Barcelona Cultura

A talk with Lluís Bassat about the post-advertising era

On 22nd January, advertising expert Lluís Bassat gave a masterclass, "The brands and their communication", at the Museum of Design. During his speech we learnt some of the keys to advertising, but if you’d like to know a little bit more about his way of understanding communications, we recommend you have a look at this interview:

In a context of post-truth and fake news… advertising as we used to know it has generated a certain discrediting/rejection. How do you predict the immediate future of advertisements? What can we understand by post-advertising?

Advertising will continue to be indispensable when it comes to making products and brands public, there’s no doubt about that. Moreover, unlike fake contents, advertising is regulated by ethical codes. Therefore, I think it’s safer to believe in what an advertisement says rather than what is said on social media, where there’s an abundance of people’s opinions that are often based on fake truths.

¿To what degree is or will the future of advertising be in the hands of big platforms (Facebook or Google) and not so much in the hands of the publicists?

To me, advertisement is the software and big platforms are the hardware. Platforms are media, but the publicist is the one that defines the message. And that makes him indispensable. He is the one who really thinks, creates the advertisements and understands what the client really needs. But it’s true that the figure of the publicist is nothing without TV, radio etc… that is to say, without the media with which he can spread his message. And neither can he live without the Internet nowadays, that has become the new big media.

What has been the greatest change in advertising over the last years?

The Internet, without a shadow of a doubt. In fact, the future of advertising goes through the Internet. For that reason, I would recommend everyone to learn how it works, because it’s the key to all new media. Its appearance has been as important as that of television back in its day, and it’s very important for us to be able to adapt to it.

Do you think the Internet is or can be a threat for traditional media?

No, on the contrary. I think it’s a media that is revolutionizing advertising and communication in general, as television did back in its day, but it won’t make traditional media disappear.

Recently, a shaving brand has generated certain controversy with a campaign that expects to change the perception of the masculine role. Do you believe in Brand activism?

Needless to say, advertising is a tool for social transformation, and that needs to be taken advantage of. But what this ad has done is nothing new. In fact, I myself did campaigns for Prenatal where we decided that, for instance and for the first time in history, the father would be the one feeding the bottle to the baby. We broke moulds, changed attitudes, and the campaign was a boom because in that moment it was unthinkable that the father could feed the bottle to the kids instead of the mother. We bet for a role change and that, both mothers and fathers, understood perfectly. In fact, I would say that from that moment on the father has become more responsible of paternity. I remember the slogan still today, “Mom has carried it inside for nine months, now it’s your turn, dad”. That is nothing more than an example of how advertisement can mould social behaviours. I think it’s one of the best campaigns I’ve done in my life.

As a great connoisseur of the Barcelona brand and with place branding booming, what do you think Barcelona should project as a brand? 

Brands are always built based on products. To improve the Barcelona brand, we first need to improve its product. We need to think that the Barcelona brand was born because the city became a product. An excellent product, actually. Since the 92 Olympics it was cleansed, it opened up to the sea, new hotels were created, new museums… Barcelona started to vibe in another way. It went from being an industrial city to a city that was open to the world. But I would say that the Barcelona product has diminished over the last few years. In a way, we could say that its rhythm has been held back. Because of that, before thinking about how can we sell the Barcelona brand, we need to improve it as a product.  

What’s the main change that Barcelona as a product should do to sell better as a brand?

Barcelona needs to improve many aspects in order to become that excellent product again. An excellent product for those who live and those who work in Barcelona, but also for those who visit it as well. Once this has improved, then we can go back to promoting the city brand. In terms of what should be improved first, we could start with transport, cleanliness and pedestrian zones. The city needs to bring itself up-to-date in terms of many things. Although we’re lucky that Barcelona is still one of the best brands in the world, we shouldn’t forget that we need to work on the product in order that it can continue to be so. To keep maintaining the image of a city that makes people want to visit or live there.

 

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