across several clients - including Mars and Molson Coors to name a few. Our ambition is to continue winning with unexpected work across more of our client portfolio and in more areas. We also have the ambition to be true business partners for our clients, using our creativity to help solve their biggest challenges. 

LBB> With Rodrigo and Milo, it seems like there's a really tight-knit core leadership team. How has that helped recent growth and creative recognition, and how will you work together in the future? 

Sandra> Our chemistry is magic and it truly is a big part of our ‘secret sauce’. It still amazes me that we’ve only worked together for a year – it feels like I’ve known Rodrigo and Milo forever. It has definitely fueled our recent growth because we complement each other really well. We quickly learned each of our strengths, and we easily fell into playing our role on the team. We all believe that creativity is truly the most powerful force in business and that every person at the agency – from finance to production -  plays a crucial role in the unexpected works we create. We also laugh a lot too, which makes the work fun. It sets a good example for the agency. We believe in leading by example so it’s important to demonstrate how much we trust, respect and enjoy each other. We love what we do, together - and you can feel it. I love that.

LBB> Which work from the past year are you particularly proud of and why?

Sandra> I’m proud of all the work we’ve done, it truly reflects our future-forward creative expertise. Some of my favourites include our work for Skittles, with the ‘Apologize the Rainbow’ campaign. It was such an unexpected and fun way for Skittles to announce the return of lime Skittles, and the authenticity of its apology really resonated with the target audience, keeping them engaged for hours on Twitch. This was a great example of meeting our audience where they are. 

I also love our work for Miller Lite during the Super Bowl. Creating the first bar in the metaverse that kept our audience engaged and entertained was truly unexpected and made a big impact on so many levels. When the work creates moments that put our brands into culture and conversation – that is the stuff I get excited about! 

LBB> How did you wind up in advertising? 

Sandra> When I graduated college, my shortlist of industries I hoped to get into included sports marketing and advertising. When I started interviewing, I quickly learned that speaking three languages and growing up in a bicultural household was an advantage – it gave me a unique lens on things. It got me my first job at Conill Advertising, the multicultural agency of Saatchi & Saatchi. It was exactly the right place for me to start my career. I loved the energy, the creative environment and how I could experience my culture on a whole new level - in the context of marketing and advertising. 

It was more than a job from day one, it was the career meant for me and there was no looking back. This industry has truly been one of my greatest blessings – connecting me to the most important friendships in my life. 

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

Sandra> I watched a lot of television - from soap operas and novelas to sitcoms and drama - don’t tell my son I had no screen time limits! Growing up in an immigrant household meant content was how we kept culture alive at home. We watched a lot of content in Spanish and listened to more music in Spanish than English. Many of my favourite childhood memories are centred around watching the comedy of Mexican legend Cantinflas with my father, or watching novelas with my mum and sister – content that I was probably too young to watch at the time, but it was more about the time we spent together. 

We watched a lot of classics together too. My favourites still include ‘The Godfather’ series, ‘Gone With the Wind’ and of course, ‘Grease’. I won’t confess how many times I’ve watched Grease. When it comes to ads, I used to sing along with the jingles - so imagine my surprise when my son started doing the same before he was 3! Some that stand out include the McDonald’s jingle (to all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce cheese…), and of course, Coca-Cola’s ‘I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony)’.  

LBB> And what kind of content like that is inspiring you nowadays?

Sandra> I always have several series and shows going on at any given time, so I have choices depending on my mood. I even rewatch series from time to time – ‘Parenthood’ is one I always go back to, and ‘The West Wing’. I’m a huge ‘Downton Abbey’ fan, and I’ve seen most of the ‘Law & Order SVU’ series. I love going to the movies and I miss doing it more often. It hasn’t felt the same since the pandemic, sadly. Certain films have to be experienced first on the big screen, I really believe that. A few that stand out in the recent past include ‘Maverick’ and ‘In The Heights’, which were just amazing as theatrical experiences. 

LBB> Outside of work, what do you do to decompress or stay fresh?

Sandra> I read a lot. There are always at least three books on my nightstand at any given time - plus what I read on my iPad. Reading is a stress relief for me, I’ve always been a bookworm. I also love to dance and we often have dance parties at home to blow off steam. Travel is my all-time favourite way to decompress. From Vegas to Miami Beach to Cabo and Lima, I have a bunch of happy places that really help me unplug and recharge in the best possible way. 

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DDB Chicago, Mon, 17 Oct 2022 17:26:00 GMT