2 Minutes With ... Felipe Simi, Founder, CEO, & Creative Chairman at SOKO

On 'She Can,' 'Avenida Brasil' and Heinz

Felipe Simi is founder, CEO and creative chairman at SOKO. He started his career at global companies such as Hershey's and Unilever before joining agencies as a creative director. He founded SOKO because he wanted to find a way to make his experience (and his colleagues') in the advertising industry be less toxic, more purposeful and inclusive. Felipe is an LGBT+ activist, TEDx speaker and the most-admired advertising executive in Brazil, according to 2022 Agency Scope research.

Part of the Brazilian Marketing Hall of Fame, Felipe believes that no creative company can prosper without a broad repertoire of experiences that reflect the reality of the population. SOKO is one of the agencies with the best diversity representation in Brazil. That's the reason why Felipe is also co-founder and president of Observatorio da Diversidade na Propaganda (the Observatory for Diversity in Advertising).

We spent two minutes with Felipe to learn more about his background, creative inspirations and some recent work he's admired.

Felipe, tell us...

Where you grew up, and where you live now.

I grew up in Bauru, a small city in the countryside and now I sometimes live in Sao Paulo and other times in Rio.

How you first realized you were creative.

Creativity is not just a choice, but a necessity for those who deviate from societal norms. Growing up as a gay kid in a society that often had predefined expectations and standards, I quickly realized the importance of creativity in navigating the challenges and complexities of life. Through writing and storytelling, I discovered a powerful means to communicate my thoughts, emotions, and experiences. This realization shaped my identity and, later on, led me to the world of advertising, where I could harness creativity to challenge conventions.

A person you idolized creatively early on.

I idolized the Spice Girls for their unapologetic freedom and creative expression in the late '90s. And I didn't mind facing some bullies because of a poster in my teenage room.

A moment from high school or college that changed your life.

During my college years I worked at the university, where I met the most influential and cherished people in my life. The bonds we formed during that time have transcended the boundaries of time and distance, and their presence has had a profound impact on my personal and professional growth. Some of us still work together at SOKO.

A visual artist or band/musician you admire.      

Beyoncé. She is not only an incredible performer and vocalist but also a true visionary and creative force. Beyoncé uses her platform to advocate for important social issues and empower others, proving that she is not only a talented artist but also a powerful agent of change. What sets Beyoncé apart is her unwavering commitment to excellence and her ability to constantly push boundaries and challenge the status quo. Beyoncé, please come to Brazil.

A book, movie, TV show or podcast you recently found inspiring.       

"Projeto Querino." This is a groundbreaking podcast that sheds light on the untold stories and contributions of Afro-Brazilians. It offers an Afrocentric perspective on Brazilian history, highlighting key moments from the viewpoint of Africans and their descendants for the very first time. Projeto Querino has garnered significant attention, topping podcast charts and surpassing one million downloads in a short span of time. Its impact has extended beyond Brazil, gaining recognition in international publications and leading to book adaptations.

Your favorite fictional character.   

As someone who loves to immerse myself in Brazilian culture, I can't resist the allure of Brazilian telenovelas. They are a true cultural phenomenon, captivating millions of viewers with dramatic storylines and unforgettable characters. Among the multitude of captivating characters, one that stands out as a personal favorite is Carminha from the telenovela Avenida Brasil. Played brilliantly by Adriana Esteves, Carminha became an iconic figure in Brazilian television. Her complex personality and magnetic presence on screen made her a character that viewers loved to hate. Despite her devious actions and manipulative nature, there was something intriguing about Carminha that drew me in. She showcased the talent and skill of the actress, as well as the expert storytelling that makes telenovelas such a beloved form of entertainment in Brazil. Carminha's character is a testament to the power of telenovelas to captivate audiences and create unforgettable fictional personalities that become a part of our cultural landscape.           

Someone or something worth following in social media.          

When it comes to social media and the world of memes, Brazil has become a powerhouse of creativity. Brazilian memes have gained international recognition for their witty and relatable content, capturing the essence of Brazilian pop culture and everyday life. Among the many accounts worth following, @saquinhodelixo (which translates to "little trash bag"), stands out as a must-follow destination. This account curates and creates memes that embody the Brazilian sense of humor, delivering a constant stream of laughter. If you're looking for a dose of Brazilian pop culture and a good laugh, @saquinhodelixo is the perfect account to follow.

How Covid-19 changed your life, personally or professionally.

I believe we are all still dealing with the post-traumatic consequences from Covid-19. The circumstances were terrible for everyone, but also the situation highlighted the strength of our work model. SOKO had embraced a fully remote work model since our inception in 2016, which proved invaluable during the pandemic. We are more than 300 people working across all regions in Brazil, and we were able to support our clients and partners in transitioning to remote operations.

One of your favorite creative projects you've ever worked on.      

"She Can" for Guarana Antarctica that seeked to balance the gender prize money gap in football in Brazil by offering Guarana cans as a media placement for any brand willing to sponsor women's soccer.           

A recent project you're proud of.  

Heinz Tattoo Ink. We developed and launched a red tattoo ink for the brand lovers made with the same quality Heinz makes ketchup. It's the exact Heinz red and without any of the 4,000 recently banned components for tattoo inks.

Someone else's work that inspired you years ago

Dove's "Campaign For Real Beauty" inspired me to create advertising that actually sets new norms for society. Also, most of the craft work by the brilliant and now-defunct agency F/Nazca, such as Leica 100.

Someone else's work you admired lately.

I admire work that goes beyond brand narratives and aims to actually change how the world is structured for better. Recently I could say "The Tampon Book," "Pinatex" and "Data Tienda," for instance. I also love everything Samantha Almeida is doing for the entertainment industry at Globo in Brazil.

Your main strength as a creative person.

Prioritizing people's life stories to skills. Skills can be taught, but diverse life stories are the best ingredient for building innovative work that actually tackles culture.

Your biggest weakness.  

My struggle with letting go.

One thing that always makes you happy. 

Funk carioca music, particularly the genre known as "charme." This unique style of Brazilian funk originated in Rio de Janeiro and has a distinct rhythm and energy that instantly uplifts my spirits.

One thing that always makes you sad.     

Systemic injustice.

What you'd be doing if you weren't in advertising

Digging. I truly plan to become an archeologist by my 60s.

2 Minutes With is our regular interview series where we chat with creatives about their backgrounds, creative inspirations, work they admire and more. For more about 2 Minutes With, or to be considered for the series, please get in touch.

Jessica MacAulay
Jessica MacAulay is a contributor for Muse by Clio. She's also a recent graduate of the University of Colorado Boulder's College of Media, Communication, and Information.

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