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New Talent

New Talent: Dario Rodriguez

Brand Strategist at VCCP Madrid on why a love of people and being a bit of a radical are good ingredients in a planner

New Talent: Dario Rodriguez

As he was growing up, Dario Rodriguez founded a school newspaper at the age of 10 (and convinced his Principal to invest in it), represented students in high school and university councils, ran his own football team and founded a punk rock band. The reason for having his fingers in so many pies? People. Dario loves people - “meeting them, working with them, being involved in projects with them”. And it’s that that also played a big role in him deciding to become a planner. Nowadays based at VCCP in his hometown of Madrid, Dario is focused on “creating campaigns and ideas that are closer to people and integrated in culture”.

LBB’s Addison Capper chatted with him to find out more...

LBB> You were born in Madrid in 1990: “A city that at that time was able to take you from nothing to everything in about ten seconds,” you say. Why and how?

DR> The contrasting beauty of modern day Madrid started in the ‘90s. Madrid is a city that is really boring on the surface, with a population that’s getting older and older (the average age is about 45 years old), a bunch of old-fashioned businessmen and women, heaps of buildings and spaces that are definitely not cool nor useful, and a sort of shelter for those who are just looking for a job that is related to their degree. 

But then the magic happens: a big party that takes place in the streets, a cinema premiere featuring big Hollywood stars, an amazing concert that suddenly becomes part of the city's history, a big festival that is able to gather some of the most creative minds, a new pub that offers something totally different, a neighbourhood that finds the perfect way to re-invent itself. And suddenly Madrid becomes the place to be.

And that combination of nothing and everything, which started in the ‘90s, is exactly what makes Madrid one of the most special cities in Europe.

LBB> You were very hands on and entrepreneurial as a kid - founding a school newspaper, representative of students in high school and university councils, running a football team, founding a punk rock band etc. Where do you think that spirit comes from? 

DP> Looking back there are probably three key elements that have fuelled my entrepreneurial spirit.

First of all, I love people. Meeting them, working with them, being involved in projects with them. So I've always tried to seize the chance to start something new if it involves working with people, or doing something for them.

Secondly, I'm a radical. That means I'm always looking for ways to change or alter reality, even if those changes are small ones. I try not to dwell on reality too much – it’s there to be hacked.

And finally, I’m a little bit addicted to that feeling we all get when we see our hard work in action. So every time I played a concert with my punk-rock band, every time my football team won a match, or every time our council managed to pass a new policy at university, I would feel so good. And feeling good is a great starting point for making things happen.

LBB> Does it still ring true today do you think? 

DR> Absolutely. I wouldn't be able to live without that entrepreneurial spirit. That's the kind of fuel I need for my engine on a daily basis. I'm always trying to create new things with new people – no matter how small, absurd or irrelevant they might be.

LBB> Tell us more about that punk rock band… Do you still play today? 

DR> I’m not in a band at the moment, but I still find playing music is a great way to relax. Being in a band was one of the best experiences of my life: playing with a group of people and hearing how it works is a wonderful sensation, concerts are so fun and music is always the best antidote for any issue. So I'm definitely looking forward to getting another one together (although I think my punk rock days might be over).

LBB> What made you want to study advertising and PR? 

DR> My love for communication. Even as a kid I was interested in forms of communication. I've always loved speaking, enjoyed writing, and got excited every time I encountered a new form of communication. Coupled with this, I was also interested in some of the aspects related to marketing.

Combined it felt that advertising was the kind of thing I should explore, especially as there wasn’t the same range of courses available to students as there are today. 

I was excited to realise that advertising works across all aspects of communication, and sometimes works to re-define them; so as a career I felt it would allow me to be closer to human communication than probably any other professional field.

LBB> And more specifically, how and why did you end up becoming a planner? 

DR> As I've mentioned before, I love people and everything about them: their loves, fears, barriers, behaviours, values and expectations are things that have always been very interesting for me. I used to read sociology and psychology books when I was at high school and I always wanted to find a way to bring communication into the mix with those perspectives.

I'm also really interested in how cultures and societies evolve, so when I first heard about planning I felt like that was the kind of thing I was made for. And that’s how it’s been ever since. I started off by working at a market research company because I knew it would be a good basis for planning, and all my work in agencies since then has focused on creating campaigns and ideas that are closer to people and integrated in culture. That's my only obsession, being the culture provider inside the agency. And that's my daily job as a planner.

LBB> As a strategist, how do you stay on top of new trends, mediums, technology, etc.? 

DR> Even though it might sound a bit old-school, for me it's a matter of ethnography: I tend to think that the best way to be up to date with trends is by keeping in touch with the people that adopt them. Although your classic resources are important (trend forecasts, fashion blogs, magazines), I always try to find out what's going on in the outside world and people out there living in it are the best source of data and inspiration. And I always try to connect to varying types of people and different subcultures. I just try to get the most out of them by asking lots of questions, observing and participating. 

I think the best way to see into the future is by trying to figure out what people will do, like or think tomorrow, and to do that you need to start by knowing what do they do, like or think today, and how those paths are evolving.

LBB> In the age of big data, quantitative data has never been sexier. So where does that leave qualitative? 

DR> Let me use that metaphor of ‘sexiness’ in order to explain what I think about this. I tend to think that, while quantitative data is the good-looking part of information (the one that has more to do with external appearance and aesthetics in some way), qualitative data is the amazing mind that is able to catch you behind that beautiful face or body. 

Everybody, from clients to specialised audiences to university researchers, is looking for that number, that percentage that is able to express a truth about a reality, with a solid basis in a precise way. And that's why quantitative data looks so good in a presentation. But the thing is that the only way to go deeper and really try to get to know what the data really means is by using qualitative insights. They might not sound so sexy (as they’re not as precise and robust) but they’re key to translating the concept into reality

So, as though we were looking for our perfect couple, I think the perfect insight needs both quantitative and qualitative data. Otherwise, we'll end up getting bored of it pretty quickly.

LBB> Outside of work, what do you like to get up to? 

DR> I keep in touch with the music world: now that I don't play in a band, I use my time to get involved with various music scenes (especially ones related to trap and Caribbean rhythms), working with promoters to create events and supporting local bands and initiatives.

I'm also still involved in some local politics, working with associations and organisations that help our city become the best place to live.

And – even though it’s more related to my job – I find that writing different types of things, from articles for small, online magazines to cultural reports, is the best way to learn more about things and getting some inspiration. 

Genre: People , Strategy/Insight