Keka Morelle, Brazil’s Newest CCO, Says Uncertain Times Build Resilience and Creativity

Wunderman Thompson's creative chief reflects on diversity, optimism and her path to leadership

Former AlmapBBDO ecd Keka Morelle is now Wunderman Thompson's first CCO for Brazil. Courtesy of Keka Morelle
Headshot of David Griner

No question, we’re living in a volatile era. Political extremism and polarization are global trends, and a general feeling of uncertainty about the near future hangs over many of the world’s most influential nations.

Brazil is certainly no exception, with the nation in the global spotlight lately due to the polarizing policies of recently elected President Jair Bolsonaro, the subsequent destruction of rainforest lands populated by indigenous cultures and an ongoing spiral of income inequality.

But for Brazilians, uncertainty has long been the one constant, says Keka Morelle, recently named as Wunderman Thompson’s first chief creative officer for the country. Brazil’s long history of economic and political precariousness has been a key factor, she says, in forging creative leaders who are resourceful, adaptive and undaunted by even the largest obstacles. And perhaps most importantly, the best of these leaders still manage to keep the work enjoyable for those making it and the audiences who see it.

“Brazilians have a Ph.D. in dealing with challenges,” she tells Adweek. “We grew up knowing not to wait for help from the government. We’ve always had to deal with economic instability, and probably this fact made us more resilient and creative.”

Having spent the past four years at Brazilian agency giant AlmapBBDO, where she quickly rose from art director to executive creative director amid global recognition for her team’s work, Morelle also spent several previous years at local agencies in the JWT, DDB and Saatchi & Saatchi networks.

As she steps into one of South America’s most high-level creative positions, Adweek caught up with Morelle to talk about her new position, the path that led her there and the importance of women in creative leadership around the world helping each other succeed.

Adweek: Tell us about your new role. How do you expect it to be different from what you were doing at AlmapBBDO?
Keka Morelle, chief creative officer, Wunderman Thompson Brazil: I’m so excited about this opportunity. I have enormous respect for the work that WT has been doing in the sense of diversity. They are very committed to the subject, and I admire it a lot.

When (CEO) Pedro Reiss invited me to be the first CCO of Wunderman Thompson in Brazil, what made me accept it was the desire to build an agency that would help the clients’ business grow with creativity, data and technology. But what I most liked about his approach was the idea of doing it all with joy. It might sound naive, but I believe that no one wants to work with super egos anymore.

Keka Morelle

During your time at AlmapBBDO, you rose from art director to executive creative director in less than four years. What was that experience like, and what advice would you give to other creatives who aspire to leadership?
Before Almap, I was creative director at DM9DDB for four years. My decision in that time to move to Almap as an art director was after my kids were born and after a last year at DDB dealing with awkward culture.

I arrived at Almap to create and do good work again. There I worked with Pedro Corbett, and together we did the global campaign for Havaianas that won a lot of awards. After that, I think, I had luck. Creatives rarely leave Almap, but one of the CDs left, and Marcelo Nogueira invited me to be a CD with him. Then we worked hard again and things happened. After one year leading the creative work for brands such as Guaraná Antarctica, Havaianas, O Boticário and many others, we got a promotion to ECDs.

My advice to other creatives who want to have leadership positions is to have an entrepreneur behavior, create your own opportunities, work hard and be gentle with people that work with and for you.

@griner David Griner is creative and innovation editor at Adweek and host of Adweek's podcast, "Yeah, That's Probably an Ad."