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Uprising: Why Jonathan Cruz Is So Excited by “The New”



The Horizon FCB associate creative director tells LBB’s Nisna Mahtani why he keeps himself in “the uncomfortable mindset” of self-improvement and the exciting prospects of what’s to come

Uprising: Why Jonathan Cruz Is So Excited by “The New”

Now living in Dubai, Jonathan Cruz grew up in the countryside of northeast Brazil, a very different environment than he’s now in. A curious, “annoying kid with a lot of energy,” he was always looking for new and exciting ways to entertain himself without an abundance of resources at his fingertips. He now laughs that this situation, as it's something that dictates his day-to-day working life, “Seems like I’m describing daily tasks for a client, ‘Do something good to engage the target without resources,’ but which child wasn't like that? Right?” 

With a natural childhood curiosity, Jonathan spent his time reinventing what he already had, “I used to like building toys with other parts of toys, never destroying them but changing the legs and arms to have a new toy every time.” This sense of creativity also spread into his fondness for drawing, but Jonathan also had an adventurous side. He says, “running, falling, running again and this cycle again and again,” was part of his routine, much like many of our childhood memories on the playground or out with friends.

Jonathan describes Brazil as “a diverse place with many social gaps and different cultures in a single country,” which influenced the way he grew up to see things in a way which others might not. Witnessing the differences, he developed more of an understanding of how people may have varied perspectives, “That defined my outlook on everything in life and makes me think that the world is vast, with many different ways to live.”

Definitely not shy by nature, the associate creative director describes his personality as “Extroverted, ambitious and curious,” and it was perhaps this assurance with which he embarked on a social communication degree, specialising in publicity and advertising. During stints of work experience, which he did in between his undergraduate degree, Jonathan grew a sense of “resilience and patience”, as his job as an HR intern gave him a thicker skin. Once he then became a marketing assistant, he got his first taste of advertising and began introducing himself as an art director, which brought him a few small freelance jobs.

“I think the job as a marketing assistant opened the main door, and the university showed me the path,” says Jonathan, reflecting on how his discovery of the industry may have been accidental but everything else “was deliberate.” His first experience being with a local agency in his hometown, Jonathan credits “a touch of madness to always try something new” as part of the reason he wound up where he did, and since then, it’s “thousands of hours on YouTube tutorials”, day-to-day tasks and his colleagues which have helped hone his craft. 

Looking back to his first TV commercial, Jonathan barely remembers it, other than being a retail car ad, all he could think of was how it felt to see his work go live. He says, “I showed it to my mom, ‘look, that on TV, I did it,’ and even now, she thinks I work for a TV channel.” Since then, there have been many pieces of work which have contributed to Jonathan’s development, but the two most significant for the moment are “The Liquid Billboard for adidas and the Break chains with Blockchain for the Children of Female Prisoners Association,” which combined, claimed an impressive nine Cannes Lions awards. He says, “With a lot of good people involved in making everything happen, it is something that marks my career. But above that, it teaches me a lot about how I want to drive my career.”

The best part of it all is making “an idea come to life”, according to Jonathan, “to put the pieces together to create something abstract and sometimes transform it into something meaningful.” Yet, it’s the time constraints which challenge him, as he works to deadlines which can limit this. On the flip side of this, too much time can mean a loss of relevance or momentum in completing a project, the balance is a hard one to strike, but needed nonetheless. “It's necessary to have a good and integrated team who doesn't fail in these areas,” says Jonathan. 

Perhaps the most useful lesson he’s learnt so far is to, “never get too comfortable in a sense. The ‘I’m at a good professional level’ kind of ego is useless,” and this carries over to what Jonathan aspires to with his work. He says, “I prefer to have the uncomfortable mindset always to improve myself in my career no matter what,” rather than feeling as though he’s self-indulging in praise. He keeps up to date with developments by “reading and following everything relative to our field” while also keeping up to date with his colleagues and generally what’s new in the industry. 

One of Jonathan’s bugbears is when people say, “nowadays is worse than ever to work making ads.” He further explains, “Our job is to sell products/ideas/concepts in a society full of problems, I’m not super old, but I believe that problems in our community are not a thing created in this century. Working in our field will always be difficult, challenging, and frustrating.” While there are so many things which keep the industry interesting, it’s borderless creativity that Jonathan is most excited about. “Living in the Middle East has shown me that creativity doesn't have boundaries, and it is possible to see significant work everywhere around the world, no matter what the history of advertising in this country has; that really excites me.”

With so much passion for fresh, new ideas, it’s death by budget which really frustrates Jonathan, alongside a lack of investment in diversity. “The world is huge,” he says, “and bringing different people together from different genders, races, classes, etc., for sure will make the industry reach an unbelievable level.” Like many, he believes wholeheartedly that diversity not only needs to be addressed, but it is something which will continue to make the industry a better place for both creatives and clients. 

When he isn’t working, you’ll often find Jonathan reading a sci-fi book, watching movies, eating good food and embarking on the occasional run, in his words, “everything not necessarily connected to the industry.” Bitten by the travel bug, he’s an explorer who loves “travelling and discovering new places and cultures,” further enhancing his understanding of the world. 

“I think movies are the best entertainment ever,” he says. “To find new directors and see their perspectives about subjects in life. It’s amazing. I don’t have a favourite, but to pick a famous one, I would say the Wes Anderson movies are usually a masterclass of good art direction.”

But really, there’s one major key in Jonathan’s creative career which keeps him going. “The possibility to always discover more, visit new countries, know different new people, and figure out new ways to produce an idea, everything about ‘the new’ excites me.”

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Horizon FCB Dubai, Mon, 08 Aug 2022 15:12:00 GMT