José Mollá On The Spot

José Mollá, founder and creative director of La Comunidad, was born into advertising. His grandfather opened one of Buenos Aires, Argentina’s first agencies in 1929, and his father, Rudy, still runs one there. Before joining the business, Mollá travelled Europe, where he had a stint as a sailing coach in Spain. Back home, he worked at Ratto/BBDO as a writer and creative director, then Wieden + Kennedy in Portland, Amsterdam and London on work for Nike. In December 2000, he opened La Comunidad in Buenos Aires with his brother, Joaquin, and in March 2001 opened the Miami office. Q: How has the Hispanic market changed since you opened your shop?

A: Hispanics are evolving much faster than the content in the media. Being Hispanic is part of pop culture now. A lot of people are learning Spanish in the U.S. and learning the dances and food and art. The problem is that a lot of people are still using the stereotypes instead of challenging them.

What are some elements important to Hispanic advertising?

It has to do with the product. For example, we work with Citibank. The role that money plays for Hispanics is very different than the role that money plays for general-market people. A lot of [Hispanics] don’t open bank accounts here because of the bad experience they had with banks in their own countries. They don’t have access to the best opportunities that the U.S. system has to offer. It’s a very different perspective.

What is the biggest challenge facing Hispanic marketing?

We are having the wrong debate. It’s not about Spanish or English. It’s not about holding the Mexican flag. It’s about telling them what they could be. A lot of Hispanics feel so comfortable being here that they don’t call themselves Hispanics. In a few years, the Hispanic market is going to disappear.

What advice would you give to companies that want to reach the Hispanic market?

It’s a mistake to consider the Hispanic market as something complicated that needs to have its own communication. There’s no reason that a Hispanic agency can’t be in charge of a brand in the whole United States.

What inspired you to get into advertising?

The power that we have. We are allowed to communicate with millions of people.

Who has influenced you most creatively?

In advertising, I would say David Ratto [principal at Ratto/BBDO in Buenos Aires] and Dan Wieden. They proved to me that it could be done differently from a creative standpoint and a business standpoint.

What was the last ad you saw that made you think, “I wish I had come up with that”?

I recently saw a little banner for FedEx. What was so inspiring was how you could do something so cool in so small a space.

What is the most overrated campaign out there right now?

IPod. I think it was a good campaign, but let’s move on, you know. They are victims of their own success now.

What is the smartest business decision you’ve ever made?

Opening an agency with my brother, Joaquin.

The dumbest?

Opening an agency with no clients. I would do it again, though.

How do you get past a creative block?

Usually, the more scared I get, the better the solutions that I come up with. With all the competition there, Argentina is a great training ground. Once I did five campaigns to launch five different cars for Volkswagen in 24 hours. I thought I was going to die. After that, it’s like, I can do this. If I feel like I have creative block, I do something else. I go home and come back the next day. You have to embrace it as part of the process.

Name one person with whom you’re dying to work.

Bono from U2.

What is your biggest fear in life?

To fully believe that I have accomplished something. That’s when things aren’t interesting anymore. Fear is a great motivator.

What do you consider the greatest accomplishment of your life so far?

Being true to my guts.

What is your biggest pet peeve?

Laziness. I don’t mind someone who is not great or brilliant or whatever, if he is a hard worker. Lazy means they gave up already.

What is on your nightstand?

I have cough medicine [and] two books. One is about the monarchy in France, and the other is Napoleon’s biography. I have earplugs. I have to sleep with earplugs on. [Which is why] I have two alarm clocks.

What was the last CD/music you bought?

Some Buddhist mantras and The White Stripes.

What is the most important thing you learned from your parents?

You have to let your kids do whatever they want to do and support them.

What do you do when you’re not working?

Kite-surfing is my thing. I like fishing, scuba diving, snowboarding. I have a boat.