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Follow the numbers, but don't forget the people

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One would think there are enough advertising agencies out there, but the truth is you can never have enough creativity in the world. Data, KPIs and numbers dominate marketing – and sometimes this makes brands forget that people are above technology. At least, according to Um Agency VP of Creative Lenilson Lima.

Lenilson's mother enrolled him into a creative art school when he was just 11, the moment she realised he wanted to turn imaginary worlds into drawings. Lenilson has come a long way since then, but his empathy and love for creativity hasn't withered.

Today we are Getting to Know a creative and empathetic leader and one of our shortlisted Top 100 Influencers of the Year.

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Tell us about your current role!

I look after the creative team at Agência UM, the most innovative, creative, and awarded agency in northeast Brazil.

How did you get to your current position? What was the biggest challenge? 

As an art director at heart, I always had my work on the most renowned stages, but the ability to manage creative teams in challenging markets was the key to my recognition as a creative director.

It started in late 2008 when I helped a small agency in Natal - a town in northeast Brazil - become the most awarded agency in the region that year. My work grabbed the attention of the DDB Mozambique board, and, in the middle of 2009, I was invited to be ahead of their creative team and give them the opportunity to be as great as I knew they could. In fact, it was a great pleasure to lead a team that delivered a fantastic year and brought DDB Mozambique's first nomination for Agency of the Year. After an amazing experience in Africa, I received invitations to work in Lisbon, Salvador, and finally Recife.

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What is your personal background and what role did it play in your career? 

My mom realised that like any child I would turn my imaginary world into the drawings. She enrolled me in a creative school of art when I was around 11 years old. So I believe that art has always been part of my life and it continues to boost my creative personality. Advertising is the kind of job that matches what I love to do the most.

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If you weren’t in your current industry, what would you be doing? 

I love Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado's work. Of course, I don't have even half of his talent and social approach to making such monumental images, but his photography is a kind of reference that drives the inner artist who exists in my mind.

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What’s your secret to keeping the team inspired and motivated? 

My role at heart is to work on building teams that believe in meaningful connections across multiple platforms. I always try to motivate them to tap into innovative and creative ideas and to keep seeing things in different ways.

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What is your one advice to aspiring creatives looking to be successful?

Work hard. Learn about the amazing work that had already been done. Start from the bottom up and not the contrary. The path is more important than the journey.

How do you recharge away from the office?

I love spending time with my wife and my dog - especially when far from the lively city that I live in.

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What’s your one big dream for the future of the industry?

Agencies, even in smaller markets, know the importance of changing the relationship they have with their clients. We are an industry that has built large departments that justify mediocrity instead of striving for brilliance and impact. I wish there were more creative advertising companies and that they wouldn't simply disappear. “Logical people make the world go round, and creative people make it worth living” as said once by David Droga. In a world where almost everything in marketing is measurable and data, as well as performance tools, are available to anyone who can buy them, creativity will become increasingly relevant not only to agencies but to brands. Humans are above technology and the key to transformation is creativity, not technology - which means, follow the numbers but do not forget the people. Given that, we have the advantage to use the local culture in smaller markets to breakthrough creatively.

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