Bianca Guimaraes, Partner And Executive Creative Director at Mischief @ NFA, Never Had A Plan B
Get pitch or die trying.
Who gave Bianca Guimaraes her first gig in the advertising industry? You deserve the world. If it was up to Guimaraes, she wouldn’t have hired herself. Ouch.
“I saw my first portfolio the other day when I was getting my hard drive to find a file and I remember thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, who was the angel that decided to give me a job?,’” she says over a Zoom call.
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Let’s fast forward to now though, more than a decade later where she’s on top of the advertising world. She’s an Executive Creative Director and Partner at Mischief @ No Fixed Address with a list of awards that would fill up three newsletters. Don’t get it twisted though. She’s nowhere near close to slowing down. “It's been a long learning process and I haven't stopped learning to this day,” Guimaraes says.
Whoever looked out for her, thank you from us all.
Born into a family that spoke the language of moodboards and color palettes, Guimaraes was born a creative. Her mother owned a fashion boutique store which introduced Guimaraes to a world of endless creative possibilities. When she was 19, Guimaraes jumped into advertising after taking a series of design classes in college she found intriguing.
After an internship at WG Comunicação where she learned the ropes of the advertising industry, she built her reputation by spending nearly two years at Eugenio in Brazil, almost five years at J. Walter Thompson in New York, and a little more than six years at BBDO New York where she progressed from Senior Art Director to SVP, Creative Director.
In 2020, she departed BBDO New York to become a part of Mischief @ No Fixed Address with CCO and co-founder Greg Hahn, which, since its nearly three years in existence, has become one of the hottest agencies in the industry. “I always wanted to do something a little more entrepreneurial,” she says. “When Greg asked me and my creative partner, Kevin Mulroy, if we wanted to start Mischief with him, immediately, we were both like, ‘Hell yes.’”
Their enthusiasm has been rewarded by our cosmic overlord, with the agency being named on an A-List Agency by Ad Age more than once, and, whether it’s sending noods for Kraft or hacking Super Bowl watchers for Tubi, its work becomes the focal point of culture whenever it drops. Hats off to Guimaraes and the team for crushing it whenever given the chance.
Here’s Guimaraes on getting into advertising, all things Mischief, and how advertising changes when you become a parent.
What was it like growing up in a creative family, and what about the process did you learn from being in proximity to them?
I think that just by being from Brazil, I grew up in an environment that’s creative in nature.
Specifically about my family, my mom majored in advertising, at the same college that I went to. She never actually worked in the business; she went straight to the fashion world instead. She started her own fashion store, and managed it for 20 years. So I grew up around her creating mood boards, researching trends, putting together color palettes, etc.
Seeing how she adapted her creations based on what was selling and what the trends were, taught me how to be flexible and not afraid to fail.
You got into advertising at just 19. What do you remember about being a snappy new creative, and do you think your ideas at the time sucked and got better, or have they always been good?
They definitely sucked. I saw my first portfolio the other day and I remember thinking, “How drunk was the person who decided to give me a job?” because I wouldn't have, ha.
At the beginning, I remember thinking advertising was exciting and fun but it wasn’t until my first internship that I started understanding what it was actually about. It took me even longer to start having ideas I didn’t think sucked. It took a lot of studying ads, surrounding myself with people who were better than me, pushing beyond those first thoughts that seemed good at first, etc.
It's been a long learning process and I haven't stopped learning to this day.
Your first internship versus your first job. So which one do you think you learned more about advertising that really helped shape your career?
Both taught me different things but are equally important.
During my internship, I learned how an agency functioned. The agency was super small so I was exposed to all the different departments. I shared a table with account people, media buyers and producers so I got a close look at how they worked. Then I worked at a bigger agency, focused on real start marketing, where I built resilience and learned how to be a good fast designer. The work wasn’t really conceptual.
When I moved to my first job in the U.S., I started learning a lot more about what a good idea is and how to approach a brief. I didn’t go to portfolio school so I was definitely behind on the concepting side of things.
You mentioned briefly about the transition from Brazil to New York. So what was that like as a creative?
There were many challenges. The language was definitely one. While I knew how to speak English well, being able to convey my ideas, show my sense of humor, get industry terms, etc was hard.
I’d try to make a joke but wouldn’t articulate it properly or fast enough, so at one point I decided to leave my personality aside and just focus on communicating. With time I got more fluent and comfortable.
Then there were also all the cultural references, sports, and politics that I wasn’t as familiar with as the people here. For our business, you really need to be on top of a lot of that stuff so that also took time.
In advertising, you're usually recommended a bunch of books and award annuals to check out and help shape your creative and improvement processes. What was your procedure to become a better creative? Were you studying things or was it just more about practical application?
I definitely made an effort to be on top of everything that was happening in the industry and in culture and tech. That was key but the day-to-day at the agency, watching other people work and taking stabs at briefs, was definitely the best learning.
I tried to always surround myself with people who were better than me, so I could learn from them and push myself to be as good.
I wanted to ask you about the decision to come to Mischief. So could you tell me about that time? How did you make the decision to leave BBDO and take this leap of faith?
I always wanted to do something more entrepreneurial. When Greg asked me and Kevin if we wanted to start Mischief with him, our immediate reaction was, "Hell, yes."
It might sound crazy to leave a steady job in the middle of a pandemic but it was the perfect time to start an agency. There was no need for an office, overhead costs, etc. Also, it’s a much easier decision when your partners are people you know, look up to, and have similar visions.
So how would you describe your role as an ECD in Mischief, is it different from your traditional agency? And what's your favorite part of it?
Kevin and I, along with Greg, oversee the creative department and all the work that gets out the door.
We also work with the rest of the leadership team on the agency’s culture, values and growth. It's a lot more responsibility in comparison to an ECD role at a traditional agency since we're involved in the business as partners. That was one of the reasons that I was so excited to try something new. I’ve learned so much.
All right. So the next thing I wanted to ask you is just about what keeps you coming back to advertising? I've talked to people and they’ve mentioned experiencing burnout and figuring out how to avoid that. What keeps you in love with the industry?
I love what we do. I've always found it exciting and going to work never felt like something I dreaded. To me, the great thing about advertising is that the industry is constantly evolving. There are so many mediums to play with, tons of new technology to bring any idea to life, and many different challenges with every brief. I find that energizing.
After having kids, I had to be a bit more disciplined about managing my work-life balance but that forced me to be more productive and efficient with my time. I worked during work hours without procrastinating because I knew I needed to be done by 6pm.
Also, I found that you can’t go far in this business without being resilient. Your ideas get killed a lot, briefs get rebriefed, timelines get pushed, etc. So if advertising is not something that you're passionate about, you can easily get frustrated and give up.
What do you do to unwind in your professional life? How has that changed over the years as you've progressed up the corporate creative ladder?
Playing volleyball was the best distraction for me. When playing, I could only focus on the moment I was in and nothing else.
After having kids, a lot of my free time was spent taking care of them. When I wasn’t with them, I was working. That took some getting used to and I feel like I was always tired. With time I learned how to balance everything better and that ultimately helped me grow as a creative as I got a whole new perspective and became a lot more efficient with my time.
So how do you think that becoming a parent has changed your approach to creativity or how's it helped you all?
I was worried about becoming a mom and falling behind. I was anxious about taking maternity leave and not being missed. Looking back it was the best thing I did and nothing changed on the months I was out.
Only good things came from it, aside from the dark spots under my eyes. Besides being more efficient with my time, I also became a more well-rounded creative by being able to relate to a whole new audience of people we create ads for.
Say tomorrow you wake up tomorrow and just can't do advertising anymore. What would you want to do with the rest of your life?
Oh, boy. That's a tough one because I never had a plan B. If I had to choose though, it would probably be something related to entertainment and cinema. Maybe I’d try to be a film director.
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