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