2 Minutes With … Victor Afonso, CD and VP of AREA 23

On creating 'Social Bullets,' 'The Unwearable Collection' and solid advice from Dave Trott

As creative director and vice president of AREA 23 in New York, Victor Afonso works for multiple brands, including Boehringer Ingelheim, Lilly, Pfizer and more.

Before joining IPG Health and transitioning to pharma, Victor worked at consumer agencies in his native Brazil, as well as Portugal, including Master, Africa, Leo Burnett and FCB.

He has served as president of CCPR (Brazil's second-largest creative club) and contributes articles to regional advertising newspapers Propmark and Meio & Mensagem. He's also a teacher and a mentor at RedHook Creative School.

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

Victor, tell us ...

How you first got interested in health.

There's been a great leap in the quality of healthcare work over the past 10 years. And we have seen many talents transitioning from consumer to healthcare since then. I believe that the pandemic helped to consolidate how people see the industry. Brands that once might have had a negative image (the 'evil' big pharma companies) literally saved the world. I remember walking past Pfizer's office on 42nd Street and silently thanking them for the vaccine.

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

I had just joined Area 23 when Marcus Kawamura and Eduardo Tavares invited me to work on a project called Social Bullets. It was an experiment created to show parents the violence their kids face on social media—and the terrible consequences of cyberbullying. It was intense, not only because of the amount of work it demanded but also due to the nature of the idea. I had to go through thousands of hateful posts every day, talk about teenage suicide, and listen to gunshots repeatedly. But I think it paid off.

A recent project you're proud of.

I recently had the opportunity to work with one of the most creative teams at Area 23 (led by Renata Maia, David Traini, Thiago Fernandes and Widerson Souza). I was able to help them bring a powerful idea to life—"The Unwearable Collection,", an initiative for Boehringer Ingelheim that uses fashion to teach dermatologists what their GPP patients are forced to wear.

One thing about how health is evolving that you're excited about.

Today, every brand in the world seems to be looking for a purpose. In health, you don't need to look for it. It's always present. In every new drug, in every campaign, there is a life-saving purpose. What could be more exciting than that?

Someone else's work, in health or beyond, that you admired lately.

I lost both my parents to cancer. I was sitting beside my dad when his doctor told him he had Stage 4 lung cancer. And I wish he could have lived long enough to hear the sound of a cancer cell dying—that's the amazing idea behind The Most Beautiful Sound from Grey New York.

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

I'm reading The Creative Act by Rick Rubin. There is so much wisdom and inspiration to unpack in every chapter that it's taking me forever to finish it. But I'm loving every bit. Rick Rubinism is my new philosophy. 

A visual artist or band/musician you admire.

The hottest band in the world … Kiss. The 15-year-old Victor wouldn't hesitate to answer that KISS is the greatest band ever. And even though I might not agree 100 percent with my younger self, I'm not going to miss what supposedly is going to be Kiss' last concert after 50 years on the road, at Madison Square Garden, on Dec. 2. 

Your favorite fictional character.

A young boy from a distant place answers the call for adventure, is helped by someone wiser along the way, finds a gift, faces his greatest fears, and ends up saving the world. It can be Luke Skywalker, Frodo Baggins, Daniel LaRusso, Harry Potter. These are my favorite characters, no matter how many times I'm told the same story.

Someone worth following on social media.

Rafi Bastos. The guy was a famous comedian in Brazil, one of the pioneers of stand-up comedy there. He even had his own TV show. But a few years ago, he decided to start from zero again. He moved to New York, where he reinvented himself (even changed his stage name), writing and performing in English. As a non-native English writer, I can only envy him, and laugh at his jokes.

Your main strength as a marketer/creative.

I'm always curious. A great book by Dave Trott, The Power of Ignorance, says that admitting you don't know something is the most important step before you try to do anything. And that's how I approach every creative brief—with an open mind and curiosity to learn new things. 

Your biggest weakness.

Even after two decades of working as a creative, I still have a lot of self-doubt. But, to quote Rick Rubin: "If insecurity is part of who we are, then our work will have a greater degree of truth in it as a result." 

One thing that always makes you happy.

Working from home, I can always stop whatever I'm doing for five minutes to be at the window and watch my two kids coming back from school. Nothing makes me happier than watching them grow and become better human beings.

One thing that always makes you sad.

The Brooklyn Nets. 

Something people would find surprising about you.

I have a WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) Level 2 Award in Wines, passed with distinction (the highest score).

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

I'd probably be serving wine. Studies say it can benefit your heart, so I'd still be in the healthcare business.

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.

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