“I’ve always thrived on being the underdog,” says Adolfo “Al” Aguilar, founder and CEO of Creative Civilization, an advertising firm based in San Antonio. Recalling the days when he was the only Latino student in the advertising department at the University of Texas at Austin, Aguilar says he did not let that dissuade him. “I took that challenge and used it as a motivator to open the door to great success.”
He credits much of his success to being at the right place at the right time. In the 1980s, when corporate America recognized the Hispanic market as an emerging consumer segment, Aguilar caught the wave that raised him high above his competition.
Shortly after graduation, Aguilar accepted a job with one of the world’s most recognizable brands—Coca-Cola. Including Aguilar, the corporation hired three Latinos to target Hispanic consumers on a local and national level. “In addition to creating national marketing programs, we recruited and motivated bottlers in communities like Miami, Phoenix, Houston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Antonio,” Aguilar says.
Thinking Out Loud
Trading words with Adolfo “Al” Aguilar
The satisfaction of creating something that has a positive effect on your community and your family
The art of combining existing things in new and different
ways that are simple, yet powerful
The basis by which anyone has the opportunity to succeed
A romantic term that conjures up emotions and excitement—whether you’re thinking about business, family, or food
Perched high on the wave toward success, Aguilar partnered with two colleagues and formed Sosa, Bromley, Aguilar & Associates. “My goal was to bring the Coca-Cola national advertising account with me to my new ad agency, and within a few months, we accomplished it.” Aguilar notes that for an ad agency based in San Antonio, representing a prize client like Coca-Cola was quite a coup. “The phones started ringing off the wall, and soon we became the agency of record for Western Union, Burger King, General Motors, American Airlines, Anheuser-Busch, and Procter & Gamble.”
Not only did Sosa, Bromley, Aguilar & Associates boast an impressive client roster, but also it attracted staff from across the country to move to San Antonio and work for the hottest Hispanic ad agency. “We became the largest Hispanic advertising firm in the US,” Aguilar says. Then, Ad Week named the firm “Agency of the Year,” out of all other ad agencies, Hispanic and nonHispanic. “I didn’t realize at that time that I was an advertising pioneer. I was just doing my job.”
Aguilar was enjoying his early 30s when the Hispanic market buzz was going crazy. In 1999, he and his wife, Gisela Girard, decided it was time for Hispanic individuals to embrace something bigger—holistic marketing. Together, they founded Creative Civilization, a new breed of advertising agency; one that happens to be Hispanic-owned and operated, but is responsible for total marketing.
“The first client to believe in us was the San Antonio Spurs,” says Aguilar. The Spurs were the only National Basketball Association (NBA) franchise in history to hire a Hispanic-owned and operated agency as a general marketing agency, but other clients soon followed suit. “Publications, hospitals, and transportation systems all liked our total marketing approach.” Creative Civilization played an important role in making the San Antonio Spurs one of the most successful franchises in the NBA, and when the team won the championship in 2005 and 2007, it awarded Aguilar and his wife with their very own championship rings. “What an incredible treasure!” Aguilar says.
Most recently, Sam’s Club has hired Creative Civilization to perform strategic planning, creative media, public relations, and total marketing across the country, as well as some Hispanic marketing.
Having reached the pinnacle of leading Hispanic professionals toward holistic marketing practices in the mainstream, Aguilar visualizes the next phase of his career to involve supporting and educating the next generation of leaders. “I get tremendous satisfaction when the younger generation in my industry appreciates the valuable tools, strategic thinking, and creative ideation that my generation offers.”