Prime Video's Leo Macias on Finding Inspiration and Working With Emerging Creatives
Leo Macias is global VP of marketing and activation at Prime Video and Amazon Studios, where he leads a team in the areas of operations, production, social, influencers, creative studio, GTM, brand, activations, synergy and partnerships. He previously served as CCO at DDB Colombia and global CCO at Laundry Service in New York. Macias moved to Los Angeles and joined Snap Inc. as global head of creativity. While there, he oversaw and built multicultural creative teams in North America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, and worked with brands like Gucci, Ralph Laurent, Mercedes, Nike, and Balenciaga.
We spoke with Leo for our Backstory series, where we chat with folks in the entertainment industry about their creative inspirations and more.
Leo, tell us...
Where you grew up, and where you live now.
I was born in Colombia and lived in various cities throughout my life, including Cali and Bogotá in Colombia, Goiania and São Paulo in Brazil, and New York City. I'm currently based in Los Angeles, California.
Your first job in the industry.
My first "job" was more of an internship at Manchola Dominguez, a local and very small advertising agency in Cali, Colombia. Right after my time there, at 17 years old, I was hired by Ogilvy (at the time Ogilvy & Mather) and moved to Bogotá, where I acted as the art director for the Unilever Beauty Products and Shell Oil Company accounts, two major international brands. I learned a great deal about creativity and creative strategy during the three years I was at Ogilvy, leading to the first award in my career.
A breakthrough moment in your career.
Life is about opportunities and my breakthrough moment was a great one. I was working as a senior art director at Publicis Group in São Paulo where I was leading a group of international clients, including Sanofi Aventis, who had commissioned a new product launch. I was assigned to spearhead the entire campaign, which resulted in us receiving a Gold Lion at The Cannes Lions Awards (among several other golds at additional reputable festivals). As this was the only gold for Brazil in this category that year, I was well recognized for my work and was subsequently invited to be the group creative director at Talent Marcel, a prestigious and emblematic agency in Brazil. It was my first opportunity to become a creative leader and the beginning of an important part of my trajectory.
Three movies you couldn’t do without.
Scent of a Woman: The limitations of a blind man brilliantly interpreted by Al Pacino is fascinating. The friendship, compassion and anguish in this drama are an incredible mix of feelings that inspires me even after watching it for the tenth time. The monologue at the end of the film is beautiful and the whole cast is glorious. I watched it for the first time a long time ago before I became a father and that made me dream of having a son just so that I could make a similar speech to defend him one day.
Midnight in Paris: I love Woody Allen films, but this one has a special flavor. As an artist, I really love rewatching it—it's not every day that you can fantasize about being in Paris surrounded by artists like Picasso, Matisse, Modigliani, Miró, Franz Marc and many others. It's fantastic in narrative and inspiration.
The Bridges of Madison County: It's difficult to make a bad film with two of the biggest stars in the world as part of the cast. Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep made this bigger than any other romantic film, to me it's like poetry brought to life. I love the beautiful way the narrative unfolds, reading letters and looking at old pictures. How can one forget the scene when the main characters Francesca and Robert are inside the truck, it's raining and she's holding the door handle ready to open the door and goes on to live her "life?" This is one of the most beautiful scenes of this film. The scene is a film in itself.
Your favorite movie quote.
"Our lives are defined by opportunities, even the ones we miss"—The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
I'm living proof of this. Life gave me and continues to give me unique opportunities, including working and learning from incredible and talented people.
Your favorite movie trailer or poster.
Posters are something that I'm very passionate about because they are the closest to art. It's not just about telling a little part of the story in one image, it's about communicating in the most impactful way to the consumer. I always ask myself—"is this poster beautiful enough to place in my living room?" I have a long list of favorites, but the Metropolis is rare—just two colors (black and yellow), an incredible illustration, a unique title treatment integrated with the main image, an elegant way to distribute the information; sophisticated, elevated, fantastic. Metropolis was created in 1927 and continues to be relevant and fresh decades later.
A classic TV show and a recent TV show that you loved.
Classic: Get Smart. I really like this series. It was very creative for that time. I love the gadgets like the cone of silence, the shoe phone, the finger gun. Also, the sequence of doors opening during the first minute was epic.
Recent: The Boys. The script and production are genius; the acting is perfect! The heroes are as famous as celebrities and as influential as politicians. I love the bloody explosions and the way they solve problems. The third season is impressive. In particular, the episode "Herogasm" is unmissable.
A project you worked on recently that you're proud of.
I'm particularly fond of three different projects that we did over the last few months.
The first one is for The Wilds. For the first time ever in the entertainment industry we set up a live trailer activation where we invited fans and influencers to recreate their own version of the trailer. I enjoy executing "never done before" ideas, and this one was very special because we generated hundreds of different trailers and the business results were outstanding.
The second one was in honor of Pride Month. We were excited to be a part of this celebration because as an entertainment hub we take pride in producing exceptional content that is inclusive and representative of the LGBTQ+ community. We ran a full page spread in the New York Times with a rainbow flag inspired by our interface of content. The piece went live timed to New York's Pride Day. We had a lot of people at the Pride Parade using the spread as a symbolic flag, and we were proud of this because it was more than just an ad; it was a representation of our inclusive content.
The third was an activation for the launch of A League of Their Own, a series that highlights women's empowerment in the male-dominated baseball field as the central theme. We put together a "Letter to the Future" written by the women who have impacted the sport over the past decades. We created the largest written letter ever spelled out with baseballs over a field. To give a better sense of the size of this letter, we used more than thirty thousand balls to spell out the words and it was epic!
Someone else's project that you admired recently.
I'm always looking at other industries as a source of inspiration. It's important for us as marketing leaders to see what is happening in music, dance, fashion, architecture, beauty and in other inspirational industries. What's the current trend and where's the new one starting out? What are people talking about? Who's the new influencer, what's igniting conversations on social? Looking through this lens, I've been recently admiring the work that Balenciaga is doing globally under Demna Gvasalia's creative direction. The way they are launching collections, the collaborations and cutting edge products that are generating conversations and trending regularly—it's all very impressive.
For example, they wrapped Kim Kardashian in Balenciaga branded yellow packing tape for Paris Fashion Week this year. The creativity behind this campaign resulted in Balenciaga becoming one of the most commented and photographed brands during the event, garnering significant press and awareness. The success was so huge that even after three months the yellow tape continues to be referenced and an inspiration, with Elle Magazine replicating this look on their July cover star, Lizzo.
One thing about how entertainment marketing is evolving that you're excited about.
Marketing has never had more channels and media platforms to communicate with customers. Because of this, we have more opportunities to cultivate emotional connections to content, to amplify the storytelling, to connect with culture or even to create culture moments. The industry has trailers and posters as key pieces of communication, but we can generate so much more engagement and conversation if we use innovative distribution sources for those assets and include other experiential executions in the storytelling.
Throughout my entire career, working for different advertising agencies around the world, my day-to-day was focused on finding creative solutions to communicate messages for products in unique ways, looking to surprise people or impact their lives. The goal for me is to create something that people want so see and connect with, and that is shareable with their friends. When communication happens this way it's no longer just advertising, it's also entertainment!
In addition, we at Prime Video offer a vast collection of content—series, films, documentaries, and we are gearing up for our exclusive presentation of Thursday Night Football. As entertainment marketers, we are always looking to empower the customer with our products and services. We are not just a streaming experience, we are an immersive entertainment experience that allows you to watch a show, purchase a soundtrack on Amazon Music or a dress from the show in our retail store.
What would you be doing if you weren’t in entertainment marketing.
I'm passionate about ideas—ideas that generate impact, curiosity and lead to conversations, ideas that move businesses and build brands. Before my time at tech companies and in the entertainment industry, I worked at advertising agencies in different countries for more than 27 years, collaborating with diverse brands, products or services. I cannot see myself doing anything else than coming up with ideas that impact people's lives, and if it is not in entertainment marketing it will be in other industries.
Things that excite you most about working with emerging creatives.
As a person who was a product of emerging creative, I strive to maintain a fresh point of view and perspective that you can only find with emerging creatives. I find that you can contribute and deliver results that push the envelope by digging deep into the energy from emerging creatives. The freshness and fearlessness that emerging creatives have in their soul is something that makes me excited. Every time that I work with a new artist I learn and become inspired, and the result is always awesome. Our personal and professional lives need to be surrounded by inspiration to make them better every single day.
I really believe in emerging artists from deep in my soul. On my "B side," I'm an artist. My wife and I ran an art gallery (apArt Private Gallery), which we opened almost 10 years ago in São Paulo (inside our house) because we realized that there was no space for budding artists in art galleries. It's very difficult to find an opportunity to exhibit your work if you are starting your path, and apArt Gallery was founded to open doors (literally our doors!) to those beginning their careers—artists who work for the advertising or entertainment industries but never had the opportunity to present their work. This gallery model not only gave us the chance to open our gallery in New York, but we also did some fantastic exhibitions in Bogotá, Colombia, and Cannes, France. We opened an inclusive space where women, Black, Latin and LGBTQ+ artists had the chance to showcase their art, an initiative that made us so proud.
I mention this because I've witnessed and can prove the importance of giving opportunities and recognizing rising creatives. Some of the artists that had exhibited with us a few years ago are now gaining much more recognition and continuing to exhibit in galleries around the world. Nothing like opportunities!
What you'd most like to see from the pool of submissions for the 2022 Prime Video Emerging Creative Award.
This is a such a great opportunity for creatives to showcase their talents. Our content is fantastic and unique, and the brief is very inspirational. "See Where it Takes You" is an incredible trigger for creativity, and the holidays are synonymous with empathy and happiness. I think with these ingredients we have a beautiful opportunity to create something magical. I want people to push the envelope and allow themselves to come up with global concepts that are going to resonate with customers and create a social conversation that expands industries. Be bold and fearless in their approach to create something magical.