The World: Insider's View - Spain

Campaigns that are really hitting home in Spain seem to share a common element: using the power of online to drum up collective euphoria, Carlos Alija writes.

I'd like to talk about some of the events that have grabbed the Spanish media's attention in the past few months. And I don't mean any serious issues, but those phenomena that achieve great social awareness via word of mouth and the internet.

Like El Chiki-Chiki, which started as a joke in a late-night TV show: an absurd character in cheesy clothes enters the national contest to represent Spain in the Eurovision Song Contest. For the first time, viewers got to vote for their favourite singer via the internet. The result: Rodolfo wins by a landslide, with a surreal song called El Chiki-Chiki. Millions of fans proclaim him the new Spanish "ambassador".

At the last Latin American summit in Chile, the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez, in his gangly and bullish manner, kept interrupting the speakers. Suddenly, and leaving aside all respect for protocol, the King of Spain, Juan Carlos, tells him in a loud voice: "Why don't you just shut up?" The king's gutsy and authoritative outburst soon becomes one of the Spaniard's most repeated and mimicked lines.

Spanish political advertising has historically been dull and much too serious. This year, however, in a very tight contest, the government's ruling party took it one step further by introducing a more witty and ironic language, leveraging the internet to involve voters in the campaign.

For a few months, media attention focused on the weekly viral videos that PSOE uploaded to the internet. Its rival, PP, was not behind for long, though, and a "video war" was declared. This made this campaign the most interesting to watch in history by far. PSOE and creativity won.

Next, Spain wins at Euro 2008 and the country has a new football hero: Iker Casillas. The national squad's goalkeeper saved two penalties and led the team to the final victory.

Amid collective euphoria, the leading local beer brand, Mahou, begins a campaign to have a street in Madrid named "Calle de la madre que pario a Casillas" ("the mother who gave birth to Casillas Street"), after Casillas' mother - a truly hard-to-translate expression (although in Spain, to praise someone's mother is the biggest compliment).

In just a few days, tens of thousands of people had signed up via an online petition to support the idea. Casillas' mother turns into a national symbol for having given birth to such a hero.

The latter two phenomena were conceived in an agency, a fact that demonstrates how extremely capable of connecting with the public feelings the Spanish ad industry has become.

What's more, none of these ideas would be well understood or favourably judged by a Cannes jury. It's a fate that has befallen too many of the best Spanish advertising campaigns in the past few years.

- Carlos Alija is the creative director of SRA Rushmore in Madrid.

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