Lisbon, Portugal. Luis Marquez, Global CEO of M&A Creative Agency
Tomilli: Who is M&A Creative Agency USA?
We are a creative ad agency specializing in the wine and spirits industry. Born from the entrepreneurial spirit and drive of two industry leaders from two different continents, (Europe & America), that had the same vision, to create a new generation ad agency in the US. Both awarded veterans of the ad industry, Luis Marques, and Ingrid Reyes, both partners on this new venture in the US, have long been dreaming of an agency in the US, specifically in Napa Valley.
Our clients respect us because we like to push the envelope, we are innovative, honest, and critical, even if it leads to difficult conversations. Marques, Global CEO, and founder of M&A Creative Agency headquartered in Portugal, is also the Creative Director. The agency has received dozens of creative awards for Label Design & Packaging across Europe and the Americas. Since 1998, we have helped over 100 clients across 5 continents with captivating creative that help our clients communicate the essence, the DNA of their brand to consumers.
A couple of years ago, I was at VINEXPO NY, and met several vintners that would become my clients. One of them from the famed wine-growing region of Bordeaux, France, asked us to develop a campaign to launch his brand in the US, that was the beginning of this venture here in the U.S. At the same time, Ingrid had been looking for opportunities to work with winemakers in Napa Valley when we met. Thus, M&A Creative Agency USA was born.
We are a full-service agency, we focus on providing branding, strategy, creative, label design & packaging, naming, production, digital & social, photography, video, new technologies, including media planning and buying.
Creativity, innovation, high tech, size, experience, and longevity are the reasons why we stand out! Formed by a multi-disciplined team of creative designers, brand strategist, photography and video production experts, technologists, and strategic digital and social thinkers with a worldwide reputation.
Why the US market?
Our work has always been global by nature. The agency’s DNA has always been from the very start, back in 1998, to work globally…not as a multinational concept agency, but as an independent one. Seeking new challenges and being involved in different cultures, learning, sharing experiences, and creating distinctive and innovative projects has always been my goal, it’s my passion and it’s what I love doing the most, everything else is the rest. The U.S. is an important wine market globally, both, Ingrid, and I, wanted to open an office in Napa Valley, (we also have an office in NY and Los Angeles), from where we can service all of the US, Canada, and LatAm clients. The wine industry in the US is a $75.1 Billion dollar business, 406.7 million cases were sold in 2019, with California leading the market with about 60% of the total share, which represents $241.5 million cases a year. Napa Valley is a $50 Billion dollar market, it made sense for us to open an office in the most important wine market in the US.
What is M&A Creative USA’s vision of the wine/spirits industry today?
We are always very open minded about it, we believe that consumers have a long road to go, but also winemakers. More than ever, there is tremendous pressure to be under the “web” umbrella, which makes them global automatically. There hasn’t been a better time for the wine industry to grow like this very moment, they have the power to build stronger and credible brands. More than ever wine is being democratized, thanks to the wide range of channels and social media, everyone is a content creator and has the opportunity to broadcast their brands. However, there are two very important key points that a brand needs to have, brand strategy and content creation, they go hand in hand. Being a great brand is no longer the most important, what really matters is the brand benefits, the consumers’ proximity and attachment to the brand, and honesty in the brand promise.
In my opinion, the most significant opportunities for brands are customers seeking for elevated quality products, as well as new consumers entering the market, learning about the brands, and becoming future brand ambassadors.
Tell us about your philosophy and approach when creating strategy and campaigns for your clients.
It’s not a secret formula, but we have to understand that the wine business lives very close to people’s passions. Our main job is helping clients unlock the power of their brands through creative design, our philosophy is creating an ecosystem in communication that allows people to really fall in love with everything about the brand, through every touchpoint of the consumer’s journey, from the packaging, to the web, social, photography, and/or video content, to every step of the consumer experience across a wide range of channels including retail. Wine/spirits, all brands, are just like us: They all need emotions and arguments to be alive.
You’ve won many awards across Europe and the Americas, how have you accomplished so many wins year after year, where do you find inspiration?
Funny question;). We taste all the wines, we speak with the winemakers, we go to the ground, we do really have fun while we learn and record all the comments into our cache memory. The truth is we have the best jobs in the world and have a lot of fun working with our clients! Yes, we’ve won many awards, but that is not what drives us. All of us at M&A Creative Agency speak “Winese”, we know our clients’ business from the ground up, we live and breathe the wine world and their brands. The most Important thing is that we do not only focus on the creative side of the process….we love to feel the power of each brand’s DNA and that, of the winemakers. Our work reflects the DNA of those brands through our creativity and artistry which connects with the consumer through our creative process, design, culture, technology, and heart.
Recently, we worked on a wonderful technology project for the Wine Museum of Alvarinho – Vinho Verde, as high-tech is one of our competences at the agency; helping them bring the exhibition to an interactive experience for their visitors. The team was able to create a virtual experience that is educational and entertaining, teaching the museum visitors about the region, the terroir, the grapes. On the surface it looked like a simple design and build job, but even that presented some wonderful design and technology challenges. We loved working on this project and hope to continue bringing break-through technology to our clients around the globe and in the U.S.
The secret is, we know that we’re only as good as our next piece of work, that’s what keeps the inspiration going!
How did 2020 shaped the way you do and manage business today?
For us, as I believe for everyone around the globe, 2020 was a ground zero year, where we all had to, quickly, adopt, learn, and do things differently. In our case, as soon as we were able to re-align our 360-degree communication ecosystem, we experienced a boom in our web development division, as wineries went into lockdown and stopped doing business as usual, and as the people stayed home consuming more social media than ever, our content creation also went up, (photography and video), as well storytelling and social media. We helped to create and tell stories of the new world we are living in, developed brand strategies for clients that allowed them to connect with their customer base in a more intimate way, direct-to-consumer was definitely brought to a higher level. We increased their wine club memberships and optimized their new e-commerce sales as the consumers’ hunger to order wine online went up as well as their appetite for virtual tastings. We helped them boost their presence and form a closer personal relationship with their customers.
Design was also more active than ever, we’ve been developing projects from Europe to Asia…the booming has been fantastic, even in a challenging year like 2020, where the pandemic has taken its toll on hundreds of thousands of businesses around the globe, we’ve seen an incredible growth for the agency, in an environment where the unexpected happened and no one was ready, there was no playbook to go by, but we continue to grow and expand.
Who will be heading up the US, Canada & South America?
Once we are moving fast and steady on these markets, I will always be involved in the top decisions, but the daily managing, overseeing clients, growth, and overall agency operations, will be under the control of Ingrid Reyes, CEO of North & South America. She is a passionate and experienced ad executive who has been leading brand growth and strategy for Fortune 500 companies at the top global agencies in the U.S. Our philosophies are the same, we both agreed to develop the operations the way we set them up in the US. I’m thrilled that we are joining our expertise, maturity, and more importantly, we make a great creative team! Together, we bring experience from Europe, Asia, and the Americas.