Their wide variety of ad styles and the freshness of their creative have made Casadevall Pedreno & PRG Advertising Age's International Agency of the Year for 1993.
"One of [our] objectives is not to have a specific [agency] style, but to use the style that complements the campaign," says Luis Casadevall, 43, the agency's president, creative director and-often-copywriter.
The agency's ideas work despite often keeping viewers guessing until the last frame about what product is being sold.
In one spot, naked men and women, their backs rigid and hair severely pulled back, ride grimly two-by-two up a gray escalator and out of sight. Soon, they reappear on a down escalator next to the first. Seen from the front, they are now wearing chic clothes, hair down, relaxed.
"Come and get dressed, come to Galerias [department store]," the voice-over says.
Another commercial features a young couple kissing passionately next to train tracks at a station as a train pulls in. When the train departs, the kissing goes on ... and on ... as several more trains come and go. A voice-over replaces the romantic music: "There are trains that come by only once in your life. Ours pass every five minutes."
The two spots, one for a department store and the other for Renfe commuter trains, evoke completely different moods. One is cool, modern, highly visual; the other warm, romantic.
If anything defines the independent Spanish shop's style, it's simplicity in presenting a single idea.
In a campaign for San Miguel beer, for example, a spot dwells on a warmly lit English country pub pictured from outside as the stately "Greensleeves" plays. A San Miguel truck arrives and beer is poured from bottle to glass. As the truck pulls away, "Greensleeves" plays again-in a rumba version. The final slogan: "Wherever it goes, it's a winner."
In a beer market that went down 8% last year, San Miguel's sales went up 1.7%, notes Mr. Pedre¤o, 49, the agency's managing director and head of strategic planning.
Although just three years old, the agency reported gross income of $8.5 million on billings of $75.5 million last year.
The agency is really Casadevall Pedreno II. The Catalan duo met 18 years ago when Mr. Casadevall served briefly as creative director of Unitros, the Barcelona agency where Mr. Pedreno was director of accounts and marketing.
In 1977, they founded RCP with a third partner, Ernesto Rilova. Twelve years later, they sold RCP, which had grown to one of the country's top 10 agencies, to Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising. But, in 1989, frustrated at Saatchi's insistence on dropping the RCP name and emphasizing the agency's office in Madrid, where most multinational clients are based, both men quit.
During two years of exile from the ad industry, due to a non-compete clause, the two men spent more time with their families-Mr. Pedre¤o has two children and Mr. Casadevall three-and worked on other kinds of projects, including writing the scripts for the opening and closing ceremonies at the 1992 Summer Olympic Games in Barcelona.
They opened Casadevall Pedreno in 1991 with eight staffers. In 1992, the agency took off as it won the Grand Prix at the International Advertising Film Festival in Cannes for a controversial spot for Talens rubber cement. It picked up five other Lions at Cannes that year and seven Lions last year.
Last year, Casadevall Pedreno won the most prizes, including the top award, at Spain's prestigious Advertising Festival of San Sebastian.
By last year, the staff had grown to about 50, including three Mr. Casadevall calls "the best creative directors in the country"-Xavier Garcia, Angel Sanchez and Jose Maria Pujol.
Advertisers love the agency. Two years ago, a poll of 500 advertisers by a consultancy ranked Casadevall Pedre¤o the No.1 agency at "effective creativity," or advertising that works.
"We consider ourselves very lucky to work with them, for their creative level and their professionalism," says Fernando Vaquer, marketing director of Sara Lee Corp.'s Cruz Verde-Legrain.
The health & beauty aids marketer started working with Messrs. Casadevall and Pedreno about 15 years ago, at RCP. During the two years they couldn't work in advertising, Cruz Verde refused to switch to another agency.
"We waited," Mr. Vaquer says.
The creative Mr. Casadevall and strategic-thinking Mr. Pedre¤o try to synthesize a client's product message into one, workable idea. When Cruz Verde last year asked them to differentiate its new shampoo, Sanex, from other brands, they came up with a spot for the $4.3 million introduction featuring a completely bald woman to emphasize that one of Sanex's benefits is a healthy scalp.
In two months, the shampoo snagged a 1.6% market share, Mr. Vaquer says.
One incident sums up the agency. Galerias department stores wanted Casadevall Pedre¤o to repitch in a review last year, following a change in ownership, but the shop refused. When word got around that Casadevall Pedre¤o was free to take another department store, the ad director of the rival Corte Ingles chain quickly called and offered the agency a four-year contract.
Spain's fifth-largest advertiser at $88 million, Corte Ingles spends four times as much as Galerias.
In February, Casadevall Pedreno won its first major international account, the $28.6 million Iberia Airlines business, setting a possible pattern for future international growth.
Originally, Iberia planned to pick three agencies, but after a review that started with 25 shops, the airline chose Casadevall Pedre¤o to handle the Spanish account and all international creative, with Grey Advertising doing media buying and other support services requiring a network outside Spain.
For Messrs. Casadevall and Pedreno, determined after their experience with Saatchi to never again sell a majority stake in their business, finding ways to compete for multinational business is important for continued growth. They opened an office last year in Madrid, but will keep all creative work in Barcelona.
"It's very important to guarantee the Casadevall Pedre¤o product and it's difficult to supervise long-distance," Mr. Pedre¤o says.
The agency knows how to grab attention. When the newspaper El Pa¡s added a special Sunday supplement consisting of chapters of the biology-oriented "Illustrated Encyclopedia of Living Creatures," the Casadevall Pedreno-created commercials focused on men and women walking as the camera zeroed in on the men's crotches and the women's breasts, explaining that testicles or breasts would be featured in the encyclopedia.
The ads stirred debate all the while briefly boosting El Pais' Sunday circulation from 875,000 to 1.3 million.
"It's not gratuitous; it's based on the values of the product," Mr. Pedreno says in defending the ads, adding frankly, "for an encyclopedia it's hard to do something interesting."
The agency's most notorious ad was the Talens rubber cement spot that won the Grand Prix at Cannes two years ago.
The beautifully done commercial featured a group of nuns at a convent discovering that the penis had fallen off a naked male stone statue and Talens is used to glue it back on.
Rumors were rife the spot was made only to win awards, that it never ran in the media and, even, that the product didn't really exist.
Messrs. Casadevall and Pedreno react good humoredly, producing a partly used tube of the rubber cement.
"It was a very concrete product; an image campaign, not a hard sales campaign," and it ran in movie theaters, Mr. Casadevall says.
"What we both like most is [doing] the work, at a creative or strategic level," Mr. Pedre¤o says. "We don't ever want to lose that."