The DDB Spain ECD talks imaginary friends, the importance of engaging with societal issues and putting people first
Executive creative director at DDB Madrid Nerea Cierco keeps herself busy. As part of the daily jury of the FWA (Favourite Website Awards), she’s constantly evaluating creative digital design. She also teaches creativity at the Miami Ad School and at Conde Nast College.
She’s passionate about making advertising better for the people who make it and one of the many ways she does this is through her heavy involvement with Spanish advertising feminist group Más Mujeres Creativas. In 2017, she was selected with 11 other rising talents from DDB Worldwide to be part of the Phyllis Project, a new global creative initiative that is committed to increase the number of female creative leaders in the network.
Ofcourse her day job keeps her busy too, overseeing creative work at one of Spain’s premier ad agencies.
LBB’s Alex Reeves caught up with Nerea.
LBB> Where did you grow up and what kind of kid were you?
Nerea> I was born in Barcelona, but I grew up in a small city close to it called Granollers, and at the age of 12 we moved to La Garriga, a small village. I’m the youngest of three sisters: Laura is nine years older than me, and Teresa is 12 years older. Maybe because of this, I used to play by myself and became an early lover of reading and writing. My dad was a tennis player in his spare time (he is actually 74 years old and still plays!), and I started playing tennis when I was a child. Nowadays, I don’t play tennis, but I love sport and every day I try to practice it - I can’t live without it. My mum loved painting, she has a deeper inner life, which is something I get from her; I had an imaginary friend for two or three years.
LBB> You started in digital, passed through media and then ended up in a creative agency. What has that career path done for the way you approach advertising?
Nerea> I’m very curious and I love learning new things. My background allows me to think about my work from a holistic point of view. Advertising is just a part of a big chain that involves the product, customer experience, distribution, branding, channel planning... and creativity is everywhere. That belief multiplies the opportunities of having good, different and effective ideas. I love connecting brands to people, sometimes through an ad, sometimes through a product, even through an experience, and always having people in mind first.
LBB> How does the wider Latin world and your DDB Latina network influence the work you do in Spain? And vice versa?
Nerea> Spanish creativity is a mix of two cultures: the Latin and the European one. This makes us unique. We are European but we have the spark, the passion and the Latin warmth. We are a hinge between the two worlds because we belong to both of them. We attract talent from the two sides and that enriches us. We connect cultures, creating a new one.
The DDB Latina network influences our work in Spain in several ways. First of all, we share some clients and work together for them: we create “hot houses” in different countries for different projects. That is a unique experience where we learn lots of cultural things. Also, as part of the Latin Board, three times a year the creative leaders come together to share feelings and ideas about what’s going on and collaborate in order to have the best creative work possible.
LBB> What state do you think Spanish creativity is in right now, generally? Where is it strong and where does it need to do better?
Nerea> From my point of view, Spanish creativity is strong and healthy. If we have a look at the recent Cannes Lions report, we find our country in a good position. From a Latin point of view, we are the second most awarded country following Brazil (the third most awarded country in the world). From a European point of view, we’re fourth, and we maintain the seventh position in the world. If we have a look at annual advertising investment in Spain, the curve is still increasing. It’s not slowing down, but there is still a lot of work to do. We need to be braver and more progressive, and we need to make an effort to connect our brands with the new generations of consumers through culture. We need more brands with purpose. We need to take a part in societal issues, is the only way to connect for real with people. And it’s not easy, but we need to do it to remain relevant.
LBB> Earlier this year you launched DDB Concilia to ensure the agency is a comfortable place to work. Can you explain how it works and what you've learned so far?
Nerea> DDB Concilia was borne from listening to people at DDB. We know our most valuable asset is people, and we want them to be proud and happy. From the freedom and the light is where the good things happen. So, we listened to them and we summed up a series of measures and created DDB Concilia. DDB Concilia is about having the freedom of teleworking when you’re not able to come to the office; it’s about helping our people have a healthy life; it’s about running and playing football. It is also about taking time for what is important for you - that’s why people have a holiday on their birthday. DDB Concilia is about pride, future and consciousness, so we’re running a sustainable program. It’s also about taking advantage of being a DDB worker; thanks to our clients, we have special offers for our workers.
DDB Concilia has just started, but my commitment is to transform this mindset into the culture of the agency: people first.
LBB> You're heavily involved with Más Mujeres Creativas. What progress have you been proud to make for equality through that? And what are your biggest aims with it?
Nerea> I’m an active supporter and proudly committed to the next generations of talent. With Más Mujeres Creativas we ran the #MasMusCoach with the idea in mind of putting together past and present generations. Experience is key to empower new generations and help them to avoid past mistakes and give them a good mindset. Thanks to all the women involved in Más Mujeres Creativas, we’ve built a strong female community in our industry, and I’m very proud of being part of it.
LBB> What lesson or piece of advice do you wish you'd had earlier in your career?
Nerea> From my point of view, every moment is different and different advice applies. A good piece of advice now wouldn’t have worked in the past. Having this in mind, I’m going to share my two mantras of life. The first one is nothing is that important, and the second one is if it doesn’t flow, it doesn’t work.
LBB> Which recent projects are you most proud of?
Nerea> Wow. I’m trying to feel pride in everything I work on but… our last project for BBVA has been probably the biggest challenge in my entire career. Relaunching the image of the bank and launching it through a worldwide campaign, the first global one for the brand was not only a complex work because of the global dimension of the project, but also an enriching process. It was a worldwide change so we decided to work with teams from different parts of the world. I learned from every single point of view, and we had to compromise in order to build something global. That’s not easy because what you’re doing needs to work in very different realities. The way we worked with our client wasn’t common either, as our client was part of the creative team and we learned to work and interact in a very different way. It’s been a great lesson for me. I’m happy and lucky to have had such a huge communication challenge that taught me so much.
LBB> Who are your creative heroes and why?
Nerea> My creative heroes are all my colleagues and teams. I admire them all, especially my partners Alfredo and Dani and my boss Jose Maria Roca de Vinyals. I admire their attitude, their magic, their talent, their capability to surprise, and their respect, love and care for this industry. I’m a better creative and person thanks to all of them.
LBB> What are your main aims and ambitions for DDB Spain in the coming months and years?
Nerea> Society is changing fast. The next generations, our future talent, have other needs and another vision of life and work. Therefore, if we want the best talent performing their best, we need to focus on them and the process. That’s my ambition: to be a sexy agency for the new generations. How to be the best place to work, learn, and stay and continue to grow.
On the other hand, our industry is also changing fast. I’m very focused on maintaining useful and value creativity in the heart of everything we do.
LBB> What do you draw creative energy from? Any obsessions outside of your job?
Nerea> I have three main obsessions: human beings, sport and Bali.
Sport has always been my obsession. Since I was a child, I’ve practiced it and it’s been a constant for me in every moment of my life.
I’m also very focused on meditation and trying to understand how our inner being works in a crazy world like this one; that means a lot of reading, observation and self-observation.
Last, but not least, comes Bali. The island of gods has been my favourite obsession since I got to know it four years ago. I cross the world every year to stay, breathe and live there. Its impact on me is magical. It’s, without a doubt, my favorite place in the world.