The master of winning awards on a shoestring budget

Fernando Machado has created iconic and award-winning campaigns from Dove to Burger King, writes Campaign Middle East editor Justin Harper

Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches. Burger King’s McWhopper. Iconic campaigns and also the work of Fernando Machado, who has had an illustrious career to date with more than 200 Cannes Lions to his name.

“The work I’m most proud of is that which truly stands out for its design and innovation. I always push to do things that are relevant to people, will be noticed, people will talk about and the press will cover,” he told Campaign Middle East editor Justin Harper.

Machado will be a keynote speaker at the upcoming Athar – Saudi Festival of Creativity, taking place during 13-16 November giving his insights and views on the industry.

He is the former Global CMO of Burger King and, prior to that, Machado worked for 18 years at Unilever, the home of household brands such as Dove and Ben & Jerry’s. Fernando is currently the Global Chief Marketing Officer for NotCompany (NotCo) – a fast-growing plant-based start-up.

While hard to pick just one campaign, Machado is most proud of his Dove Real Beauty Sketches work, which won a titanium GP in 2013 at Cannes. “It was a leap of faith, so different, and we didn’t know if it would work. It was the first one that made the world talk about my campaign.”

Trademark Machado

His mantras are ‘creativity on a budget’ and ‘not being afraid’. “At Burger King, we were making more noise than the money we had. Doing that at a startup is a must as I really need to tap into our creativity to build differentiation and awareness for the brand.”

Machado has consistently proved that producing award-winning and impactful campaigns can be done on a small budget, with Burger King, Dove and now at NotCo.

“Here we did a campaign using AI called ‘Old Animals’ which was short-listed at Cannes and done on a shoestring budget. You have to aim really high when it comes to creativity. That’s how you build brands in my opinion.”

Machado is also a big believer in creativity as a source of competitive advantage. “Most people agree with that but when push comes to shove at times people are more afraid of losing than eager to win”.

But he stresses this is a process, starting off small and getting bolder and braver. “Most people think you have to start with a Superbowl campaign. But start small, it might be a radio campaign, but do it again and do it bigger. Do two or three at the same time”.

As a champion for creativity, Machado gets dismayed by what he calls the “sea of sameness with so much clutter in terms of information and advertising that gets put in front of you.”

This is because he is passionate about advertising and a big fan of the industry, and the great work being done, even if it’s not his own.

“There is always something great happening whether you are a large or small brand. Even when I was at Burger King, there was always something exciting from McDonald’s or KFC or Wendy’s. It’s great to have competition as it forces you to aim higher.”

Athar Talk

At Athar – Saudi Festival of Creativity, Machado will discuss how one can leverage creativity for the good of the brand and business. At the heart of this is overcoming the fear of trying new things and pushing boundaries.

“There are always skeptical people but you can show them the results you are able to achieve. I want to explain the framework that makes the case for creativity.”

Believing in creativity and doing things differently helps a brand stand out. But the reason holding people back from achieving this is fear.


“But it’s not about being fearless. Every time we did one of our breakthrough campaigns I was really scared and afraid. It’s alright to be a little afraid – it shows you are on the right path to doing something unique.”

Machado jumped at the chance to speak at Athar and share his vast experience with a local audience. “It’s amazing to have a festival of this scale, with clients, agencies and technology partners. It is a beautiful opportunity to bring the community together to learn, and inspire, and I’m happy to be part of it.”

Athar – Saudi Festival of Creativity (atharfestival.com), provides a platform for the community to meet, be inspired and elevate the creative industry event. Athar will host more than 1,500 delegates, 300 up-and-coming talent and more than 100 speakers.

The festival will take place at the Crowne Plaza Riyadh RDC and is organised by Motivate Media Group – the publisher of Campaign Middle East, and TRACCS – the largest independent communications consultancy in MENA.