I am an only child, from Olinda, in the northeast of Brazil.

No one in my family is in the creative business. They are dentists, doctors. My grandad worked with ship imports, but I was always interested in drawing, writing, imitating people. 

Up until the age of seven you are not really expected to be great at football, but when you get into adolescence in Brazil, you have to play football, and I have no football skills whatsoever. I tried being the goalkeeper, because I liked the fancy jumps and the different clothes, but that's because it's the only position that I didn’t need to use my feet. 

When you get into adolescence in Brazil, you have to play football, and I have no football skills.

I wasn’t a good goalkeeper either, but my cousins would call me Dasayev. This was 1982, and Dasayev was an incredible Russian goalkeeper, and they did this to egg me on. They kicked very hard shots to try and see if I could withstand the pain. I ended up breaking my arm trying to be Dasayev. 

Above: Russian goalkeeper Rinat Dasayev, who Laurentino's cousins, compared him to in a bid to encourage him to play football with them.

When I couldn’t play football, I doubled down on drawing. Creativity was my refuge. 

I thought, “This is what I can do. This is how I can punch back.” I didn’t have a particularly easy adolescence. 

My first job ever was to draw for the local language school, where I was learning English. They needed some drawings for cards; a drawing of a table, of a ball, of someone falling over. I was about 14, and that was how I paid for my lessons. 

I didn’t have a particularly easy adolescence. 

The novelty wore off after about three months, and the quality of my drawings plummeted. The owner of the school noticed, but didn't fire me. They offered me another job. 

I started teaching at the school. When I was about 16, they suggested we should all take the Cambridge Proficiency Exam, to get a better level of teaching. That is how I ended up in Edinburgh, at the Basil Paterson School of English. That’s when I got in touch with British advertising. 

It was life-changing for a number of reasons. I left during the height of summer in Brazil, to very fierce Edinburgh weather. Wind, snow, all of that. It was my first time away from Brazil, from my little island. Edinburgh put me in touch with the world. There were cathedrals in Edinburgh older than my country. 

After six months, I went back home. I continued to teach at that school, and I also enrolled at university, to study advertising. 

Above: One of Laurentino's sketches. 

I was an intern at a local radio station, writing radio ads for clients small enough that they didn’t have an agency. The radio station would offer ads for free. If you look at the work I did, it was about the right price to charge.

A year-and-a-half into university I quit, because I wanted to go into an agency. I went in to show my work, but my work at that point was poems for my girlfriend, all the radio ads I had done and some direct mails to radio station clients that I had drawn.

I wanted to be a writer, but the Creative Director said they had just hired a writer. They saw my drawings and asked if I’d like to come and be an Art Assistant? I did just that. 

The radio station would offer ads for free. If you look at the work I did, it was about the right price to charge.

I moved to São Paulo three years later, when I was 21, and got a job at a big agency. That was when my dad, who was not pleased that I had quit university, was finally happy. “It’s a good trade-off,” he said. “No university, but a big job in a big agency in São Paulo.”

The agency was called DPZ. At that time, it was the temple of art direction. Life offered me a door to art direction, and I went through it. 

I stayed there for three years. Then I was hired at AlmapBBDO, which was another temple, with Marcello Serpa running the show. Marcello is one of the best art directors in the world. I stayed at Almap for seven years. 

I won awards. I won in Cannes. I won a local Grand Prix. But then I thought, okay, that is ten years as an art director in Brazil. If I were to choose, I would be a writer, because art direction comes to me quite painfully, but writing comes a lot more easily.  

Dove – A Mothers Body

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Above: Laurentino has worked on award-winning work across his career, including this spot for Dove, A Mother's Body.

Marcello told me that whenever a writer left, I would take their place. They would do a symbolic transition; put a Photoshop box in the bin, give me a dictionary, make it official. Great! The only problem was, I waited for a year-and-a-half, and no-one left. 

So I left, and went to a local independent agency, Lew'Lara [now Lew'Lara\TBWA], to be a writer there. I stayed in this agency for another seven years, until 2010. 

I left for DM9 DDB, after having failed to have an international experience at Lew'Lara\TBWA. I was at DM9 for about three weeks when TBWA rang me saying, “We actually have an ECD position in London.” 

Moving from Olinda to São Paulo was more traumatic for me than moving from São Paulo to London.

I nearly said no because I was embarrassed. I had been at DM9 for mere weeks, and they are all my friends. It felt ugly, so I was about to decline the London offer. 

When my dad found out he said, “Are you crazy? You have prepared your whole life for this job. You will regret this decision for as long as you live.”

I called my wife; “Remember when I left home, I said I don’t think we should go? Well, now, we are going.” Her response? “Fuck you!” She wanted the move, and I nearly messed up the plan. 

That was 2011, and it was a big move, and we did it to the best of our ability. The kids were three and five. We only spoke Portuguese at home, but the kids quickly learnt faultless English. 

To be honest, moving from Olinda to São Paulo was more traumatic for me than moving from São Paulo to London. Because my roots were in Olinda, and that's when I left them for good. 

Above: Laurentino's novel, published in 2007.

Advertising didn’t change too much [in London]. The expectation is higher, but I think every creative who works in big agencies has that in them; “I need to jump higher, think beyond, go crazier.”  

I was too into the work. One day we had to work on a weekend, and I drove into town. It was a Sunday, a beautiful sunny day, and the city was glorious. I was driving through London, and I thought, “This is a wonderful city. I wish I lived here.” Honestly, the thought occurred to me. I realised something was off. I was working too hard, and not taking whatever London had to offer.

I was working too hard, and not taking whatever London had to offer.

I think we are more creative when we are the happiest. Unless you are Lana Del Rey, because she writes very sad songs (phenomenal songs, but sad...). 

I have written a novel and a TV show. The novel because I was an art director wanting to be a writer, so it was a way for me to write. The TV show was with the first creative director who hired me in Recife. She and her husband were writing the best TV shows for Globo, the main TV station in Brazil. I would go to Rio on a Friday night, from Sao Paulo, work with them in their house, sleep on a hammock, get the plane back at 5:00am on Monday to be at 9:00 at the agency again. I loved it. All the actors would go to their house, and we would rehearse the scripts, have a laugh, play the guitar. 

I have a sense of inadequacy. I was an inadequate football player. I was an inadequate person here in the UK because I left Brazil. I felt inadequate in São Paulo, because I was from Olinda. I felt inadequate as an art director, because I wanted to be a writer. 

Above: Lana Del Rey; an artist who writes phenomenal but sad songs.

I’ve done ten years of psychoanalysis. I think I've had the exact same session for ten years. My psychotherapist is a saint. I said, “Do you have any recording of our old sessions? You could just press the play button and we can get our lives back.” 

I'm learning to read in Italian on my own, and to play Bossa Nova guitar. Both are hard work. It's like I am looking for inadequacies. I have done that [sort of thing] my whole life. When people say "get out of your comfort zone" I go "which comfort zone?". 

No creative person joined this industry because they wanted to sell more butter, because they wanted to make shareholders happy.

I think it was that difficult adolescence that I mentioned earlier. I felt inadequate because I was the skinny kid, the kid that doesn’t really fit, the kid that is bookish. I was bullied, and creativity was a way to punch back. The only way I could find. 

Every creative person is punching back at the world. The creative gesture is an aggressive one, it's our way of re-ordering the world. 

No creative person joined this industry because they wanted to increase market share or make shareholders happy. These are young people, still finding what they can do, and we joined the industry to unleash our creativity every single day. Of course, we love it when what we make is commercially successful: it's proof that our creativity connected with people, and it worked. 

You need to give [creatives] the freedom to use whatever is driving them, and that will help sell your product. Allow them to do it and they will do it like nobody else. 

What you cannot do, as a client, is side with the bullies. If you rein creatives in, if you say it is all wrong because you weren't expecting it, you are siding with the bullies, and they will lose interest. 

Above: Another of Laurentino's sketches. 

Some ideas will be wrong, but some ideas will be on such a different level of wrong that they are right. 

Sometimes an idea is the answer to a question that’s not yet been asked.

What makes me happy? Laughing. Jokes. Something I didn’t see coming. 

Some ideas will be on such a different level of wrong that they are right. 

What scares me the most are great white sharks. Even in a swimming pool. 

What excites me are the different kinds of talent we work with on a daily basis, either in the creative department, the strategy department, the client, or in production. Brilliant, talented people. 

When I started, advertising was very clear; there are five options. Pick one and be good at it. Now there are 500 options. So, if you’re looking to get into it, come with everything you've got.