Agencies, Marketers Navigate Spain Uprising | CMO Strategy

Pro-Catalan separatists wave a Catalan flag in Barcelona. Credit: Geraldine Hope Ghelli/Bloomberg

Is it Brexit all over again? Probably not, but Spain is divided over Catalonia’s attempt to declare independence for the affluent northeast region that includes creative capital Barcelona, where many ad agencies have offices. And some marketers based in the region are talking about moving their headquarters so they don’t find themselves left out of the European Union should the independence movement succeed.

In an Oct. 1 referendum, which Spanish courts ruled illegal, almost 90% of those who voted in Catalonia backed independence. But only about 40% of the region’s eligible voters turned out, after the Spanish government asked its supporters to boycott the referendum.

Some agencies with Barcelona offices have been letting employees who support Catalan independence take time off to attend demonstrations. “We are a multicultural agency and we are very respectful of each other’s opinions,” says Gonzaga Ayllon, Lola-MullenLowe Barcelona’s director of client services. He says clients, which include Unilever’s Magnum and Axe brands, have been patient while the demonstrations continue.

Gonzaga Ayllon. Credit: Lola-MullenLowe

A number of major marketers are based in Catalonia, from the region’s biggest bank CaixaBank to fashion chain Mango. Volkswagen-owned Spanish automaker Seat is based in Martorell, near Barcelona, and DDB handles Seat’s international account out of Barcelona. Bloomberg reports that Catalonia’s two largest banks, CaixaBank and Banco Sabadell, are moving their legal headquarters outside Catalonia to the city of Valencia, and that other companies are going to Madrid. Sparkling wine maker Codorniu, located outside Barcelona, told Bloomberg it has contingency plans in place: “We hope we don’t have to, but in the event of a unilateral declaration of independence, moving our legal domicile is an option that we have considered.”

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