2 Minutes With ... Rafael Rizuto, CCO of BBH New York

The would-be cartoonist's global adventures

Rafael Rizuto, who joined BBH as chief creative officer of its New York office this year, had previously run his own agency, TBD in San Francisco, for more than two years. In the two decades prior, he put in time at Ogilvy in Brazil, Ogilvy and Leo Burnett in Dubai, Pereira O'Dell in San Francisco and 180LA.

The campaigns he's worked on include Boost Mobile's "Boost Your Voice," UNICEF's "UNfairy Tales," Expedia's "Dream Adventures," Hellmann's "Recipe Receipt," Airbnb's "#Birdbnb," "Solving #SochiProblems" and "Views," and Coca-Cola's "Happiness Refill" and "Crossroads."

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

Rafa, tell us ...

The town where you were born, and where you live now.

Born in Recife, Brazil. Living now in San Francisco, but moving to New York when the situation allows.

What you wanted to be when you grew up.


How you discovered you were creative.

I have this crystal clear image in my mind because it happens to be my very first memory. I was about 2 years old and I was making a Play-Doh elephant. I don't remember exactly how that elephant looked, but I remember the adults around me praising it, saying something to the effect of, "How can he sculpt such a perfect elephant? He's only 2 years old." This registered in my mind in such a powerful way, putting me on the creative path for the rest of my life. It makes me think of the old debate about nature vs. nurture. Did I become creative because I was born with some sort of gift, or because I had that positive impact early on? I guess I will never know.

A person you idolized creatively growing up.

Mauricio de Sousa, the "Walt Disney of Brazil." 

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

I always wanted to be an artist, but being an artist in Brazil means you will financially struggle for the rest of your life. In my senior year in high school, that reality was looming over me when it came time to apply for college. I wasn't good at anything else; actually, I was a horrible student. But everything changed when I found out about a course called Graphic Design. I thought, "Wait a minute, I can draw and make a living? Sign me up!"

The first concert you saw, and your favorite band or musician today.

I don't actually remember the first concert I saw—probably a local band from my city. My favorite band is, and forever will be, Pearl Jam.

Your favorite visual artist.

Vincent Van Gogh. His work affected me from a very young age.

Your favorite hero or heroine in fiction.

Uhtred of Bebbanburg, the main character of the 13-book saga The Saxon Tales, which I've been reading since 2004. Written by Bernard Cornwell.

The best book you've read lately.

Acid for the Children, a beautiful memoir written by Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea.

Your favorite movie.

The Matrix.

Your favorite Instagram follow.

My dog Bucho (@Bucho_Rizuto). He doesn't follow me back, though.

How the Covid-19 crisis has changed your life, personally or professionally, in recent weeks.

It changed everything. A recent example that I keep thinking about was my first big client presentation at BBH. I was obviously a bit nervous, but then the main client showed up on the video call from her kitchen, drinking a cup of coffee. That small thing brought me peace and the realization that we are all in this together. It's so ironic how social distancing is bringing us closer.

Your favorite creative project you've ever worked on, and why.

Boost Mobile's "Boost Your Voice." I love that project not just because of the outcome, which is known by most people in this business, but because of its ability to rally an entire agency and ignite an inextinguishable sense of purpose in the team.

Boost Mobile | Boost Your Voice
Your favorite creative project from the past year, and why.

"Havaianas Boardwalk Store." Last year we had the incredible opportunity to re-introduce the most beloved Brazilian brand Havaianas to the U.S. With the help of cutting-edge tech combined with art, we literally turned the famous Venice Beach boardwalk into a store. Using Google Vision A.I., consumers could aim their phone's camera at the mural's different patterns and embedded Easter eggs on the ground to shop products with their respective themes. It was a fantastic experience, turning a simple product demonstration into entertainment. Or as we started calling it, "demotainement."

Havaianas Boardwalk Store
Someone else's creative project that inspired you years ago.

Gatorade "Replay."

Gatorade Replay
Someone else's creative project that you've been envious of lately.

Tiny Concert by Keith Ross.


A post shared by Tiny Concert (@tinyconcert) on

Your main strength as a creative person.


Your weakness or blind spot.


One thing that always makes you happy.

My two sons. They introduced me to a love that doesn't have myself in it.

One thing that always makes you sad.

Lack of empathy.

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

I guess I'd be a broke cartoonist.

Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd was editor in chief of the Clio Awards and editor of Muse by Clio from 2018 to 2023.

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