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Mark Tungate 2024-04-02

Creative directors Gastón Gual and Alex Romero recently moved from GUT in Buenos Aires to the group’s newly-minted Amsterdam operation. What are their first steps?


It can’t be easy to leap from Buenos Aires to Amsterdam – the cities are so far apart they’re in different seasons – but Gastón Gual and Alex Romero (l to r) seem pretty chilled about the move. Having contributed to the soaring success of GUT in Argentina, the creative directors are now bringing their energy to the agency’s Amsterdam office, established only last year.

One thing that appeals to them is Amsterdam’s creative legacy. Wieden+Kennedy, 180, Kesselskramer – the city brims with historic names. “I pass KesselsKramer on the way to work every day,” notes Alex. “It’s in a church, so it’s pretty impressive. I find it motivating. It’s not like we’re trying to develop a creative culture from scratch; there’s a history we can connect with.”

Gastón adds: “We’re aware that these are big shoes to fill. And it’s actually the first time we’ve worked abroad, so it was a major change for us, especially as we arrived in winter. But we’re still within GUT, which has a very strong culture, so we feel kind of at home.”

Is there a Dutch advertising culture that might influence them? “There’s a sense of humour and irony that resonates with us,” Gastón says. “Having said that, our ambition is to do work that’s global – or at the very least European.”

Their work has a vivacity and fun that cuts through. You may recall “The Artois Probability”. Gastón jokes that the case study deliberately doesn’t mention AI.

Talking of AI, they also created a funny spot satirising the stampede to adopt it as an all-purpose solution.

Gastón says: “I wanted to make fun of the way we all jump on a trend and obsess about it for a while.” The pair of them are ambivalent about AI, but veer towards optimism. “For the time being it’s helpful. Let’s play with it, have fun with it. If it starts to threaten our jobs, we’ll find another way. We’re creatives.”

On paper, Alex is a copywriter and Gastón is an art director, but they met long before adopting those roles. In fact they met as kids, skateboarding. Alex originally wanted to be a journalist, while Gastòn was interested in architecture. But when Alex pivoted to copywriting, he tapped his friend to join him as his creative partner. Their first job was at the Buenos Aires agency Kepel & Mata.

“It had a reputation as one of the most creative agencies in Argentina, particularly in the early 2000s,” recalls Alex. “Once again, we connected with the history of this business. It was a great place to learn.”

As they’ve progressed in their careers, the border between their two roles has faded. Alex explains: “We were kind of ‘born’ in the industry as a writer and an art director – and for a while we thought of ourselves that way. But now the line is getting blurry. These days we both have a say on everything.”

I’m intrigued to find out what’s on their “to do” list now they’ve arrived in Amsterdam. Alex says: “One of the first things we’re trying to achieve is to get everyone motivated by the same spirit that drives us. You need to establish an attitude and push towards that shared goal.”

Gastón agrees. “It’s true that when you’re all aligned – not just creative, but production, account people, literally everyone – it’s insane how fast you grow.”

It’s a philosophy they’ve brought with them from the Buenos Aires agency. There was an insistence that creativity was not just the domain of creatives – that everyone should be pushing for a stellar output. “When we win an award, the whole agency should get up on the stage.”

Having said that, creatives at GUT are given the freedom to explore their ideas. Alex says: “We like to do funny, honest stuff, and we were encouraged to do that. Gaston Bigio – one of GUT’s founders – said he’d hired us because of our tone of voice. So we should find ways of expressing that. But what unites the whole group is our desire to do the best work.”

You need to establish an attitude and push towards that shared goal.

For now GUT Amsterdam has a core staff of 12 people, supported by freelancers, but that could grow pretty fast if cool work starts luring clients. GUT is certainly no stranger to awards – the Buenos Aires operation was Agency of the Year at Cannes in 2023, while the group was Network of the Year – although glory in metal form is not a primary goal.

Gastòn says: “There’s no doubt that awards push your career forward as a creative. That’s a reality. But you have to get it the right way around. We don’t do good work to win awards. We want to do good work – if possible great work – for clients. And that work tends to win awards.”

Alex adds: “When we first came here, one of the questions we were asked was, ‘How do you handle the pressure to win awards?’ But to be honest, we don’t feel that pressure. When we get a brief from a client, we try to put out the best work we possibly can to answer that brief. Sometimes, that very good work gets awarded. But it’s the cherry on the cake.”

He says they’ve even developed a special word they use to shield themselves against awards obsession: #AnuloMufa. “It’s a concept we developed with GUT Buenos Aires. It basically means ‘cancel jinx’ and it’s used every time we or someone says that you/us/someone is going to win an award. Basically a ritual to allow the awards to happen and not to say you will win before you do. AnuloMufa.”

Be that as it may, GUT Amsterdam is likely to find some metal on its shelves sooner rather than later. Call it a gut feeling.

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