Diego Tardani and Luca Boncompagni joined VMLY&R Italy in March 2023 as chief creative officers, but their relationship goes back almost 14 years. They first collaborated in Rome, at TBWA. Although they weren’t creative partners, they decided to team up because together they had “a crazy proactive idea to raise funds for WWF, for Valentine’s Day.”
As is often the case on that kind of ambitious proactive charity project, the pair had to find the time and resources to make it happen themselves. “We worked extra time for an insane number of hours and nights,” they say. “And guess what, they bought the idea. We were so happy that we went to our ECD asking to become a proper team, not an ‘extra-time team’.”
Having come together over an idea they were passionate to bring to life, their partnership flourished. “It was a sort of sudden alchemy,” they say. “It seemed we were sharing lots of things without knowing each other.” They had the same goals, the same way of looking at every brief as an opportunity and the same belief in the power of strategy. They call it “the only thing able to build relevant brands and connect them to people.”
In fact, when the creative team didn’t like the strategic entry points planners gave them, Diego and Luca worked together to make them better and more inspiring from a creative standpoint. “Also, we were both ready to leave on a journey, far from our hometown,” they say.
That journey would eventually take them to spend years working in Germany and the US before returning to their native Italy. Tthe first project the pair worked on together as a creative team began in Paris, while on a trip the agency called a ‘creative hothouse’, where the main teams from the different TBWA European agencies came together to crack a big idea. The teams worked against each other in competition, three days at a time (and nights, they’re keen to add). “It sort of felt like the European Football Championship, but the advertising version of it. Or at least, that was the way we looked at it. The atmosphere was incredible, beautiful and challenging at the same time, for us it was the first immersive international experience. That was the chance.”
They remember the process vividly: “Working like hell, four-hour rounds, and presenting the best of the best ideas directly to the EMEA ECD. We brainstormed as if there was no tomorrow, and believe it or not, in the end, the client picked our idea and they decided to use it only for a couple of markets, Italy included.”
From that day on, the EMEA ECD started calling Diego and Luca anytime he needed help. And they went to Paris quite a few times.
As a partnership. Diego and Luca have learnt to be extremely transparent with each other. “We have no filters at all,” they say.
From a creative and human standpoint, they think they strike a complementary balance. Luca is sort of a mix of rational and irrational, and “the fun side of the team,” says Diego, who admits he is the emotional one. “Let’s say that we’ve found our sweet spot right in between our two personalities, meeting halfway so to speak, and the result is clearly something brands end up sort of liking.”
Their process together takes into account both of those tendencies and once they’ve got an idea they always subject it to the same interrogations: “Is this relevant, can this be effective on consumers?”
If those tests can’t be met, they start over. “If something is not actually convincing the two of us, we tend to think that there’s something which is not really working,” they say. “It’s that simple. And somehow, we never fall in love with one single idea, there are always more and better ones to fall in love with.”
It seems to have served them well so far. They have created campaigns for mega-brands such as P&G, Heineken, Netflix and Coca-Cola.
As friends, like in life, they’re total opposites. Luca likes metal and jazz, whereas Diego’s more of a techno head. Luca loves martial arts, and Diego loves football and tennis. Although his headphones are blaring Black Sabbath, Luca has a calm demeanour, whereas Diego admits he can be harder to work with. “I am a bit lunatic,” he says. Over the years he’s worked on ways to manage his feelings and credits Luca with learning “how to manage a guy with very up-and-down feelings.”
These differences in character and taste mean that, as they put it bluntly, “We don’t spend so much time together outside of the agency, even if we know that we count on each other’s support, when really needed. We think this is our superpower.”
Coming from different perspectives, they believe in the value of confrontation. “It’s crucial, we base everything we do on this. Things just get better when we discuss them.”
For clients, two CCOs means doubled creative value, and having two points of view on things. “In our experience, clients are very sensitive to this matter, it makes them feel sort of safer, in a way it’s like having two key people to talk to, eventually, in separate moments. Also, whenever somebody is busy with something else, the other can take over and vice versa. We’re like one person, with two bodies. It's like when you’re up for a snack and you go to the vending machine: you pay for one snack, and guess what, two snacks fall. It just feels good.”
Becoming CCOs is a challenge the pair are working on, but it’s one they’re excited to have the chance to take on. “We now have the chance to lead the creative dept of an agency that carries an important name on its shoulders. We have the chance to spread our philosophy and see if our management skills are good enough to build a stronger creative reality,” they say.
With creative responsibility for the Milan and Rome offices of VMLY&R Italy, including the Commerce unit, coordinating a team of about 60 creatives, their objective is to make the agency more and more competitive and to highlight its creative identity by leveraging on the network positioning of ‘creating connected brands’.
They know that’s not an easy task and they know that their age (Luca is 36, Diego 40 years old) could make people think they can’t be the finished article, but they back themselves. “We like to think of ourselves as the underdogs, working hard in the shadows, instead of being under the spotlight.”
Diego and Luca look at ‘real life’ as the best inspiration, alongside their mothers’ opinions. “What would mom think about this?” is a useful question to ask at every stage. “Could our parents feel inspired by this idea? Simply, it’s ordinary life that inspires us.”