To get to creative management, Aitor Borras (Associate Creative Director, apple tree communications) initially had to take a detour in the land of architecture. His dream was to make extraordinary buildings and such, but Maths turned out to be an untameable beast. That's bad news for any architect wannabe, so he had to find another dream: that of a great ad man. And he made that happen.
He began his career as a junior copywriter with Grey Barcelona, where he used to work nights and weekends to prove he has what it takes in the industry. A tough industry to get into, Aitor realizes today, when in his thirties. After a few years, he switched copy work for creative direction at ROAD Publicidad. There he learned about how you manage and correctly motivate a creative team.
I think one of the most important skills in the advertising industry has to be empathy - towards your clients, your target, but also toward your wn team. What you need to think about is not only better and better ideas, but also how to enable and motivate your people to search for those ideas.
At one point, he even launched his own clothing brand, but his lack of experience in entrepreneurship left him with some rediscovered friendships, but not a solid business. He promised he would bring us one of those T-shirts by the way.
Today, Aitor and his team work with clients such as MINI, FC Barcelona, Pepe Jeans, Nike and Novartis. At at the FIBRA Awards on November 16 and 17 he will share even more than he did in the below interview. But until then, go ahead and have a scroll or two.
Pentru versiunea in romana a articolului, haideti aici.
First ad memories
I became interested in advertising during my childhood once the first Nike commercials with famous football players came out. However, it became serious for me when I went to high school. I fell in love with the Spanish advertising of latest 90’s; for was for me the Golden Age of Spanish advertising.
I have a special memory of a Nike commercial. There were a lot of international players (Ronaldo, Maldini, Figo, Cantona, Campos) playing a match against a team that came from hell “to destroy the most beautiful game ever”. In this commercial the punchline came from Eric Cantona: “Au revoir”. The he kicked the ball and destroyed the goalkeeper. It was amazing for me. I even remember that I spent an entire afternoon watching TV to catch the add and tape it on a VHS. I made it eventually.
Starting out in the industry
Throughout my high school years I was always interested in architecture and I dreamed about creating incredible buildings. Unfortunately, I wasn't good at Maths and exact sciences in general, so when I found myself at a dead end, I became interested in advertising. Mostly due to the fantastic Audi commercials made in the late 90s in Spain.
My career didn’t start out the usual way. I started working as a trainee at JWT Barcelona thanks to the Creative’s Club of Spain taking part in the first promotion in Barcelona. Thus I had the chance to start doing copy work alongside some fantastic professionals. One year later, I sent my student book by mail to the Creative Executive Director of Grey Barcelona. He liked it and three days later I started my professional career. In those days, the most difficult part was to enter in an agency as a trainee, so I think I was very lucky.
And speaking of Grey, if I have to be honest, I don’t remember the interview itself. I just came on my first day to Grey Offices and started working. I remember those years very fondly. It was hard because you had to prove you were good, day in day out.
What I remember best is the difference between what you study in a “theoretical” way at the University and the “practical” reality of a huge advertising agency.
You don’t learn anything until you live it for yourself, until you have a brief in front of you and the responsibility to see it through goes to you. I remember a lot of hours, nights and weekends working hard in order to do my best as a junior copywriter.
In my five years in Grey I was very lucky; from day 1 my manager was confiden that I could present my own campaigns to the Executive Creative Director, go in meetings with clients, present ideas and lead my own team when I was only 23. That was incredible for me.
In those days I also had the chance to participate in a lot of international and national advertising festivals where I was awarded for different campaigns. So I remember those years with a lot of love.
The ROAD to Creative Director
Sometimes when you spend a lot of years in the same agency, you start needing more interesting and tougher challenges. I had the opportunity to go to ROAD, which was in those days the most interesting up-and-coming independent agency in Barcelona.
There I learned about the responsibility of managing a team and an automotive account such as Skoda. The feeling you have in an independent agency is different than the one in a huge corporation. You feel closer to the clients and to the objectives of your company. I think this was crucial to grow in my career.
Leaping towards creative management
I never quit writing, and I hope to never do it! I love writing and telling stories, I feel passionate about that and I’m convinced that you should stay down-to-earth.
Anyway, you’re right when you ask about this change from copy work to managing a team. I love to manage a team, there is more to advertising that creativity itself. I think one of the most important skills in advertising is empathy - for your clients, for your target, but also empathy for your team. You have to think not only about finding better and better ideas, but also about how to motivate your people to find them.
Every person is different and needs different things, so my job is to find the best way to empower the talent of my people. Also, you learn to think in a more strategic way, you don’t think in “one shot” campaigns; you feel more committed to your brand and its long-term future. In apple tree we call this “making brands meaningful for people's lives”. This is our mission and when you are in a management position you realize that it is the most important thing.
"Historias para llevar", stories to wear
Sometimes, when you are in advertising, you need other ways to empower your creativity beyond your professional life, to break walls and express yourself more freely. All my career I’ve written for work, but while I think about a campaign, I always start drawing fantastic characters in my notebooks.
What I like most about advertising is the power to tell stories, to make people feel something through that. So one day I thought about the possibility to tell a story in a different way, a story to be worn. That’s how “Historias para llevar” (Stories to go/to wear) came to light.
I created, with a friend, 360 stories using the front and the back of a t-shirt; it was an amazing experience. Unfortunately I’m not as good as a businessman as I am a creative, so I didn’t find the way to develop a fashion brand in a better way; and I had no time nor money.
Anyway, it was an incredible experience for me, and I would repeat it again without any doubt. I learned about failing, about friendship and nothing about business! :P The good thing is I have my closet full of t-shirts which I can gift to my friends. Do you like any of that? I can bring it to you! ;)
The switch to a PR agency
As you certainly know about me, I love challenges! apple tree communications offered me the chance to bring to the table my creative experience and PR skills. I loved this opportunity and I didn’t doubt it was a good idea to be a part of it. Suddenly, a spectrum of new opportunities and learnings was waiting for me, so I couldn't say no.
There’s not a real difference between PR and advertising, or between a digital and an offline campaign. Nowadays everything is mixed, because everything has the power to communicate, to bring emotions, to make brands meaningful to people.
Creativity is everything, for me creativity is not a discipline, it is a way of life and the way I understand my job; it is the way you become relevant to people, that is to say the best tool for saying “hello I’m here and I can be important in your life, listen to what I have to say!”.
Moreover, we’ve been growing in advertising for a few years ago now, working for incredible brands in national an international campaigns, and I’m very proud to be an important part of it.
Favorite projects & some you'd like to forget
I think you can’t forget any project; the good ones because they make you happy and remind you why you’re working in the industry, the bad ones (if you can call them that) because they offer you the opportunity to learn.
The most interesting projects for me are those related with the opportunity to make a brand grow, to re-position its communication in order to make it relevant for its market.
We have to understand one important thing: all of us (people in advertising) are super humans, because we have the power to improve people's lives with our jobs. That’s the thought that keeps me in the mood for doing great work, it is my fuel to wake up every morning and be happy with what I do everyday.
Some thoughts about award shows?
I love that question! Obviously award shows are important nowadays. But I think it’s not good for agencies to transform or interpret them as “only for creatives”. I think award shows have to reflect the reality of advertising in a wider manner and they bring an incredible opportunity to talk about our industry, its problems and the way we can work together towards solving them.
It's not a good idea to treat these festivals as an opportunity to say “Hey man, we’re so creative! We’re so good, let’s go for a drink to celebrate! Monday will be another day!”.
For me it doesn’t work like that. For me, an award show is an incredible opportunity to make our clients feel part of our business (because they are the most important part of it) and realize how creativity is the best way to achieve goals and make brands grow.
Obviously, the awards I hold highest on my list are all of those related with festivals like Cannes, NY or El Sol, the most important ibero-american festival in Spain. The award I remember most lovingly is my first shortlist on LIAA with a print campaign of Pilot Pens.
Welcome to the FIBRA Awards
I don’t know a lot about Romanian advertising, but obviously I know “The American Rom” - that was an incredible example of how an “all life” product can connect with young people in a very original and creative way. It was amazing for me.
The first time I learned about the FIBRA Awards was due to Olivia Walsh, my boss, who enjoyed the festival as a member of the jury last year, she told me amazing things about this festival, about the feeling and the incredible relationship with the other members of the jury. As a Barca fan I also know Gica Hagi and Gica Popescu, but I don’t think it is very relevant :P
It's not my first time as juror, but I suppose it will be tough; we have the responsibility to be fair in everything we do, because you decisions can make the difference between a winning and losing. For me that’s the toughest part and we will be very focused in every detail of every campaign to recognize the best of them, to decide which campaign is a winner and which isn’t. I’m very excited to be part of it and I’ll do my best.
Some advice for contenders
Well, my advice is to be clear and unique, not only about the campaign, but also about the video or material which explains the campaign also. I imagine some campaigns are closely related with the Romanian market and reality, so we will need to be guided very well in the most direct, simple and short way possible in order to better understand the creative resolution and thus judge it better.
As a juror I search for one thing above all: thrill me, please thrill me! I’m a big defender of intangible things. Of course, we can talk about the numerical results of a campaign, about the ROI or whatever you want. Obviously, these are very important, but I need more.
I need something that I can’t describe, I need an idea which makes me feel “wow, these guys made an incredible thing”. This is not only about the idea, but about how they made it a winner, how they used the music, the tagline or whatever, how they made it possible and how with this campaign they achieved the brand objectives.
The FIBRA Awards (Premiile FIBRA) represent a necessary local initiative, meant to set the professional standards of the Romanian marketing and communication industries while, at the same time, encouraging its further progress. Through the FIBRA Awards, we recognize, support and celebrate the value of local creativity and we continue bringing enthusiasm and courage in the spotlight of advertising debates.
The festival is organized by IQads, the Romanian media platform dedicated to local creative industries.