A lot of the people in the local [advertising] industry there tend to be quite removed from the reality of what’s happening in Brazil. They tend to be quite wealthy and don’t tend to see what’s really happening on their doorstep. What’s wonderful is that TIE is providing them with that exposure and helping them to understand what the reality is, and then providing them with an opportunity to make a difference. It’s also fantastic because having the people from abroad come over and work in partnership with the local agencies is impacting how they think and inspiring their processes and so on. Basically, it’s an exchange that everyone benefits from. That said, the main objective of TIE is to work with and support NGOs who are doing incredible work, and we’re seeing results of the projects that we’ve worked on. They’re increasing the confidence of many of the people at these organisations and they suddenly feel this renewed passion for what they’re doing. Seeing the results, the tangible results, of a campaign that’s gone out into the local community and seeing how it’s transformed …
Can you give me an example?
Yeah. One is GTP+, an organisation that’s run by people who have HIV and/or AIDS. It tends to be primarily gay, transsexuals, transgenders and transvestites that work in this particular organisation. They have a kitchen, well more of a restaurant kind of thing, called The Solidarity Kitchen where they make meals for people in the local community. Everyone who works in the Kitchen has HIV and/or AIDS and the money made from the Kitchen helps pay for the rent and the electricity. The original focus was to provide a reasonably priced, well-balanced diet and meal for people in the community who have HIV and AIDS. It’s a really poor community and people can’t necessarily afford to eat well, but you need to if you’re going to be taking antiretroviral drugs. The Kitchen is a really good way of helping to educate people in the local community about what they should be eating if they’ve got the virus. What it also does is help to educate people who don’t have the virus. Anybody can eat there and the idea is to get more people from the community to eat there, because it helps people realise that you can’t get HIV or AIDS through food. So, on a number of levels, this project is phenomenal. One of the biggest problems they had was that they were only serving about 11 plates of lunch per day. They needed to up that so somebody from Wieden + Kennedy came over and developed a campaign to get more people eating there. On the final day, they did a huge launch. Television cameras were there and it was so successful that they had 60 people eat there that day and every day since. Their profile got really big and they’ve actually made enough money now to move and create a much bigger restaurant. I think that they’ve hired three more people and with some money from Pact Brazil they’ve been able to invest in a new fridge, bigger ovens and air conditioning, and it’s now like a proper restaurant, which is amazing. You talk to people at the organisation and they say it has transformed them. So, that gives me goose bumps. It’s just amazing.
The person who worked on that project, would they have gone back to Wieden + Kennedy and given a presentation on their time there?
Absolutely. We get people to write case studies when they’re in the country, so they can make sense of the experience for themselves, and when they go back, they definitely present to the company and often to their clients as well. By presenting it to other people, it’s bringing that knowledge and understanding about the area of HIV, for example, to the UK and helping to educate people there about what’s going on. I think change happens when people understand situations better, basically, so, that’s why that’s an important part of the process.
It’s such a great model you’ve set up. Are you happy for it to just grow as it grows?
Yeah, it needs to get bigger. We need to send more than six people a year. I think the nature of how it’s working, having more people telling their stories and more people going through the program, will generate more interest, and therefore more people will go through the program. I’m flying to New York on Saturday and I’m wanting get the US market on board. I don’t think that it will happen immediately, but hopefully if I at least start these conversations then we will start some momentum there as well. I certainly do want to be working in other areas, but I think we should expand within Brazil first. There’s a lot to be done in Brazil. One of the biggest problems, actually, is that a lot of the [non-profit] foundations are pulling out of Brazil and going to countries in Africa. I can understand that, because Brazil is becoming a really powerful nation and, if I was a foundation based in the UK or the US, I’d be thinking surely Lula [da Silva], the president of Brazil, should be putting money into helping he situation in Brazil, because they certainly have enough to be doing that. There are many countries in Africa which certainly do not have those resources and need a lot of help, so I completely understand why a lot of the foundations are pulling out, but at the same time, certainly where we are in the northeast of Brazil, there’s so much to be done and they’re really struggling because they don’t have the funding. There’s still the need; the need hasn’t gone away and they’re not getting the money from Brazil. It’s nice for us to be there because we can make a difference and we’re not reliant on foundations to make what we do possible. We receive our funding through the advertising agencies so that we can provide these opportunities for their employees. You asked do I want to expand. I would like to go to Africa. It feels like it would be good, but I don’t have the resources to be able to do that yet.