You are originally a doctor of law, is that right?Yes, but I never actually practiced law. I started working in advertising when I was 17, and now I’ve been working in advertising for 30 years. I was CEO of Saatchi and Saatchi España for 7 years. Before that I was CEO of Ogilvy & Mather Roma for 3 years, so it’s been a long career! For years I’ve been travelling all week from one place to another. I loved ads, I loved being so international; I loved it… til the day it was simply too much and I stopped.
Was it the job at Saatchi and Saatchi that initially brought you to Madrid?
No. I came to Madrid in ´88 to work. When I came back later it was because of an offer that I received from Saatchi and Saatchi in 1999. Then in 2006 I went to a think tank specializing in new technology and innovation called Infonomía.
I always loved technology and the internet and I saw a total incapability from the other advertising agencies in those days to understand the disruptive potential of the digital environment for them. Instead, at Infonomía they understood internet from the very first day, when people didn’t even know what it was.
We’ve been collaborating for the last 6 years and we’re writing a book now.We don’t know what the title will be yet, but it will speak about the big ideas that we think will influence life and management in the next 10 years.
What else are you involved in?
I volunteer for United World Colleges. It’s a network of schools that teach children an education based on pacifism, problem-solving, team spirit, and solidarity. What I do for them is to teach the children to present their project in front of an audience in 3 minutes.
I’m also involved in Ashoka. It’s an American foundation that was founded in Washington more than 30 years ago. We look for social entrepreneurs; people who act like entrepreneurs, but their final objective is not money, it’s improving social problems. We find them, we adopt them, we nominate them fellows and we help them develop their innovations.
Ashoka fellows are people who do something in an innovative way on a large scale. Maybe there is a teacher who is doing a fantastic job in one classroom; fantastic, but he’s not an Ashoka fellow. An Ashoka fellow has an innovation that can transform the lives of 30,000 teachers. This is what we are looking for and it’s not easy to find people like this.
How did you get involved in TED and TEDxMadrid?
I went to see the main TED event in California, and I started to feel the magic of the environment, the ideas, the kind of people. When they opened the system of local licenses, I knew some American students studying here who applied for a license for TEDxMadrid and they received it. I started to collaborate with them and then they went back to the United States and I continued the work.
Now I’m doing TEDxMadrid, 15th September in the Matadero.
We also do an event for young people where everyone on the stage is less than 18 years old and that’s TEDxYouth@Madrid on 18th November.
How do you choose the participants for TEDxYouth@Madrid?
We work with a lot of schools who nominate people. Also there is a feature on the website where young people can nominate themselves. On the day it’s a mixture between those we have found and those from the general public.
The youngest participant was just 13. Actually, her 14th birthday was the day of the event, so the audience sang “Happy Birthday” to her! It was an unforgettable moment.
I know that your passion is looking into innovation and technology and using it to help solve social problems. What kind of uses of technology have you seen that could help with the current crisis?
For me the big potential here is how technology can put people in contact; if I have something that I don’t need, and you need something that I don’t need any more. This is very important. Collaborative consumption would not be possible without technology. Solutions of energy will come from technology. The connection between the scientist who has the solution and the company who has the money to employ the solution would not be possible without technology. I believe that technology and the internet will be an essential part of a better education, of a better civilization, of much more information of much more responsibility, and many, many more solutions.
What about the future? Where do you see innovation coming from in Spain?
I expect more innovation than ever in fact. Of course there have been these public cuts, in many things. Still, moments of needs and difficulties like this normally develop searches for solutions. When you’re well-fed and you’re fine and everything’s fantastic , you are not really going to question anything. I really think that this is a super opportunity for us as a country.
At the moment I see a civic organization of people, THE people. They have never been so active! I’m not talking about protests. I’m talking about new initiatives, new economic initiatives, new start ups; groups of one or two people that create companies. I expect a new wave of different things and new companies.
I don’t know where we’ll be in 10 years, but I expect that a lot of good things will come out of this dark moment.
Originally from Wales, I’ve been living here for 3 years, teaching English, enjoying life in the city and eating too many croquetas. I also write fiction and comedy.