NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- As more international business goes to ad agencies that aren't global networks, Spain is entering the battle for budgets.
After watching an agency such as Santo win global assignments despite being from far-away Buenos Aires, 15 of Spain's ad agencies, four associations and the Spanish government's trade arm banded together to sponsor an event in New York on Oct. 13 to display the country's best work. Under the name COME 09, the group presented 10 case studies to about 100 people from the advertising industry.
"It's a first step to building the reputation for Spanish creativity," said Ignasi Puig, a partner at Spanish agency SCPF, partly owned by WPP. "That will help all of us develop our business in the U.S."
SCPF, for instance, is renowned for its work in Spain for BMW and Ikea, but hasn't won those clients in other markets such as the U.S., where it opened a U.S. Hispanic agency in Miami several years ago.
Other case studies included Spanish agency Sra. Rushmore's re-positioning of Coca-Cola's Aquarius from an isotonic sports beverage to a soft drink, and Shackleton's work for a new checking account at Caja Madrid that brought in 20,000 new customers and deposits totaling more than $6.5 billion.
"Our goal is, if you ask people where interesting work is coming from, Spain is among the top five," said Pablo Alzugaray, Shackleton's CEO.
A few Spanish agencies such as Sra. Rushmore, in which WPP will increase its stake to majority ownership next year, are already active in international pitches. Miguel Garcia Vizcaino, the agency's executive creative director, said Sra. Rushmore beat Santo in a pitch for a Coca-Cola's Powerade campaign for Latin America and bested Ogilvy Buenos Aires for a Coke campaign in Europe, Latin America and Asia. Roberto Lara, Sra. Rushmore's president, said the agency is currently involved in three global pitches.
"The problem Spaniards have is we don't sell ourselves well," Mr. Lara said. "And we don't travel."
That's in contrast to Argentines, who come from a smaller country subject to frequent economic and political upheaval, and have learned to export themselves and their creative ideas with ease (Shackleton's Mr. Alzagaray, the force behind COME 09, admitted that he's actually from Argentina).
Although the goal was to introduce Spain's creative talent to U.S. and international decision-makers on the client side, the audience seemed to be primarily Spanish speakers.
The few international clients who did attend appeared to be impressed.
"I thought the case studies were absolutely beautiful, and very strategic," said Chris Lydon Omark, global creative director, strategy and creative excellence at Coca-Cola. "You're looking for creative talent anywhere in the world."
Spain has an identity crisis in areas other than advertising. The country produces excellent olive oil and ham, for instance, but both products are more readily identified with Italy.
A Spanish think tank, Marketing Hispano Internacional, is tackling that issue. "We're helping different companies enter the U.S. market," said Filiberto Fernandez, a member of the think tank. "From olive oil to jamon serrano and ad agencies, there are image issues, and you have to change that."
The presentation ended with a cooking demonstration by Jose Andres, a Spanish chef with a PBS series and a group of restaurants in Washington that include Minibar, which has only six seats and serves just 12 diners daily. Mr. Andres, wearing jeans, a sweatshirt and sneakers with orange shoelaces, explained how he has made sherry, a tough sell to Americans, popular by using it to make mojitos. His bizarrely creative mojito recipe calls for pouring the drink from a cocktail shaker over cotton candy. Alternatively, he adds a cartridge of carbon dioxide for a carbonated mojito.