You must have a good command of the possibilities Digital offers, but the medium is not the message.
She started her career at one of Spain’s very first digital agencies, Barcelona Virtual, before moving on to Proximity Barcelona. Eva has been leading creativity at this agency since 2007, and in 2014 she widened her scope to include the office in Madrid. In the course of her career, Eva has won more than 80 national and international awards, including one Gold, one Silver, and two Bronzes at Cannes Lions 2015. In the interview that follows, she replies to questions put to her by Michael Weinzettl.
Hello Eva, first of all many thanks for giving us your selection of the 15 most noteworthy Digital works for this issue. What were the criteria you applied when putting them together?
In choosing my 15 links, I looked for work that combines good ideas on a conceptual level with interesting and varied subjects at the thematic level, in order to help showcase the wide variety of digital in 2017. The links range from videos (several of them, since this is today’s leading digital platform) to websites, apps, and social media campaigns.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself? What is your background?
I studied advertising and PR, but with reservations. I really liked literature and was looking for a profession that incorporated creativity but had real employment opportunities – that’s how I ended up in the ad business, and it looks like I made the right choice: My professional career since then has been “full speed ahead.” I started out as a copywriter – an intern – and quickly took on a certain amount of responsibility for teams and accounts. When I was 27, they offered me the post of executive creative director and, although I was very young, I took it and learned on the job. Two years ago, I became chief creative officer for Spain, and this month I took on the role of global chief creative officer of the network. This is a truly exciting challenge, since Proximity is – as of a couple of months ago – an independent network inside Omnicom.
What was your very first real experience of advertising that you remember?
When I was starting out, I spent many years doing advertising for an online school that survived off of direct response. Being able to launch a campaign and know within hours if it was generating an audience reaction was a real education in communication for me. I didn’t win any prizes with that brand, but it gave me quite a skill set.
And in digital media? Were you an early adapter?
My first job experience was at one of Spain’s earliest digital agencies. It was 2002, during the dotcom crash, so I experienced the collapse of the first advertising model connected to the digital world. So, yes, my career has been very much connected to the digital world – in fact Proximity has never been a “conventional” agency, but rather an agency with an approach that is much closer to the world of data and digital. I have never considered myself a digital creative, since from my perspective the concept is what matters—the story you tell to consumers. Digital is the way this idea is delivered to them, and that is why you must have a good command of the possibilities it offers, but the medium is not the message.
Did you originally think that you’d go into the ad industry? What other professions were you interested in?
As I’ve said, literature was my first love, and trying to find a way to be able to earn money writing was how I ended up in publicity. In fact, I was about to start studying journalism, and I have a funny story in relation to that: I changed my mind while I was waiting in line to sign up for my major because the caretaker at my secondary school told me he thought I would like publicity more. How right he was, because the truth is – given that I’m not very interested in current affairs – I would have been a horrible journalist.
Did you have any role models when starting out in advertising?
To be honest, I’ve never been very star-struck. I followed the work of the most cutting-edge agencies at the time – SCPF, Sra. Rushmore, and Contrapunto – but I didn’t have any major examples in mind to follow.
Perhaps you can tell us a bit about Proximity and what they stand for in terms of philosophy and agency culture?
Proximity’s philosophy is based on immediacy in everything we do: the way we manage clients, the way we manage teams, and the way we think about our campaigns. The closer you can get to the people you want consuming your content, the greater your odds of creating something that they not only want to consume, but will even share and talk about with other people. Our value proposition comes from this more human perspective, and is based on being able to increase the value of the relationship between people and brands, making brands more relevant and entertaining for people and turning people into individuals with their own names for the brands. This is what we call data-driven creativity.
We also believe that strategy and creativity are two parts of a single process, so our planners are creative and our creatives work well on the strategic level. In addition, we don’t believe in the typical structure of fixed partnerships, and we adapt the team to the project rather than vice versa. At the level of process, we believe that in terms of creativity, good is the enemy of great, and we always strive to achieve something great.
What is the work you’ve done as a creative or creative director you’re proudest of?
I had fun and learned a lot creating a campaign called The Great Escape. It was for a brand of experience packages that were marketed in little boxes (Bongo), and the idea consisted of recreating an escape “from prison” – only in this case, the prison was your office on Friday afternoon. We literally locked up 70 people in the Barcelona World Trade Center (they were volunteers), and we played the typical dirty tricks on them that keep you from leaving work on a Friday afternoon (doing inventory, meetings with your boss, etc.). Each challenge that was overcome gave you a number to the code to unlock the door, and the first person to get the code was the first to escape and won a surprise weekend experience. We essentially made a reality show in real time with very limited resources, and it truly was a lot of fun.
One of the most-noted commercials last year, and one that you were involved in as creative director, was Audi’s “The Doll That Chose to Drive.” Can you tell us a bit about that? How did it come about?
This project was the result of more than a year’s worth of work between client and agency, and the campaign was created with the goal of strengthening Audi’s most emotional values. Analyzing those values, we found the Audi brand promotes and implements a socially egalitarian model, but this had never been explicitly communicated (for example, the first woman to achieve a victory in the World Rally Championship, Michèle Mouton, drove an Audi Quattro Sport).
We decided to focus on this aspect of Audi’s values, since it is socially relevant, and launched an unheard-of message within the automotive industry. The first thing we did was analyze the accepted preconceptions in the automotive world in terms of equality. We analyzed the roles that had historically been given to men and women as far as cars and the automotive world is concerned, and reached a clear conclusion: men were the drivers, and women the passengers. Why not change that? In trying to figure out how to achieve this change, we pinpointed childhood as the starting point for the assumption that cars are for boys and dolls are for girls. This preconception stays with us throughout our lives.
So we decided to tell the story of how a brave doll decided to cross the pink aisle to fulfill her dream: driving. A film for all audiences with an important social message that, as of today, has been viewed by more than 25 million people worldwide.
Digital, too, is very much a boys’ arena, it would appear. (Perhaps I’m wrong, but the only other woman we have had as a digital judge over the past years was Fernanda Romano.) Have you encountered any difficulties in this rather male domain?
The gender gap in the world of advertising creatives is nothing new, but if we look at the world of digital creatives I think it’s a little bit better, primarily because we digital creatives are usually somewhat younger. But it’s still a very subtle improvement. In an industry like ours – that brags about being innovative and setting trends – the gender problem is obvious and well-known. At present, only 16% of creative directors are women (in 2015 it was 3%), a disgraceful number that increases slightly if we look at lower-level positions, where 11% of copywriters are women and 9.6% of art directors. The numbers speak for themselves: we work in a conservative and discriminatory industry that, at the level of equality, has barely progressed since the 50s.
In my case, my gender has not been an issue in the development of my career, but of course being a woman has meant, and still means, additional effort.