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O Magazine

At the time it seemed like a good idea.
Chronicle of an Asturian Editor in London .

by Pipo Virgós

Chapter 7

Sometimes, after a rather grey period, a given event will turn a light on, making the future seem a lot brighter, and then I’ll go out into the street with a stupid smile on my face, like that old Club Med ad.

An example taken from football (everything in this life can be explained through football) is the Iniestazo, the Stamford Bridge one. After several seasons to forget, Barcelona supporters were in heaven that same second, and when the ball reached the net we all knew that a marvellous future was around the corner, that winning everything that was to be won would be a piece of cake from then on. Its effect was so devastating and immediate that I fell on my knees and when I opened my eyes I already had a half-naked woman in front of me (bingo!). I had screamed so much that I had managed to make my girlfriend get out of the shower. Although when she realised what was going on, she gave me the same patronising look that Frodo used with Gollum and headed back to the bathroom.

Back from the Dead.

At the time it seemed like a good idea. – O Production Company

This inflection points can also affect a whole collective. For example, here in London, when clocks change for British summer time, when we seem to leave several dark months behind, literally, in one day, life seems more luminous and you can see the city being re-born alongside with spring. For a while there’s a different kind of energy coming from every person.

And that’s what I think the fellow members of my trade experienced during the last San Sebastian festival, no longer called El Sol, but Día C. Here’s a brief summary for non-advertising people: for a long time, San Sebastian held a publicity festival called El Sol, until a few years back, in 2012, it moved to Bilbao. At the same time, another publicity event, Día C, went on a pilgrimage around different (and wonderful) cities such as Barcelona, Madrid, Sitges, Zaragoza, Valladolid or Pamplona, looking for a definitive place. And this year the organisers thought it would be a good idea taking it to San Sebastian.

What happens during these meetings is more or less the same in both cases. There’s a series of conferences given by certain mandarins to nourish the spirit and justify the excess; the year’s work is reviewed; some awards are given, to the joy of some and the disappointment of others; and after all that, everyone celebrates with huge T-bone steaks and drinks, until we all end up kissing and hugging each other. I guess nothing too different from what happens in an ophthalmology congress. It’s true that in order to do all this, settings aren’t very important, but then tell me why exactly do ophthalmologists have to go to Cancun to talk about corneas? Places have a certain energy, which each person applies in a different way, but energy after all, particularly to those who belong to them. No one is immune to his/her city or village, usually in a positive way. Walking the streets by memory, going back to the bars you know, seeing your friends: all that has an effervescent effect. And the Spanish ad industry belongs to San Sebastian. Rilke wrote that our true home is childhood. And mine, and that of many of my colleagues, is in a city which held the festival for the first time in 1987 and welcomed us for twenty-five more years.

Independently of how beautiful this city is, of how well you can eat here and how bad the weather is, something of all those agency dinners at Portuetxe, of the drinks at the Dickens, of all the car trips overhearing rumours about award winners, of the first prize I was awarded, of the year I skipped the ceremony to go to a Pearl Jam concert and ended up with one of the worst hangovers ever, something of all that has stayed with me. Also of the years I worked in Madrid and our ex-Barcelona colleagues sang to us: “Pipo, Paco, Figo, sois unos vendidos” [Pipo, Paco, Figo, you’ve sold your souls!], but in exchange I discovered the Landa half way and the Museum of Whisky a hundred metres from the Dickens. Of the year of Rubiño 3L or of ‘Mamá oso’, when a colleague from the agency decided to walk along the shore from the Bataplán to the hotel, located in the Ondarreta area, only months after the Prestige had spilled tons of petrol in the Cantabrian sea. He was so out of his head that he didn’t realise until it was too late that he had inserted his feet in a pool of chapapote and he left such clear-cut black naked footprints that we could all follow him from the end of the beach of La Concha through the tunnel, the street, the hotel’s hall, the lift and the carpeted floor up to his room door, for his room mate’s concern.

I even remember fondly the time my Seat Ibiza decided, half way to San Sebastian, that it would die should it go any lower than 2,000 revolutions, so we had to drive through the whole city turning over at any green light, no matter where the streets took us, and then undertaking a very complicated operation, when there was no choice but to stop, consisting in the co-pilot using the handbrake while the driver kept the car revving by keeping the foot on the gas (it was worth it just to see ladies holding their purses tight and crossing the roads in a hurry!), until at the end we managed to end up at the garage of the Kursaal, from where my car never emerged again, ever. 

All these are personal memories, and each will have their own, but they are also publicity memories we should better keep in mind; of the times when Spanish creativity was second only behind the Anglo-Saxons. I’m not one of those people who like to look back too much, but I do think that in order to know where you’re going you need to know where you come from. And of course I believe in states of mind and in any energy that helps creating positive dynamics. And, beyond any awards or La Cuchara de San Telmo, the sole return to San Sebastian put that stupid smile on all of our faces.

Bill Bryson used to say that there are three impossible things in life: battling your phone company and winning; being seen by a waiter if he doesn’t want to see you, and going back home. But we’ve done it: we’re back! Thanks board, thanks Guille. We’re back from the dead.