It’s What’s in the Details

By : Paul Carreo


Many years ago, the New York School of Visual Arts welcome letter asked, “What are your references? Where do you look for inspiration?” This was the first of many complex questions with which I would become obsessed. 

A member of Generation X, I was born in São Paulo. I studied journalism and design and was lucky to work with experienced professionals in the mainstream media in Brazil. The more I worked, the more I felt grateful for the opportunities and reference points that would end up guiding my career. What I found is that there’s always a chance to learn something new. The other day I read an article about creativity. It was filled with hermetic expressions, in a language forced to appear engaging but it wasn’t. It was boring and long-winded. So much so, I almost gave up. But I didn’t – I persisted until the end to confirm that the content was a disaster in terms of audience expansion and adherence. And that became a reference on how not to develop content.

In order to avoid this type of mistake, I gravitate toward creating emotional content, but goes beyond sensational headlines. In addition to some brilliant Brazilian authors, I thoroughly enjoy the work of Gay Talese. A former author of the The New York Times and Esquire magazine, he made a name for himself in the press for his unique storytelling approach, which typically involved data. He discovered in the 1950’s that New Yorkers blinked an average of 28 times a minute and 40 when tense. That popcorn eaters at Yankee Stadium stopped chewing just before a pitch. And the same was true for gum chewers as they walked down The Macy’s escalators – they would stop to focus on the last step at the exit of the stairs. And for every 250 people that died in the city a day, another 460 were born.

Empirically, he realized that observing each detail of a mosaic (New York City), analyzing them separately and understanding their functions and fittings, would be the best way to understand the different parts of the complete set. You see, the data by itself becomes irrelevant if its total meaning is not perceived. According to the Bible, perfection depends on every detail. Fragmented, the information collected by Talese would be useless, but when observing each piece’s role in a narrative arc, they’re more intertwined than we can ever imagine and even offer us a new perspective – like the portrait of a city through a beautiful, behavioral mosaic. 

In February, I started at VidMob with Sales Kickoff to 2022. Three intense days of meetings with the Global team to discuss the company’s next steps, new market guidelines and growth strategies. All VidMobbers were faced with one magic word as follows: Believe (yes, like Ted Lasso). In my eternal pursuit of looking for beautiful data references, I thought about how we often stop believing in our ability to create new ones. 

But to believe requires so much more than business; it’s about people and purpose. For VidMob, this happened at the SKO when teams in different countries communicated effortlessly, transparency ran freely and the positivity was palpable. Each of the speakers made sure their storytelling was enriched with captivating details. Among them was our CEO presenting numbers that encouraged us, people with supposedly rented suits for a laugh and even an individual singing “Are you feeling nervous? Are you having fun? It’s almost over. It’s just begun!” Because who said you have to be grumpy and so serious in business, anyway? Those details created an engaging atmosphere with the best kind of energy, fully reaching its audience. Each of the experiences and stories, represents fragments of our mosaic, a perfectly imperfect stained-glass window that reflects light and color. It became very clear to me quickly, VidMob is run by a group of people who know how to craft mosaic storytelling

Looking back to the year prior, I recall the moment a man named Miguel Caeiro, CEO at the largest communications company in Portugal, reached out to me. At the time, I worked there as an expatriate, seeking to modernize the language of the company’s main editorial products. 

When Miguel moved to head up the LATAM operations at VidMob, he knew I had over 20 years experience in marketing and communications at ​​large companies. Dissatisfied with the performance of the PR realm, he was determined to make a change. And he wanted to do it with me.  

When I got to VidMob, I was delighted by its environment and practice. A young company with no strings attached, it had the capacity to develop as much as new technologies require, fully immersed in the universe of marketing campaigns. On top of that, I saw it as a company that believed in internal and external well-being. I quickly realized I could learn a lot from this fantastic technology and add it to my experience and network in Brazilian Media. But above all, that this company wasn’t just a business–it was a place about people. 

With each new release published in the media, there was a fragment of color and life creating our stained-glass window, reflecting VidMob as we wanted to in the market. We ended the semester with an above average performance. And at the beginning of November, the Web Summit in Portugal took place. The days were intense, the week was challenging, but there was tons of energy. It was exhausting, but we were in it together. 

When I landed back home in São Paulo, I was in for a surprise I could’ve never predicted. I was hospitalized and underwent emergency surgery. They took a tumor out of my intestine, inserted a colostomy bag and stated I would probably need chemotherapy. Miguel, on behalf of VidMob, was ready to do everything in his power. In an effort to stay sane, I decided I would have as much fun as I could during my stay at the hospital. I invested in my mood, played with everyone, minimized my problem and attempted to lighten the weight that had fallen on my wife. I asked everyone: who was I to think this couldn’t happen to me?

Positivity, resilience and faith. The doctor said, you need to walk to be discharged, we need to see your colostomy works. I was fine, feeling like a real Burr (our fearless Head of Good at VidMob). I walked so much on the first day after the surgery that on the second, I thought I was going to die. But by the third, I was great again, marathoning around the hospital and telling everyone whatever battle it was, I would win them all and be with my family. It was the benchmark of resilience! 

Along with other VidMobbers, Miguel sent me messages daily. He reminded me of something said in our kickoff: be a powerful one, be a leader and believe. And so I did. Twenty five days after the diagnosis, I received confirmation that it was not a malignant tumor and that everything would return to normal. To this day, it hasn’t come back. I have the colostomy at the moment, but will soon be able to reverse that situation. With the most authentic Pollyanna syndrome, I look back and think all of it was, in fact, a deliverance. The truth is that two days before boarding back to Brazil from Portugal, I was in Fátima. And that, for me, answers everything. It is the reference point of faith. 

In the presentation of the works at the School of Visual Arts, Milton Glaser (author of the iconic ‘I Love NY’ logo) called us one by one in the corner of the room, as if he were conducting a confessional, and analyzed our reference points. In the end, he sat on the table and told everyone, “I just wanted to see a picture of your family.” God is definitely in the details.