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My International Exchange

Promoting performing arts to the youth of Recife
September 2012

Hi, I’m Laura
An American expat living in London, I work at Landor, a global branding and design consultancy. So what brought me to Brazil? Ultimately, it was the desire to push myself out of my comfort zone, and use my professional skills in a new way, to give back to a community in need of some help. What I took away were countless lessons from a crash course in team leadership, and a total immersion in Brazilian culture. Plus, my newfound love of caipirinhas…

(that’s a caipirinha)!

…but before I could take off
Preparation for TIE wasn’t insignificant, though it gave me lots of time to get excited for the adventure ahead. First I had to learn Portuguese well enough to muddle through a month on the ground. Twenty lessons with the brilliant Fernando had me (just about) holding my own in conversations. Then I had to rely on the kindness and generosity of family, friends and colleagues to help raise over £1,100 to serve as the campaign budget for my TIE placement. Finally, I got my vaccinations and I was ready to fly!

So what was I there to do?
I went to Recife to work with an NGO called Em Cena, an after-school program for children and adolescents. Em Cena provides a safe and engaging place for children from the Coelhos neighborhood to take classes in dance, music and citizenship, and to learn and grow as people and members of a community. Because of the artistic nature of the Em Cena curriculum, they face a unique recruitment challenge: not enough boys! My project objective, therefore, was to increase the participation of male children in Em Cena’s after school arts program.

The children of Em Cena


My team
I didn’t have to solve Em Cena’s unique challenges alone – I had my agency to help me do it. As is sometimes the case for TIE placements, I worked with an experimental agency at a local university called Inata. Led by two professors, ten communications students make up Inata at any one time. When I arrived to see Inata on our very first day together, I was met by a tidal wave of enthusiasm. What the students lacked in professional experience, they made up for with exuberance and a willingness to learn. I had my merry band, and it was time to get to work.

Inata: the experimental agency at AESO

The lovely folks at Inata also realized a lifelong ambition I didn’t know I had – to be on a billboard!

Kicking off the project
All TIE placements start with a day of in-country training – a chance for the communications professional, client, and agency to learn more about the world of development communications, agree ways of working, and align on a plan for the month ahead.

Defining the problem
If our project objective was to increase male enrollment at Em Cena, it was easy to think that addressing this head-on in a campaign would be the way forward. But in our initial research phase, it quickly became apparent that Em Cena’s challenge was not simply a result of stigma around male participation in the arts. Rather, the community simply wasn’t aware of the multidisciplinary curriculum being offered. Em Cena was understood only to be a ballet school, not the rich, multidisciplinary program that it is. Our brief was starting to take shape…

Our creative brief
The Inata team and I developed the following brief to structure our thinking before brainstorming creative concepts. We want to inspire The parents (or family groups) of Coelhos To Enroll their sons and daughters at Em Cena By Helping them to understand the benefits of Em Cena’s multidisciplinary program

Our creative concept
We wanted to do more than just tell the Coelhos community about Em Cena’s multidisciplinary offering. We wanted to invite them to experience it for themselves. After all it is the community itself that has nurtured the program for the past fifteen years. Just as with a music or dance performance, it is the people behind the scenes who make it possible. This thought led us to our creative concept:

There’s more that happens behind the curtain

Bringing the concept to life
We knew that this was fertile territory, but didn’t want to put too much of a focus on the performance, as not every Em Cena student performs in every show. Our task was to bring to life some core tenets of the program: •  •  •  •  Collaboration Multidisciplinary curriculum Preparation Performance

But not a curtain in sight.

Bringing the concept to life
We decided to take a two-pronged approach: mounting an event that would then provide content for a campaign.

Collaboration, multidisciplinary curriculum, preparation & performance

Capturing and sharing the experience of the event with the broader Coelhos community

In under 24 hours, we designed and produced pamphlets and a banner to announce our event to the children of Em Cena, their families, and the broader Coelhos community. “Todos juntos por uma nova cena” translates to “All together for a new scene” – our working campaign line.

The event
Despite some rogue rain clouds that darkened the afternoon, our event at Em Cena was a resounding success. Visit my placement page on the TIE website to view the film of our event, which ultimately became our campaign film. We’ve also created 30 second versions for the children to pass from mobile to mobile, and a ‘behind the scenes’ version for Inata to use as an educational tool.

Prepping for our event

Quite a turn-out!

•  (final pic of Em Cena)

The final image of ‘Em Cena’, created by the children, their families, and the community from all the materials 28.9.2012   of the program’s multidisciplinary curriculum

We used the joyful final image from the event to create posters to display at bus stops in the Coelhos neighborhood.

Finally, printing the image on t-shirts for each of the Em Cena children has created 60+ walking billboards within the Coelhos community. Now, every part of Em Cena’s curriculum gets equal billing. 28.9.2012  

Six months later
The TIE experience was such a powerful one for me. I improved my communications, language and leadership skills. And had a wonderful time in the process. And, I’m proud to report that Em Cena has now increased its male participation by 150%.

My incredible host family welcomed me with open arms, supported me throughout my month in Recife, and were the best clients I could have asked for!

It truly takes a village to realize a TIE placement

Generous support from WPP and Landor allowed me to take part. Tireless commitment from TIE brought everything together, and with the team at Inata and Em Cena, we created a fun and inclusive campaign.

Tchau e obrigada!

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