In the years leading up to the Rio World Cup, (and Pan American Games and Olympics for that matter) Brazil got serious about the drug-trafficker controlled, ultra-violent Rio slums known as Favelas. I'm sure you know about Favela because if you had a World Cup assignment last year, you most likely had an idea to go into the favela and "help." Because nothing smacks of philanthropy more like an Advertising agency from another country descending upon a poor place to build it a football pitch, or paint a school or whatever, right? Sorry to snicker but lust to let some of you understand the magnitude of this problem-- some of the favelas were controlled by drug cartels for twenty-five years. The idea of bringing a "hip graffiti artist" to paint a mural in the hopes of fixing a decades-plus long life of poverty, violence and fear is laughable.
Thankfully the Pacifying Police Unit are people who actually did clean up the favelas. Or at least beat back the crime to the point where it was more manageable. But before some agency from New York or Amsterdam could swoop in with their musician du jour and social media activations, something happened. Brazilian-based NBS headed you lot off at the pass and opened their own office inside Santa Marta. Yes, yes it's The First Advertising Agency Ever™ in a Brazilian slum. The idea was to bring the revenue (and brands) directly to the people who need it most by creating a shop that reinvested all of its profits into the community. It helped Santa Marta showcase some better sides of itself, challenging the perception that things cannot change. From an advertising standpoint, NBS Rio+Rio also served as cultural litmus test to brands, to ensure brands would take into account cultural sensitivities.
On the eve of the World Cup, when thousands have been displaced to make way for new stadiums, and Brazilians are protesting and striking ? what they see as a huge influx of money making its way into the hands of the few, instead of celebrating its chance on the world stage, there is clearly work to be done. Even just to get to a point where the stadiums are ready.
Still, this is Brazil. They clawed their way out of an economic crisis to become a major power on the global stage. They're doing a lot to try and end poverty and lower crime rates. And if this satellite office in some small way contributes one drop to that sea change-- even for the added benefit of an award-- it'll be a benefit nonetheless.
And far be it for me to weigh in on Brazil, but the pattern I notice in their continued albeit slightly uneven success is this: Brazil is taking care of Brazil. Whether it's an agency playing a part in the community, or a community banding together to show the world it is more than a stereotype, with all eyes on Rio this June, the chances for success are greater than they've been in a long, long time.