Risto Mejide (Barcelona, 1973) needs no introduction. He’s an advertising executive and TV presenter. He founded his advertising agency Aftershare.tv at the outbreak of the financial crisis and, 10 years later, it now has around 100 employees spread between Barcelona, Madrid, and Valencia. We talk to the advertising exec Risto, the TV Risto, and the more personal Risto. He’s bound to get you talking.
What kind of advertising is being done in Spain today?
The same advertising that’s always been done: The kind that appeals to consumers’ feelings and emotions. Trying to connect with the experiences of each one and generate empathy toward a brand. The forms have changed, but not the content.
Is there talent?
There’s a lot of talent in Spain. There’s so much talent that sometimes it gets away from us. I always say we’re at a very good time for talent because never before in the history of humankind has it been so cheap to reach so many people. Today, a kid with ADSL and a computer at home can stun the world. That’s never happened before.
How have things changed since 2007 [the year Aftershare.tv was founded with Marc Ros]? You started just as the financial crisis did…
Right, we set up the agency in the middle of a crisis and that puts you in a special frame of mind, because we’ve always existed in a complicated context: with no abundance and lots of difficulties. There’s no waste and every client who walks in the door is king. We make them feel special and unique.
It seems like one of the trends of recent years is branded content, and in 2011 you guys organized the first branded content forum… How has the content changed in the past seven years?
We have worn out the word content. We create content and tools. If it doesn’t interest me it’s not useful to me, and if it’s not useful to me it doesn’t interest me. What we do at the agency is help our clients think.
You’ve always said that a brand belongs to consumers. Don’t you think that brands can lose identity that way?
The exact opposite! Your identity comes from whoever recognizes it. If you say you have a brand, but no one recognizes that status, you’re alone in the universe. Brands gain legitimacy as more people recognize them.
What is the value of a good idea?
Ideas aren’t worth anything; what matters is the execution of that idea.
Can you work on creativity?
Definitely. Creativity is an attitude that must be taught, worked on, and encouraged starting from when we are little. To me, creativity is looking where everyone is looking and seeing what no one else sees. We can all be creative with something, and the hard part is discovering it in time.
Can you be successful in advertising without being creative?
Without being creative at all, no. Without being the most creative, I’m definitely an example.
Does the TV personality help sell ideas to the brands? Do you think it’s helped you?
I don’t think any brand has come to my agency because I’m on TV. What’s more, today, I’m the most expendable part of my agency.
Do you think a profile like yours on any talent show helps motivate contestants?
There will be a bit of everything, but I’m not as interested in motivating the contestants as I am the viewers.
How did the idea of your “negative” role in the competitions come about?
There is no idea before the execution. Often, it’s the other way around. There was no plan ahead of time. I didn’t like [music talent show] Operación Triunfo and I said that to the producers, but that’s why they hired me. One of the things that makes me feel proudest is that no one has put words in my mouth. Everything I’ve said, for better or worse, is what I was thinking.
Are we used to people telling us what they think of us without beating around the bush?
Honesty is a rare commodity. Here it normally comes late, once you’ve already gone. What’s most shocking is to see someone who’s honest to your face and see them on TV. Obviously I don’t go through life like that because otherwise I wouldn’t have any friends, or a partner, or loved ones.
Do you think talent shows will survive the boom of streaming network series (Netflix, HBO, etc.)?
They’re very different offers and they can coexist wonderfully. Talent shows are a very different genre to fiction.
They aren’t all talent shows. Chester [a journalistic interview show] works. What’s the secret to a good interview?
I try to listen and I’m learning to listen. At 43, I’ve realized that I don’t listen enough.
Does the criticism affect you?
It depends. The useful criticism affects me. I don’t believe in constructive and destructive criticism. There is useful and useless criticism. A flattering comment can also be useless.
Do you use the useful criticism?
Definitely. I’m grateful for it.
What’s the Risto Mejide like who’s not on TV?
Not very interesting. The Risto who’s not on TV isn’t of interest.
Did you ever imagine you’d have the journey that you’ve had in TV?
No, I never imagined anything. I haven’t had any calling; I’ve been just going along with whatever came my way. Running your life well sometimes means going with the flow and sometimes managing it.
You’re a public figure; you’re always in the public eye. How do you manage it?
I don’t think about it. I do what I do with the best of intentions.
What’s your relationship like with the world of wine?
Very intense. It’s one of life’s pleasures. I have a personal trainer and when we started I told him there were two things I couldn’t get rid of in my life: wine and chocolate. He didn’t manage it. (Laughs).
A little taste
Best time for having a glass of wine.
A song to enjoy wine to.
Somewhere you’d get lost.
What do you do in your free time?
I can’t think of any.
What did you want to be when you were little?
And when you were older?
I want to be alive, not like Prince.