Meet Gaby Castellanos, CEO of Socialphilia | karma advertising, Awarded Strategic Advertising & Marketing Woman, with a distinguished career in Europe, Latin America, and the American Hispanic market, some of her clients: Coca Cola, Disney, McDonald's, P&G, Diageo, Banco Santander among others. She has received many awards in this regard: One of the 100 most powerful women in Spain and the top 25 marketing specialists in Latin America.
Who is Gaby Castellanos? Define yourself
I'm a walking smile, a creative with a businesswoman's soul. A person who is able to see solutions where people see problems. A woman who found her reason for being at a very young age and has done so over the years and always, with a smile on her lips.
How were you as a kid?
As a child I was hyperactive, my parents kept me busy between school, sports, music, painting. I was what we call in Spain "un culo resieto" (restless ass), in fact, I have dozens of scars on my body from everything I did or tried to do: climbing trees and building houses in them, skittering, jumping more than I could. I always tried to do what was said I couldn't, I beat myself up but I succeeded. I had a very happy, fun and travelled childhood thanks to my parents.
You have a bachelor´s degree in Social Communication, Advertising, and Public Relations at The Catholic University Andres Bello and a Ph.D. in Creativity and Visual Arts (Business & Education) at the University of Santiago de Compostela. Why did you choose those courses of study?
First, I studied Systems Engineering (Programming), then I studied Advertising, and then I did my PhD. When I started working at a very young age, I understood that education was very important in my career, because it gave me the theory that later the work (the practice) would confirm me as correct. The problem was that the university taught me an obsolete theory that I could not apply to work. So, I had to look for the specializations that would best complement what I wanted to be, theoretically.
And then in practice it became real. Because of this I feel indebted to education and the new generations, I believe that part of my work is to teach what is really needed and can be applied to work, and to modify those old and obsolete structures that do not necessarily work in today's companies and professions.
“When you can give the consumer what they need, to be by their side, they will love you forever, and they will love the brands that are like that with them”
You were executive creative director in some of the most important national and international advertising agencies such as JWT, Y&R, Mccann, Lintas. How did you jump from the point to found 2 agencies first SrBurns from 2008 to 2013, and from 2013 to date Socialphilia, | karma advertising?
Working in offline agencies since the 80's gave me the apprenticeship to understand the advertising world and know how to adapt it to what was not even called Online yet. The WPP group was my home, where I grew up and learned the most important basics of advertising, in the hands of Bobby Coimbra, current country manager of the WPP group for the Andean region. My first agency was founded in 1996, Netthink, when there were still only "internet development companies" and not "agencies". This agency was created to be sold to the most important media agency in Europe, Carat. One of the most important people in Offline Advertising in the 80's -90's, Florencio Barranco invite me to create it.
I characterized myself in the market, for creating profitable digital agencies, and I did it for many offline agencies after the 90's. After spending years technologically and creatively leading various agencies, I created my own agencies because it was difficult to make my partners understand how advertising and marketing should be understood and how to properly team up. Both based on a love for what you do and not the money you make.
Tell us more about Socialphilia, you have offices in Madrid, Buenos Aires, Santo Domingo and Miami (Hispanic market in the USA). What does it make unique?
The great value of Socialphilia is that it is the only agency in the world that instead of being on the side of the brands, is on the side of the consumers. Because thanks to working since the beginning of the Internet, I realized that it is the consumers who have the power, who decide, and not like we thought about advertising in the previous years.
And the passing years have shown us, the consumer has all the power in his pocket or in his hand thanks to his phone. And when you can give the consumer what they need, to be by their side, they will love you forever, and they will love the brands that are like that with them. If the consumer is the one who pays and we get them to love the brands we handle, our clients (brands) will always have a budget and therefore, we will always have work.
“Work, work, work. Study and learn constantly. Surround yourself with people more talented than you to keep learning, no matter how old they are”
You have more than 30 years in the world of Advertising, communication, and marketing with a distinguished career in Europe, Latin America and the American Hispanic market, your clients have been from companies in the Fortune 500 and for brands such as Coca Cola, Disney, McDonald's, P&G, Diageo, Banco Santander, or Inditex. You founded the most successful agencies of that time, you have received many awards in this regard: One of the 100 most powerful women in Spain, 1 of the 50 most important managers in Latin America, you belong to the top 25 marketing specialists in Latin America, you are considered one of the 50 most influential people. What´s the recipe for your success?
Work, work, work. Study and learn constantly. Surround yourself with people more talented than you to keep learning, no matter how old they are. Listen to people to understand what they need and give it to them, from the point of view of Marketing and Advertising, and share everything you know with those who follow you, with those who work with you (including clients/brands). Because the more talented people you have around you, and the more talent you teach in your market, the better off you'll be. Zero selfishness. It's literally tattooed on my body as a reminder: "all you give is what you get"
What situation marked your life in a way that prompted you to be who you are today?
Wow, so many things. The education my parents gave me through so many trips during my childhood. The opportunity to live in different countries. Facing society for being gay. The hard work in a purely male industry. So many things, the list could be endless!
What does a normal workday look like for you?
On Mondays I get up at 3am to connect first thing in the morning with my teams in Europe, we do status reviews: we check clients and brands, projects and mark the week. At the end I take a Frappuccino and start my morning. I take a shower; I prepare content for my social networks. I'm meeting with the Latin American teams, I have meetings with clients, suppliers. I answer to my followers in social media. I spend 2-3 hours reading news, reports, documents, I have lunch and while I'm at it, I watch some video content.
The meetings continue, and I move on to any interviews I may have that day. I do some of the keynote or coaching of companies that correspond, I interact with the audience. I take a snack, I call my friends and family to see how they are doing, I talk to the team in Europe who make shift changes. I keep calling and meeting with clients. I take another shower, I have an early dinner, watch a movie or a series. And I go to bed, again tomorrow at 3am.
“I understood a long time ago that to raise your hand to accept that at times you need help is to be very smart. You can't do everything alone”
Do you have any particular philosophy that guides your career decisions?
The one I've got tattooed on my forearm: "all you give is what you get".
What do you love most about your job? & what is the most difficult part?
I love that it allows me to be a child all the time, that's the wonderful thing about creativity, and I mix it up with the business woman that I am.
And the most difficult thing is that sometimes people don't value the creative effort behind each strategy, and after they read it, they think: "ah but this sounds easy" and they don't know how much effort it has taken to get to tell it in such a simple way.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned over the years?
Not everyone is as good as they seem, especially in digital.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Give the consumer what they need.
What are do and don'ts in advertising in this digital era?
What needs to be done
- Listen to the consumer, understand their needs and give them what they deserve
- Generate non-transactional relationships
- Evaluate everything numerically
- There is no difference between online and offline, there are different environments around the consumer, but it is the same consumer who satiates through different spaces
What you must not to do
- Give importance to someone by the number of followers, relationships are measured not the number of followers
- Believe that advertising can be done by anyone who has a phone
- Buy audience and not invest in attention
Everybody has had dark moments in their lives, what have you done to get out of that phase?
I've been going to therapy since I was very young, I understood a long time ago that to raise your hand to accept that at times you need help is to be very smart. You can't do everything alone. The times I have felt this way, I look for help in people with more experience than me in this area, and I hear what vision about it, to be able to mix it with mine and be able to deal with those problems, and solve them.
“I am a mix of many niche markets: female, gay and Latina, I've managed to set limits and win over by making double and even triple the effort “
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I listen to music, watch movies and shows, share with my friends, I replenish my energy through affection. It's an excellent fuel to keep going.
Many authors say women can and must strive to have everything – a shining career, a blossoming family life and a perfectly balanced lifestyle all at once, others point out that– then women are placing unrealistic expectations on themselves if they believe they can have it all, you are gay and I don´t know if you are in a relationship, so according to your experience, what do you think about these statements?
I know women entrepreneurs who have children and husbands who help them have a harmonious family. I know men whose wives help them have a harmonious family.
I know single women with harmonious families and equal men. In my case, I got divorced because I am out of love, and I have a wonderful relationship with my ex-wife. It depends on your choice, and on that choice, you have to choose very well who will accompany you.
What are your plans for the future?
Bring out a school that starts soon with the best communication talents, so that everyone has the opportunity to prepare for the jobs of the future. Finish my books and have a baby. And start the master lecture tour that was stopped by the pandemic.
There is still the glass ceiling for women in the world: Fewer opportunities, jobs underpaid just for that fact of being a woman, etc. Have you experimented with the glass ceiling? if yes, what are the biggest challenges you have faced and how have you overcome them?
I am a mix of many niche markets: female, gay and Latina. My market is purely male, and yes, I have experienced them. But I think I've had the strength to face them, I've managed to set limits and win over (by making double and even triple the effort) so that I can be recognized even though I know that society makes it more difficult for me. I believe it is in our hands to show society that we are not only excellent entrepreneurs, problem solvers, and fantastic leaders.
What tips, can you give to young girls who want to become an entrepreneur in advertising like you?
- Study. Work. Study. Reinvent yourself. Study. Work. Read. Experiment.
- Study again. Be happy. Repeat again.
I think in your position, many people may have the wrong idea of who you are (personally), and what do you (professionally), with this idea in mind, what is being Gaby and what´s not?
My competition says I am very demanding, strict, bitchy and perfectionist. And it's true, I am. My kids (my agency employees) say I'm creative, strategic, fun but VERY demanding. Which is also true. My friends say I'm loyal, too honest, tough and persistent. And I say that I'm a walking smile, more faithful than a ranch dog, that I don't like to be cheated and that I dream of changing the world. Like my business card says: Mothafucker CEO.
Who is the woman you admire the most and why?
On a professional level, most of them are daring women who changed the world with their talent: Madonna, Barbra" Streisand, Miley Cyrus, Frida Kahlo. Each one has changed the perception of the world with respect to what they did: some for not being what was expected, others for being different and wearing it with pride, others for changing the perception of women in the world.
Name: Gaby Castellanos
Sector: Advertising and Marketing
Company: Socialphilia | karma advertising
@gabycastellanos in all accounts