If you’re unfamiliar, Gigil are the multi-faceted Filipino team behind jaw-dropping creative pieces of work – such as the mind-bending ‘Whatever’ for RC Cola which secured a Bronze in the Film category at Cannes Lions Live 2021, and the deliberately vandalized out-of-home work for Netflix’s ‘Trese’ series.
We recently managed to sit down with Gigil Founding Partner, Badong Abesamis, and Managing Partner, Jake Yrastorza, to talk all things “upsetting the system” – and how Gigil’s commitment to making its own rules has led them to creating award winning work.
We are fiercely Filipino, and so wanted to give ourselves a Filipino word for a name.
For us, passion trumps talent. Passion is the thing that leads you to success, and so we named our company after the Filipino word for passion. ‘Gigil’ also means squeezing something that you're very fond of, not letting it go, and having the grit to see things through – so there are many layers of positivity embedded within it.
We started in 2017. After working in multinationals for decades, we thought we could make a go of it ourselves. We're highly social, and our expertise lies in creating ideas that are shareable talking points.
We were very glad that we were able to win a Bronze in perhaps the toughest category at Cannes Lions.
Ultimately, we want to create a difference in the businesses of our clients. Therefore we try to deliver on every job order – and by treating each requirement as sacrosanct, were able to clinch the Bronze. I think what also helped was that we're a challenger agency which attracts challenger brands. Challenger brands have an appetite to reinvent the system and make their own rules.
"Our mindset is that our success has always been hinged on the success we bring to our clients."
Badong Abesamis, Founding Partner, Gigil
As an independent agency, we don't have a network to rely on when businesses leave us, and that can feel like a down. We work on a per-project basis. I think only 25-30% of our portfolio is accounts on record. I guess that's the mode everywhere else in the world, but it makes us feel particularly susceptible when there are challenges in terms of clients not giving regular work. By and large, however, we've been lucky in this in the sense that we have gotten recognition for the work that we have done not only creatively – but more importantly – in terms of increasing the business of our clients.
The RC Cola campaign, which not only won a Lion, but received an array of other awards and recognitions both locally and internationally. Apart from that, the rockstar himself, Fernando Machado, tweeted about a couple of campaigns that we ran. Ellen DeGeneres also featured one of our ads on her show.
"The Work is at the benchmark of what is the best in the world… it's a source of great inspiration and insight… a great tool for the agency."
Jake Yrastorza, Managing Partner, Gigil
Again, as an independent, we don't have the luxury of regional meetings or a global Creative Director or a Global Chief Creative Officer exposing us to the benchmark of creativity across the world at any given moment, or the learnings shared in larger networks. In a sense, The Work has been our lifeline to seeing what is current, what is good, and what is considered to be the defining executions of each category per year.
[Joining The Work] at the beginning was a hard decision to make because we were a young agency, and our revenue was just starting to build, so to make an investment in The Work was something that we had to sleep on. Soon enough, however, we realized the dividends that came with The Work. The mere fact that minds are being opened in the agency about what constitutes good work was enough reason to subscribe.
We knew we had made a good decision as it was as if we were able to send the whole team to Cannes Lions. The win was a testament to the fact that investing in The Work had been a good decision.
Having subscribed to The Work for the past four years, having won something from the Festival, I think it has made us a little bit more serious in terms of being able to deliver ideas that the world will sit down and watch and build our client’s business.
The brains behind the creativity at Gigil
We use it two ways. We use it for inspiration if there’s something that we want to talk about during the morning session. In my case, I pick an interest such as a music or sports campaign, then I share that. Beyond our ‘Gold Morning’ sharing sessions, when we are brainstorming, we use various filters to look at what's been done before, and maybe how those types of work can inspire us. At times, I check out the talks, I find those talks very engaging, very stimulating, and very inspiring.
When I hit a dead-end, The Work is often the key to opening the door. It leads me to other paths in terms of providing a solution to the job. It's very liberating, seeing The Work and inspiring to help other people and offer [our own] solutions.
“When I hit a dead-end [The Work] is the key to opening the door…”
Badong Abesamis, Founding Partner, Gigil
I think when I'm actively ideating, I start with a blank page. If nothing comes to me, I seek out The Work, and I look up the winners of whatever category I'm asked to do work for by a client – whether it's outdoor, whether it's film, whether it's activation. The Work is mind-opening, in terms of providing solutions to client problems.
The Work sets the benchmark, in terms of what good looks like. That's why, especially now when we're working from home, we have those two sessions every week so that we talk about the work and what other people are doing in different areas.
Benchmarking is probably one of the reasons we call those morning sessions ‘Gold Mornings’. It’s when we share our wide reading around work that's Gold, or higher. It’s a reminder to ourselves that that's the benchmark – that's what we need to aim for.