Q&A With SARAÍ MELÉNDEZ RODRÍGUEZ
SARAÍ MELÉNDEZ RODRÍGUEZ- SENIOR COPYWRITER -J. WALTER THOMPSON PUERTO RICO
Award won: 2014
Campaign: Banco Popular (My bank, my space)
Bronze Lion in Media
Finalist in Promo
Campaign: Puerto Rico Tourism Company (Miserable in Puerto Rico)
Gold Lion in Promo & Direct (Best Use of Social Media)
Campaign: Puerto Rico Tourism Company (Puerto Rico Warms Up the #BostonBlizzardChallenge)
Silver Lion in Promo & Direct (Best Use of Social Media)
Finalist in Media (Best Use of Social Media)
Choose three words to sum up what it feels like to win at Cannes
HOLLY SHIITAKE! FINALLY!
What do you put your success down to?
In this field you are not an island. You must know how to play well with others. To make a great idea possible a lot of brains and hands are needed. So, I guess being a team player is my secret. In some cases you come up with the winning idea and there are times when you are an instrument to help a brilliant colleague bring his/her idea to life. It’s a matter to bring glory to the group. Simple!
Has winning a Cannes Lion changed your career?
It hasn’t really. The magic wand story is nothing but a myth. At least in my case.
Are there any past female winners that have inspired you?
Certainly, I admire Joana Monteiro from FCB São Paulo. The work her agency produces is brilliant, simple, and memorable. I also admire her because she excels in a country where testosterone rules in creative departments. In Puerto Rico, I must say Lixaida Lorenzo, my former boss at J. Walter Thompson, taught me how to let an idea come full circle and be passionate about ideas. Sylvia Soler, Puerto Rico’s first woman to hold the position of creative director, has being a mentor for the island’s most prestigious CD’s in over 25 years as “the boss” at Young & Rubicam.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Every time an idea I had wins at Cannes I get frustrated. I had a boss than once told me: “Relax. There’s more where that came from”. I remember that message everyday to encourage myself because I know I can do it once again.
How did you get to the position you are in now?
I wanted to be a dentist. A literature professor said I should be a writer. I believed him. Switched majors to Communications. Started working on the field at 19. Worked at local agencies and global agencies such as Euro RSCG (Havas), BBDO, Ogilvy, and FCB. Yes, I’m an advertising gipsy. Won the Puerto Rico Young Creative Competition in 2009. First time in Cannes, yay! Ups and downs. Every night I have to work late, I remember that if I were a dentist I would be at home watching Netflix by 6:00 p.m. Damn, professor!!! Currently working at J. Walter Thompson, where I have been able to do great work surrounded by real jewels. Started teaching at the University of Puerto Rico. Gotta teach what I love. Finishing my Ph.D. Trying to work on my next big campaign. Wish me luck. I need it.
1) Recommending a “friend” for a Creative VP position in a global agency and when the president wanted me as Associate Art Director, the “friend” said that I should remain a copywriter. True story.
2) Having a boss that never wanted to approve any of my proposals because apparently he didn’t like me personally. The epitome of professionalism! Having a boss that doesn’t give proper credit. That’s discouraging.
3) The day FCB closed in Puerto Rico and I had to say goodbye to amazing coworkers. L
1) The day I met my dupla at Ogilvy. The day I started working with her again in J. Walter Thompson after two years of separation.
2) When I woke up and they told me I had won my first lion. I remember I started jumping on the bed as a three-year old child. Pinch me!!!
3) When I was asked to be an advertising professor. Teaching is another way of learning.
Why is it important to see women winning?
In 2016 we still have many obstacles to surpass as women. We are regarded as inferior counterparts, that all we want to do is get married and have babies. We want much more than that. We don’t need a penis to write or think great ideas. Penis envy is such a silly idea, Mr. Freud.
Every time a woman wins an award, the world comes to balance in the industry. It’s time we get the recognition we deserve. Sometimes women are part of a great idea and the males go on stage to receive the award. I have seen it a thousand times. We need to demand what we deserve because men are not going to give it to us by their own volition. Your boss said there’s no budget to take you to Cannes? Get money from your savings and go. Surrounding yourself will winners will make you start thinking like a winner.
What’s your secret?
Animal hugging, coffee with almond milk, good sense of humor, and upbeat music. Those are a few of my favorite things… to keep my sanity at work.
If you could give one bit of advice to female creatives out there, what would it be?
Don’t take no for an answer. Every time you hear a “no”, “não”, “non”, “ne”, “nein”, “hindi” ou “ingen”, keep roaring until you hear a “yes”. Demand it!
Are there any female creatives back home you want to give a shout out to?
A big shout to Lixaida Lorenzo, Sylvia Soler, Olly Fernández, Elisabet Rodríguez, Andrea Vega, Diana Hernández, Adriana Miranda, Sandra Rosario, Margie Canales, Mara Marrero, Michelle Minozzi, Karla Bonilla, María del Mar González, Johanna Santiago, Lizette Morazzani, Lilly Madera, Clarissa Biaggi, Gabriela Bonilla, Jescika Heffelfinger, Rosángela Sandoval, Ilia Márquez, Cristina Buckheart, Francheska Fabios and Laura Figueroa Ginás. Sorry if I missed someone.
You’re clearly ace at advertising but what else are you good at?
-I love dancing salsa, samba, bachata, tango, mambo, cha-cha, hustle, swing, jive, waltz, merengue, belly dancing, paso doble, you name it.
-I like to write songs and to sing.
-I did musical theater for a while and it was awesome!
-I also like languages; I’ve dedicated the past 5 years to learning Portuguese (Brazil and Portugal). Now I’m focused on French and eventually want to learn Arabic.
-I’m good at traveling on a budget
-I master the art of spoiling animals, especially cats and rabbits.
Have you seen a piece of work this year and thought, I wish I had done that?“Help Kenya, not Kanye”
“Slow down GPS”