In Spain we haven’t gone completely nuts.

Issue 25 | December 2012

Or at least not as much as you might think, judging from some of the media, particularly the British and American journalists.

The financial crisis that a large part of the so-called ‘developed’ world is suffering is affecting the country I’ve been living in for the past twenty-one years particularly badly. Certainly, there are a number of things which, as a country, we could have done better. Admitting this, with a measure of self-criticism, is essential in order to resolve the situation and avoid it being repeated. However, some of the things which those of you living outside Spain have been reading recently about what is happening in the country are not, to put it kindly, the whole truth. 

The already sadly well-known photograph published by The New York Times showing a man searching for food in a rubbish container in a Spanish city, points to an unacceptable human drama. However, it is important to bear in mind that this picture reflects an exceptional reality, and anyone travelling to the city in which the said newspaper is published knows quite well that the same image may be found around any street corner of that particular city.

The reaction to that article by hundreds of US citizens residing in Spain, who expressed, through Twitter and other social networks, their shock and disbelief at the newspaper’s horrific description of the place where they lived and worked daily, was an important reminder that all is not as it seems.

This week the Spanish National Institute of Statistics (INE) published its findings indicating that one in five Spaniards (21.7%) are living below the poverty level. This  figure points to a social emergency towards which we cannot remain passive. However, it is also important to note that at almost the same time the Federal Office of Statistics in Germany (DESTATIS) published a strikingly similar figure: 20% of Germans are living in conditions of poverty. In other words, also one in five.

In contrast to these figures, there is a revealing article written by Alan D Solomont, the US ambassador in Spain, and published on October 22 in the Spanish daily ABC:

“Spain is the fourth largest economy in the EU and the twelfth in the world…although it is experiencing a financial depression, during the last ten years its exports have increased at the same rate as Germany’s…it is a world leader in infrastructures, high-speed rail, renewable energy resources and telecommunication.Wherever I go in Spain, I see optimism and energy. I see a dynamic business sector looking for opportunities and growth, and which is capable of progressing as opportunities arise.

Spanish businesses are among the leading investors in the United States. Spanish firms are building our principal solar energy projects, and are performing some of the largest personal banking operations in the US. Spanish companies have created tens of thousands of jobs in the United States (approximately 16,000 in Dade County, Florida, alone)…As a result of the recent reforms in the labour market, when economic recovery gets under way, Spain should be in a better position to benefit from and stimulate employment and growth.

I also spend as much time as I can among young people and students. Today’s young Spaniards are the best prepared generation that this country has produced.

Obviously, I am not the best qualified person, nor is this the right medium to open a debate on ethics and information. Moreover, I imagine it is quite legitimate to assume that bad news ‘sells’ best, and that the adage ‘never let the truth spoil a great story’ is more than just a journalistic myth. However, since I have been asked to write an article of my choice, I should like to make use of these few lines to say as clearly as I can what I sincerely believe – here in Spain, we shall go on believing in ourselves. 

And why broach this subject for a publication dealing with marketing and communication?

My knowledge concerning the economy is limited to what I remember of my university days, but you don’t have to win a Nobel Prize, to understand that the key to the problem – and its solution – is linked to something as human and worldly as plain trust, and that the trust we generate, in turn, is largely the result of a better or worse performance in the act of communication.

On October 17th the Spanish risk premium fell to 383 points, 43 lower than the day before, and – for the first time in more than five months – below 400.  What do you think happened to the real Spanish economy that Wednesday? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. In reality, it was better than the previous 150 days. There wasn’t even an official announcement, or a formal request for the famous ‘light bail-out’. What happened in the course of that morning was quite simply that the rumour that Spain would be seeking a bail-out became credible. And just that – communication – changed reality in a significant way.

We have known for a long time that absolutely everything we do, and much of what we don’t, says something about ourselves. Yet I am increasingly aware of the fact that what others do to us  or – to put it another way – what we allow others to do to us, also says something about ourselves.

So whenever someone comments on a particular brand, regardless of whether it be  personal, social, corporate, or relating to a product, country, religion, and so on…, the very fact that it happens is saying something. And how that brand responds to the comments says even more about itself.

In this sense I believe that it is of vital importance – for the Spanish economy in particular and for the European in general -  to monitor and administrate in a sophisticated manner the communication of its brand or brands. Because – as this crisis is showing us – one of the consequences of financial globalization is that the perception that others have of the economy of a country has a direct and substantial impact on the welfare of the people living there.

Confronted with this enormous challenge, Spanish agencies have the opportunity to make a significant contribution towards the solution. But whether our contribution is a determining factor or a marginal one is up to us. It depends on the scale of our perspective or – to put it another way – on how we perceive our role. If we consider that our role is merely to produce advertisements, banners or mobile platforms – in other words, pieces of advertising and marketing – our contribution will be very limited.

If, on the other hand, we conceive of our role as one of exercising influence on what others are thinking and doing, then our approach changes and, from this new perspective, we should be able to contribute projects, initiatives, contents…capable of changing history.

Yet since in order to change the answers it is sometimes necessary to change the question, allow me to end by proposing a ‘briefing’. And if, as already stated, everything begins by defining “Who do you want to think or do what?”, the brief that I propose would be something like: “I want the rest of the world to recover their confidence in Spain and its ability to continue being one of the best places in the world to live, study, create, invest and work.” 

We have already started thinking, and we are not the only ones, as you can see from this video:

But we should be very grateful for contributions from any of the perspicacious minds which read Directory.

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