Online All Stars 2010: PJ Pereira

PJFounder Pereira & O'Dell

Over a two-decade career that straddled two continents, PJ Pereira has earned a reputation for wide-ranging creativity in everything from ad creative and design to bar management. Pereira & O'Dell, the fast-growing San Francico-based agency he founded with partner Andrew O'Dell in April 2008, is the second major digital firm Pereira has formed from the ground up: he was a cofounder of AgenciaClick, a successful interactive agency in Brazil that he left to take the reins as ECD of AKQA in San Francisco.

"A lot of great agencies focus so much on being different from each other, on specializations and new business models, that they spend more energy on becoming efficient technique-wise rather than inspiring," Pereira said at the time of his namesake agency's launch, which he describes as a place with "no walls between advertising, design, digital and PR... between creative and strategy." Indeed he dismisses the ad industry's traditional self-obsession as limiting and narcissistic: "This industry needs to stop learning from itself and start drinking more from other sources such as culture, arts, and technology." A creative thinker as much as a cap C Creative (though, of course, he is that too) Pereira's free-form approach resembles in many ways the abstract painting, in which styles mix and blend, he practices in his spare time.

On the advertising and marketing side, in 2010 POD won praise for its design of the LEGO "CL!CK" Web site, creating a virtual canvas of ideas, inspired moments, quirky stories, solutions and tips from ordinary users (i.e., Lego builders) to celebrate and inspire Lego creativity, or "CL!CK" moments as Lego calls them. The site invites fans to join a conversation about what makes things "click," by posting to a blog where they can share stories, ideas, and photo and video inspiration. The site features an innovative yet intuitive interface - colorful and playful, melding text, images, video, and interactive features.

In August 2010 the company was selected by MySpace to help with its branding efforts ahead of a comprehensive overhaul intended to help the once-dominant social network compete with Facebook and other new contenders.

2010 also saw a creative stunt that raised money for a worthy cause while simultaneously garnering plenty of publicity for Pereira & O'Dell - killing two birds, or rather fish, with one stone. This summer, POD staffers Russell Dodson and Ross Cavin crewed a 32-foot Drift Gillnet fishing boat on a journey from the San Francisco Bay to Naknek, Alaska, population 2,000, with a mission of catching 100,000 pounds of salmon - while keeping up with their advertising copywriters duties in their down time. POD used the stunt to raise awareness and funds for the Greater New Orleans Foundation Gulf Coast cleanup and relief efforts, which primarily supports local fishermen.

The agency also has its own bar, the BarrelHouse, where it hosts events for clients and charitable causes (over 50 in the last two years alone). Pereira explained the bar is meant "to bring something back to the community that needed some cheering in the middle of this recession." The agency's management approach for their on-site saloon is rather creative: "The BarrelHouse events cost us nothing - we donate the space, our clients donate the drinks, the bands play to raise money for a charity they chose, our guests are just guests, no one pays anything, but we raise quite a lot of money."

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