The Sra Rushmore executive creative director on her childhood obsessions, stance on Catalan politics and her accidental foray into literature
Madrid creative agency Sra. Rushmore has the Spanish creative industry’s attention. Their work for clients like Vodafone and Coca-Cola has made a name for them as experts in emotional storytelling. In a recent report by SCOPEN the agency was named the second most desirable agency to work for in Spain - a list it’s featured in prominently several times.
As the agency’s Executive Creative Director since October 2017, Xisela López is fast becoming an icon of the local advertising community. She’s worked with both internationally recognised brands and Spanish ones, from Coca-Cola to Pepsi, Mercedes to MINI, Flex, El Corte Ingles, Vodafone, Aquarius, Reina Sofía Foundation and Iberdrola. In 2014 she became a published author with her first novel, ‘Volverán las Naranjas’ (‘The Oranges Will Return’).
LBB’s Alex Reeves sat down with Xisela to find out more about the woman at the creative helm of Sra. Rushmore.
LBB> Where did you grow up and what kind of kid were you?
XL> I was born in Galicia, in a town in the northwestern part of Spain. The truth is that I was a very happy child, a little clueless, always playing outside and making up stories.
LBB> When did you first consider going into advertising as a career?
XL> I was pretty young. I was probably around eight or nine when I started paying attention to ads on TV. Specifically I remember I loved the commercials for Schweppes Tonic and Trex gum. I also started paying attention to the billboards on the streets and when I got to high school and they asked what I wanted to study, I was sure. The first cassette I got as a gift was ‘Hit Television Commercials.’ In order to study advertising, I had to leave home and my hometown at 18. But I knew this was what I wanted to do.
LBB> What was your first job in advertising? Do you remember any particular projects that helped you develop as a creative?
XL> The first piece I created was a sign about sponsoring a tennis tournament in a mall on the outskirts of Madrid. I went to see it; it was placed at all of the registers in the supermarket. I was so excited, I loved seeing it in print.
I remember a viral video we put together for Alzheimer’s research. I literally dreamed of the idea. I presented it to three different agencies, and finally after a few years, I managed to get it made. That campaign opened a lot of doors for me and helped me at a time when it looked like following my career goals was going to be very complicated.
LBB> What lesson or piece of advice do you wish you'd had earlier in your career?
XL> “Be honest with the brief.” Once I learned this way of confronting my work, everything became much easier, but also much more stimulating. At the beginning, I repeated patterns that had been successful in festivals - it was simple. But I think that the exciting part of this job is getting to “that special something” that answers the brief and is interesting for the audience.
LBB> Which recent projects are you most proud of?
XL> Above everything else, all of the work we’ve done for Alzheimer’s research. We haven’t fallen into using easy appeals in order to talk about memory loss. In each campaign, we’ve tried to reach our objective (raise awareness, raise money…) in a very sincere way.
LBB> Can you tell us about ‘Parlem’? What was the idea and how do you feel about people in advertising involving themselves in political issues like the Catalan independence referendum?
XL> ‘Parlem’ [Catalan for “let’s talk”] was an initiative begun by some people in the agency, whom I joined. It was no more than a word hung from a piece of canvas. But it’s a word that many of us believed was necessary at the moment, when the tension with Catalonia was very intense. It became an emblem of the people that opted for dialogue as a solution to this problem.
LBB> Which aspects of the creative process are most enjoyable for you?
XL> Reaching an idea and writing it out. It’s the most stimulating and enjoyable part of the process. It’s not that after that part I lose interest, but I do lose a little of the energy.
LBB> Who are your creative heroes and why?
XL> This is a tough one; every year, there are more. There are so many creative minds in advertising in Spain and beyond that I admire. But there are also people I find on the Internet, every day, that surprise me with their incredible creative talent in the things they create, even if they aren’t advertising pieces.
LBB> Sra. Rushmore has repeatedly been listed as one of the most attractive employers for advertising professionals in Spain. What about your agency culture makes people want to work there?
XL> Sra. Rushmore has always opted for raising the bar in publicity, of the things people see on TV, in the street…There is no “awards culture,” and the creatives are not judged based on the prizes that win at Cannes. Creative teams are valued for their talent when it comes to tackling briefs in the most creative and notable ways. Moreover, it’s not an agency of “creative stars.” All of us who work at Sra Rushmore understand that from the first day it's the great working environment created amongst co-workers that is intangible but very important in the agency.
LBB> You're on the ideas jury of the National Creativity Awards. Are there any trends you expect to see when judging this year's Spanish creative work?
XL> I expect to see ideas, clear ideas, and insights that haven’t been exploited yet. I think that this year we’re going to see some campaigns that remind us all that a good idea/story is the only guarantee that we’re doing a good job. Innovation in different ways and formats is very necessary, especially nowadays, but there always has to be a strong idea behind them.
LBB> I loved finding out about your book 'Volverán las Naranjas'. Can you tell us the story of how that happened? Have you done any more projects like that recently?
XL> I was writing at my home computer about a love story told only in text messages, out of curiosity, just to see if it made sense and could be done. Then one day my partner took me to a small bookstore and I saw my story had been published in a book, as a birthday surprise! This book ended up in the hands of a large publisher, and they decided to publish it in Spain, Italy, and Germany.
No, I haven’t written anything else so far, in order to avoid finding it published in another book store.
LBB> What do you like to do in your spare time? Any current obsessions?
XL> Well, right now I’m six months pregnant. My only obsession currently is sleeping and eating…