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5 Minutes with… Xavier Serrano


After joining DDB Colombia as CEO in January, Xavier discusses his career path, a passion for teaching and Colombia’s future as a creative and production hub, writes LBB’s Ben Conway

5 Minutes with… Xavier Serrano

Starting out as a programmer, Xavier Serrano has forged a career in advertising over 20 years, working with brands like Twitter, Coca-Cola, Uber, Samsung, Heineken and more. Previously at Geometry Colombia, Xavier was appointed as CEO of DDB Colombia at the start of the year, where he is now bringing his ‘entrepreneurial feel’ and cross-disciplinary philosophies to action. 

As well as fulfilling his desire for constant self-improvement - most recently partaking in CEO management programmes at Harvard in the US and at the London Business School - Xavier has also been a lecturer at Bogotá’s CESA university for over two decades. Here, he has taught at a Master’s level on the subjects of innovation, creativity and leadership in the field of marketing and utilises his experiences in both business and teaching to fuel one another.

After a few months of settling into his new role at DDB, LBB’s Ben Conway caught up with Xavier to discuss his drive for constant evolution, his advice for the next generation of creatives and how he will use creativity to solve problems at DDB Colombia.

LBB> Congratulations on your new role as CEO of DDB Colombia! What brought you to DDB? 

Xavier> Thank you! I couldn’t be happier; being part of DDB Latina is an unexpected challenge. I feel lucky with the challenges I’ve faced in my advertising career over 20 years, and Juan Carlos Ortiz and Borja de la Plaza gave me the confidence to jump into this beautiful company. DDB Latina places creativity at the core of every action and becoming part of that belief gave me the perfect push.

LBB> How did you get into advertising? Where did you get your first ‘break’ into the industry?


Xavier> I have a major in economics, with an MBA at MIS (Boston, US). My first job related to advertising was programming with [programming language] PHP4! 20 years later, here I am - I fell in love with this industry. The constant challenge between art and business feels fantastic. In addition, the continuous need for soft skills was also a breakthrough in my love for this industry.

LBB> You were recently CEO of Mid-Americas at Geometry - how did this prepare you for your new role? 

Xavier> I am very grateful for having the opportunity to understand Grey, Ogilvy, Geometry and other networks. At Geometry, we challenged the status quo from 2015 to 2021, adding value to our clients and people. My experience during those years was preparation at all levels. Driving an operation to consistent growth is hard work; maintaining it for many years is more challenging. That is the critical part of learning. Creating a path to grow constantly takes years, and destroying it takes weeks.  

In this new role, all those experiences, plus DDB’s philosophy, are what thrill our goals and dreams. The job and the expectations are quite different as networks have different pathways. But experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want. And luckily for me, I do have some experience.

LBB> You have also been a teacher of innovation, creativity, and leadership on the Marketing courses at CESA - how has this experience influenced your career agency-side and your leadership skills?

Xavier> Teaching is about learning, as you must constantly evolve. I love to teach as you become part of people, and in the process, you continuously push yourself. It’s noble at all levels. Plus, it gives me a feeling about trends, behaviours, and client expectations. So yes! I believe teaching impacts my career. I must continuously improve as I constantly receive terrific questions and meet talented people; it has become my strategy for lifelong learning.

LBB> What are some of the biggest lessons that you’ve learnt as a college lecturer? What are some observations you have of the next generation of creatives? 

Xavier> The biggest lesson is that asking the right questions is far more complex than learning the answers. Leaders need to ask all the time, starting with themselves. Learning to ask is an art. 

My broader view about the next generations regards the concept of creativity. The idea itself is far more comprehensive than years ago - creativity takes so many shapes, skills, and possibilities nowadays. You start to see how new generations are more open to solutions in different forms of creativity. It goes beyond production, design, or technology. Creativity is about human possibilities at all levels.  

LBB> What advice would you give to them?

Xavier> Maybe it’s good to push the limits of what it means to ‘want something’. In order to obtain things you want, you must do things you don’t want. That's life! But the good news is that you can enjoy it and learn from the process. That would be my short piece of advice to avoid frustrations.

LBB> What are some of your main goals for 2023 at DDB Colombia?

Xavier> DDB Colombia is well known as a top effective agency with an excellent creative record. This year, we are committed to honouring the legacy of being top in creativity and effectiveness as often as possible. The team works hard with so many clients, including AB InBev, McDonald's, Alpina, Claro, and Avianca, to name a few, so the goal is to create new standards of creativity and effectiveness in each project. 

Another goal is to grow our value offer, expanding possibilities to commerce environments and light content. The landscape is mixing digital, creativity, and data. Launching Tracy Locke Colombia with solid capabilities in commerce, trade, experiential and content capabilities is how we are committed to our clients' needs.

At the organisational level, we are setting up Colombia as a production centre for other markets and increasing our technology solutions to automate the process. Our creative production platform is ready to serve, using leading technology to be effective and efficient without forgetting creativity as the primary driver.  

LBB> You’ve worked and taught in the area of digital innovation for many years now - what are some new forces in the industry - especially in Colombia - that are driving innovation? How can creatives evolve with these changes?

Xavier> As we all talk about it, the concept of ‘innovation’ changes, in terms of industry, geography, and cultural environment. In Latin America, we have a collective social landscape. For instance, this part of the world is building more shopping malls than ever - therefore, the digital trend is how to become part of this cultural behaviour. This tells us that we will have strong growth in commerce integration.

People love to check social networks, create content, and have ice cream at the shopping mall. At the same time, we buy with a collective pathway and most of us do not see shopping as a needed process; we tend to see it as a social moment. In addition, as these markets in Latin America are price sensitive, our innovation possibilities are unique in distribution, product specifications, emotions, experiential, packaging, and brands with a clear purpose in our societies. 

Creativity solves problems. We have a lot of problems. So, we push our creative levels all the time. I guess that is why so many creative talents from this region are going worldwide.

LBB> You say that you like to work with an “entrepreneurial feel” - can you define this? How are you hoping to utilise this skill with DDB? 

Xavier> I believe in entrepreneurship even if you are in a global corp. Building, creating, and growing are always the verbs our thoughts navigate around. Rules are pathways but not walls - that is the spirit. DDB is excellent at this and the company is open to new ideas and new possibilities. We have a global view with a local action plan. I love that DDB allows you to feel the company.  

LBB> Outside of work, what do you do to decompress and what motivates you? 

Xavier> I play a lot of squash and tennis. And my teaching is a great passion that gives me focus and freshness on the job. Of course, my three kids and Miss Cristina (the CEO of my life) motivate me. And right now, I am back on the Rubik's cube, trying to solve it without help (no success so far).

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DDB Colombia, Mon, 03 Apr 2023 14:55:00 GMT