INTERNATIONAL: THE DECISION MAKERS/LUIS BASSAT - Olympic feats of the Barcelona boy turned O&M maestro/Karen Yates chats to Spain’s top advertising guru, just returned as regional chief at O&M in London

Imagine, if you can, an amalgam of Robin Wight and Charles Saatchi.

Imagine, if you can, an amalgam of Robin Wight and Charles


Throw in some John Hegarty and a friendship with Jose Carreras, sprinkle

on creative control of the Barcelona Olympics and you have some idea of

the figure Luis Bassat cuts in his home country of Spain.

Now, however, the local hero has moved to London , assuming - for the

second time - regional creative control for his network, Ogilvy &


Bassat appears much as you would expect of the Godfather of Spanish


Someone with the artistic flair of the copywriter, but the business nous

of a bloke who has run his own agency for more than 30 years. Cultured,

genial and with a ridiculous amount of fine curly hair for a man in his

fifties, Bassat is full of stories of the tough, early days in


These began in the late 50s with Bassat trying to sell televisions, then

swimming pool chemicals and books, to an uninterested population. Then

on to the 60s and a career as a salesman for a brochure company, a move

which finally led him into his grand passion - advertising.

Success with his own agency, Venditor, followed, but for the young

Bassat, recognition on his own patch was not enough. By the early 70s,

he had sold up and was on the look out for an international partner. And

after reading David Ogilvy’s Confessions of an Advertising Man, his mind

was made up. It had to be O&M.

It was, according to Bassat, one of the hardest things he’d ever done:

persuading the world’s sixth-largest advertising brand to take on a

global minnow like him. ’We don’t accept presents,’ its chairman, Jock

Elliott, condescendingly told Bassat in 1975 when he offered to sell

half of his new Spanish agency to the network.

It was a put-down, but the fledgling Bassat Associados was undaunted,

even less so its founder, who spent much of the ensuing years polishing

up his international and television advertising credentials by living

and working in New York. Five years later, he tried again, and this time

it paid off. O&M stumped up the cash for 25 per cent of the already

successful Spanish agency, and gave Bassat a seat on the worldwide board

into the bargain.

Nine years later, he became the creative head for Europe, a

responsibility he reluctantly had to relinquish soon after, because the

mayor of Barcelona invited to help run the prestigious opening and

closing ceremonies of the Olympic games. It was a fascinating

experience, he says, during which he met some of Europe’s cultural

elite, including the tenor, Carreras, and the composer, Andrew Lloyd


This year, however, he is again taking a regional role in O&M, as

co-chairman of Europe, the Middle East and Africa, a job he shares with

London’s Mike Walsh.

At this point, it is worth asking why O&M needs yet another

international guru. Surely the network is already stacked with them? The

answer comes promptly. The network’s clients, notably Ford, are

continually restructuring in the direction of global markets away from

the US, and O&M needs to do the same. ’I see my role as the leader of

the factory, making sure everything that leaves it is up to scratch. My

first priority is my creative directors. If they are happy, the client

will be happy,’ he adds benignly.

So, has the master of Spain’s most creative (according to the Ballaster

report) and second-largest (by billings) agency got any tips for the

ordinary mortal? ’Do the best work,’ he says, ’then you will get the

best people, who will bring in the best clients.

’The secret of success is never to search for clients,’ Bassat


’Look after your own customers and be like a doctor - wait for



1958 Began life as a salesman to finance his way through Barcelona


1965 Started up his own agency, Venditor

1973 Sold Venditor with the aim of becoming more international

Identified O&M as preferred network partner

1975 Started up Bassat Associados in Barcelona. Offered half to O&M - a

deal rejected by its chairman

1980 O&M takes 25 per cent stake in Bassat Associados

1992 His company, Ovideo Bassat, is co-organiser of the much-acclaimed

opening and closing ceremony of Barcelona’s Olympics

1997 Becomes creative director and co-chairman of O&M Europe, Africa and

Middle East.