Luís Antônio Giron
At age 39, Eduardo Vieira has become one of the most important leaders of digital media in Brazil. He is a founding partner of Grupo Ideal, a holding company created in partnership with WPP (the world’s largest communications conglomerate) which also controls the Brazilian agencies Ideal H + K Strategies and Ogilvy Public Relations – both named as among the best in Latin America by the Holmes Report. In recent years, Vieira headed strategic communications for companies and organizations such as Nike, Facebook, GE, Diageo, Whirlpool, Dell, Google, the International Olympic Committee and the Rio 2016 Olympics, among others. He was named Communication Executive of the Year by Aberje in 2015. Vieira is the author of the book Os Bastidores da Internet no Brasil (The Story Behind the Internet in Brazil) – a finalist in the Jabuti Award of Brazilian Literature in 2004.
How do you analyze the generational changes in Brazilian communication that has happened in the last two years?
The pioneers of the Brazilian corporate communications market created favorable conditions for the new generation of entrepreneurs and executives to further develop the industry. We are, in fact, going through a change of leadership in the more traditional agencies, which is parallel to the emergence of new companies in the sector. I believe this renewal is positive and that we will likely see further development in terms of the professionalization and consolidation of the market.
How did a journalist become a leader in the digital world?
After a successful career in large newsrooms covering the areas of technology, business, innovation and media, my partner Ricardo Cesar and I started our entrepreneurial adventure in 2007, to meet the needs of Google, which had just opened its office in Brazil. Google was looking for an agency that understood their business challenges (a disruptive and digital model of content, media and influence). Until then, they had only encountered advertising agencies and public relations offices in Brazil. So, we created the “ideal agency” for them, very strong in strategic planning, a hybrid in the delivery of communications (public relations, public affairs, content, advertising, social media etc.) and agnostic in terms of working with earned, paid and proprietary media. Having Google as our first customer gave us a considerable competitive advantage and propelled us to be one of the leaders in the market. Today, after nine years, Ideal is among the top 5 agencies in the country according to the various rankings of Public Relations, Social / Digital media and Content.
What are the prerequisites to becoming a digital leader?
I don’t think there is a formula, but certainly, it is the result of a job well done. If today we have gained recognition, it is a natural consequence of what the agency has delivered to the market. Ideal has been a pioneer in Digital Public Relations in Brazil. We were the first to recognize the convergence between PR and advertising and the first PR agency in the country to buy media and to produce Social Advertising. We were also the first agency to have a Business Intelligence area, working with Big Data. And we were one of the first to work with Digital Influencers in a spontaneous way, but also as a paid service. Because of this Ideal is perceived as one of the most innovative agencies in the market. We also work to help develop the communications industry as a whole.
What are the challenges to communicate within the communication sector?
Numerous. I think it is important to reflect on the current situation of the agencies. The wave of transformation and disintermediation that digital technologies have brought to the world of business has greatly affected the communication industry, in all its disciplines. If you stop and think – why does a company need to hire an agency of any kind today? This is an uncomfortable but valid question. In the past, the “founding fathers” of Brazilian communication (most coming from advertising) created an internal market because it provided solutions to the problems of their clients. In recent times, this value has been lost because the agencies were turning inward, being content with simply making quality communication – what is “nice to have” but not “must have” for companies. We need to rethink these issues, whether they be within companies or as suppliers. We must also revive our value in the market, which is to solve our client’s business problems by using communication in all its various forms.
Before becoming an entrepreneur, you worked in journalism. Did you learn something from this experience?
Being the head of agencies who are among the market leaders in their respective areas requires constant study, dedication and a lot of conversation – skills I learned from journalism. The principles that guide journalistic practice – a well thought out calculation, listening to different sources, the capacity for synthesis, editing of information and seeking the relevance of things, among others – are essential values in my day-to-day responsibilities as head of a company.
What lessons did you take from your time at Google? What, in your opinion, is the role of Google as a disrupting force in communications? Has it had a positive or negative affect on media?
We learned a great deal with Google. They knew how to be disruptive in virtually everything, from the business model to the management of the company. We try to apply much of what we learned to our daily work. I believe that Google has been the major agent of transformation in the communication industry today, because it helped materialize changes which in the past had been only theoretical. After Google, other important change agents emerged, such as YouTube and Facebook. I believe the changes that Google has brought to the market were beneficial, because they helped to reinvent a business model that had been stagnant for decades.