In 1994, young graphic design student Mateus de Paula Santos met just-graduated architect Nando Cohen. Both were admirers of MTV Brasil, which at the time was breaking new ground in television motion graphics, creativity and innovation.
De Paula Santos, now director and co-founder of Lobo, had just scored an internship at the channel’s motion graphics department while Nando Cohen, now creative director and co-founder of Lobo, had a penchant for storytelling and character design besides his interest in architecture. In turn, MTV Brasil was a hotbed of new talent that was leading the local field in motion-graphics design.
Merging those interests, de Paula Santos and Cohen teamed with some colleagues to launch creative agency Lobo, which today operates both in television design as well as advertising.
“Lobo was one of the first companies to bring that fresh language into advertising and mainstream media. It soon began to stand out and attract industry attention,” says de Paula Santos, referring to MTV Brasil’s ground-breaking style.
Right out of the gate, the new agency took an eclectic approach to its work, constantly changing up its style.
“We have always defined ourselves as not easily definable,” says de Paula Santos, noting that the firm has never adopted a tagline in its more than 22 years in business, “trying not to let ourselves be pigeonholed while incorporating various talents from the most diverse backgrounds, and always letting the clients’ needs dictate the best approach.”
Lobo got its start in traditional advertising, crafting campaigns for such edgy brands as Diesel, which “showed us the breadth of possibilities of commercial animation and motion graphics, and which made Lobo known as purveyors of innovative graphic work,” says de Paula Santos.
Another client Coca Cola, which “has always been open to bold, cutting edge visual communication,” also pushed Lobo toward this cutting-edge style.
Lobo emerged into the international spotlight thanks to a music video made for Brazilian duo Golden Shower titled Video Computer System. The video ended up winning an MTV Brasil award and went viral before YouTube even existed.
And the agency really broke through with its award-winning piece “The World of Autism,” made jointly with advertising agency BBDO NY for non-profit organization Autism Speaks.
With the aim of communicating the signs of autism and helping parents detect these signs at an early age, Lobo built a child’s world at scale, combining 3D characters with natural materials and manufactured accessories.
“We are particularly proud of having remained true to the boy’s experience—and to those of other children with autism and their families—in a poetic, delicate way,” says de Paula Santos.
Lobo also has left its imprint on television channels, such as Cartoon Network Latinoamérica. In 2010, Lobo helped the network with a rebrand, continuing a process developed in the United States that turned Cartoon Network characters into Noods figurines (below). The channel created a new model to use in Latin America following that same idea, incorporating these figurines into characters such as Scooby Doo, Pikachu, Superman, the Powerpuff Girls, Ahsoka Tano from Clone Wars and many others.
Lobo adapted these characters from existing spots, generating the final animations and writing part of the scripts. More than 500 short animated pieces were produced over a five-month period, including bumpers, IDs promos and menus.
The relationship with Cartoon Network expanded to include other works, such as the spot “Toy Soldier,” awarded the D&AD Yellow Pencil in 2011. The piece features a mutilated toy soldier striving to reach the TV remote control and a tagline that says “saving your toys since 1993,” the year the channel began broadcasting in the United States.
Other outstanding TV pieces depict the cultural melting pot that defines Latin America, “which provides us with a wide array of styles that make up our common heritage,” says de Paula Santos.
Examples of this are the opening titles of two of Rede Globo’s mini-series: A Pedra do Reino (The Stone of the Kingdom), which presents a 3D-world featuring medieval elements and Brazilian wood carvings, and Capitu, which involved in-depth research on Dada and Collage artists from the early 20th century to create a piece that covers an entire table using ripped paper.
“Both pieces were for the same network and the same director, but each story had its own universe. That’s how we like to view each new project, as a universe of its own,” says de Paula Santos.
Another main title sequence that reproduces a unique world is one Lobo designed for Brincante, a musical docu-drama that explores the life of Brazilian musician Antonio Nóbrega.
The piece, which was fully produced in stop-motion animation, takes a tour around the Brazilian countryside. However, “[the countryside is] shown as part of a single structure, with changes of scenery carried out through ingenious mechanical tricks that echo the theatrical essence of the documentary,” says de Paula Santos.
Finally, “Wish You Were Here?,” created to celebrate the D&AD Awards 50th anniversary, stands out with its unique approach and “a creative process behind it that is very Latin American: irreverent, good-humored, somewhat chaotic,” says de Paula Santos.“We picked more than 20 references from the D&AD archives and reinterpreted them afresh, using various techniques such as 2D and 3D animation, stop motion, live action and puppetry,” he adds.
Looking ahead, the studio is stepping into live-action territory with its new film division Vetor Filmes, while it invests in “user experience design”—the process of enhancing user satisfaction with a product by improving the usability, accessibility, and pleasure provided in the interaction with the product—to handle upcoming advanced technology projects that include augmented and virtual reality.
With a portfolio that again includes traditional advertising—having produced more than 70 advertisements for McDonald’s global Happy Meal campaign in partnership with studios such as Dreamworks, Illumination, Animal Logic, Real FX and BlueSky—Lobo is remaining true to the innovative spirit that’s positioned it since its creation.
“Due to the requirements of an increasingly competitive global market, traditional advertising is becoming more open to innovative visual languages, expressions and strategies. That is the perfect scenario for us, because more and more clients approach us with very open briefs, willing to get us involved in the creative process rather than presenting us with an idea already set in stone,” says de Paula Santos.
To read this story in Spanish: Estudio Lobo