“The most difficult thing about a good idea is believing in it, investing money, and turning it into a reality”

Inspiring people


Lluís Bassat (Barcelona, ​​1943) is synonymous with advertising. In 2004 he was number one on the list of the 10 people who have had the most influence on the advertising industry; a true point of reference in an industry that has had to reinvent itself over the years. He now devotes much of his time to his second professional life: his foundation.

How has advertising changed since you started out in 1975?

It’s changed for the worse, unfortunately. The best advertising done in this country was done during the ’80s and in the early ’90s when we were the third best country in the world (behind the USA and England).

Has the financial crisis been to blame?

The crisis has had a lot to do with it. Customers have become very conservative, and in advertising, if you don’t take risks, you run the biggest risk of all: for the advertising to go by without people taking any notice.

TV was the star in those days. Now, advertising is multiplatform...

Think of it this way: advertising is about convincing or seducing people, and that can be done on TV or on social networks. The essence doesn’t change because people consume to satisfy a need.

Maybe what’s changed is the channel?

Exactly. What’s changed is the way of reaching those people. Before, we used to do it in all the media, and now, besides the traditional formats, we also reach them via the Internet.

Does there always need to be a lot of resources behind a big advertising campaign?

No! I’ve managed to do campaigns with nearly zero cost. For example, the one we did to keep dogs from being abandoned, with a powerful image and the text: “Don’t abandon him; he would never do it to you”. Intelligence has no price; good ideas aren’t expensive. What’s expensive is the dissemination.

Which campaign has given you the most satisfaction?

The one that helped raise awareness among young people to not get in the car if they’d been drinking alcohol. “Mixing alcohol and gas, kills”, it said. This action saved human lives and there’s nothing that can compare to that.

How do the ideas come to you?

They come to everyone in a different way. For me, it’s when I’m shaving or when I’m going to sleep. Once I had a great idea for a campaign and the next day I couldn’t remember it anymore. Since that day, I’ve slept with a notepad and a pencil on the nightstand.

Lots of ideas have ended up left by the wayside...

Yes, loads! Ideas that were really good, but for whatever reason I haven’t been able to sell.

Such as, for example?

When alcohol-free beers appeared, I suggested to San Miguel that their beer should be called “Sin Miguel” [since “sin” means without]. It just wouldn’t happen because they didn’t want to change the name. I explained it in every way possible, but they didn’t go for it and I’m sure it would have been a success.

Can you work on creativity?

Definitely. People aren’t born creative. People start thinking creatively when they’re eight or 10 years old. Even as a small child, too. I don’t believe in the kind of parents who shoot down their kids’ ideas. Sometimes they say really intelligent things and they should be taken into account.

What is the value of a good idea?

A good idea can be worth millions. The people who thought a telephone could be mobile are multimillionaires now and their companies are cutting edge. Ideas have a lot of value if you’re able to put them into practice. The most difficult thing about a good idea is believing in it, investing money, and turning it into a reality.

What is advertising to you?

Advertising is the art of convincing or seducing consumers. Of convincing rationally or seducing them emotionally. Rationally, you have to tell the entire truth, and emotionally, you can tell emotional truths, like “the spark of life.”

Did you always want to be an advertising agent?

I wanted to be an architect, but I wasn’t very good at drawing. I thought I should be creative in another way, and advertising has allowed me to be creative by writing. At first, I only imagined the text; now I think about all the formats.

In terms of your book, El libro rojo de la publicidad [The Red Book of Advertising], do you think many things have changed or does the essence remain valid?

I’ve been asked to do a version to download online and I’ve reviewed the whole thing. Apart from adding an entire chapter on the Internet, I’ve only changed two or three sentences. It’s still really valid.

What is the current status of advertising in Spain?

There’s a lot of talent. I don’t know if the customers have the same talent, since they’ve become very conservative. In my day, I always presented the campaigns to the CEO or managing director of the company. Now they’re approved by brand managers who just finished college maybe a couple years ago. They have to make decisions about 6 million euros and they often back out because they don’t want to risk it. You have to be brave, businesslike, enterprising, and believe in the ideas.

How do you think the financial crisis has affected advertising campaigns?

It’s made companies reinvent themselves and has forced them to think better about their products. Everyone must reinvent themselves every day.

What is the future of advertising in the era of new technologies?

Advertising will always exist as long as there’s a world where you can choose between two different products. When that disappears, advertising will stop making sense. It has a future, but maybe it won’t use the same media. People watch much less TV now than they did before, and the Internet is the ideal channel for connecting with your audience.

Do you think TV gives you more credibility?

No, I think it’s the person behind it that gives you more confidence. Many times online you don’t know who’s given you the information and this can create doubts.

What do you do in your daily routine?

I devote myself to my foundation that helps children in Africa and helps develop the contemporary art of Catalonia. I think the children in Africa need help and I think that Catalan artists do, too. They’re the same or better than American or English artists, but they haven’t gotten any support. With the museum we have in Mataró, in the Gaudí hall, I try to do exhibitions from artists that haven’t been lucky enough to exhibit in New York or Paris. This has been going for 10 years now, and many of these artists have already managed to sell in the USA. For me, it’s a second professional life.

Let’s talk about past projects. Last year was the 25th anniversary of Barcelona ’92. What was your experience of that big event like?

When Pasqual Maragall asked me to put myself forward, I said no, but if they wanted, I would do the advertising for them. He convinced me when he told me he wanted the ceremony to be advertising for Barcelona, Catalonia, and Spain. That was the moment I thought that I could do it, and those were the three most productive years of my life. Trying to get something that 1.5 billion people would like wasn’t easy, but we did it and I’m really proud.

To finish. You even ran for the F.C. Barcelona elections, but you didn’t get the presidency. Is it a thorn in your side?

No, quite the opposite. I was really lucky not to win. I was thinking that I could change the world of soccer in the same way that I’d changed the world of advertising. I’ve seen that it wouldn’t have been possible because I’ve never wanted to trick anyone and do illegal things.

Have you thought about running again?

No. That chapter is over.


A little taste

Do you like wine?


What’s the best time for having a glass of wine?

Lunch and dinner

A song for savoring a good wine.

“Els vells amants” by Serrat

A corner (city, town) where you’d lose yourself.


Who would you reincarnate as?

Three historical figures: Ghandi, Nelson Mandela, and Martin Luther King.

What do you do in your free time?

I go road biking.

One vice.

Too perfectionist

One virtue.


What did you want to be as a child?

A sailor and soccer player.

And when you grew up?

An advertising agent.

Categorías: Inspiring people