My career in 5 executions: The Community's José Mollá

From W+K to a boat and his own agency, The Community's CCO never wants to be boring.

Name: José Mollá
Title: Co-founder & Chief Creative Officer, The Community
Years in ad industry: 26 and counting
First job in ad industry: Junior Copywriter at Ratto/BBDO Argentina

José Mollá comes from a long line of ad men—his grandfather opened Exitus, one of Argentina’s first ad agencies, in 1925. His father founded an agency in Buenos Aires, and both José and his brother Joaquín followed in their footsteps. In the late ‘90s, Mollá was "dying to have an ad with a swoosh" in his portfolio, but his ideas were continually rejected due to small local budgets.

But his efforts caught the eye of Dan Wieden, who offered him a job in Portland. It wasn’t a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, Mollá’s then-boss at Ratto/BBDO Argentina told him. "This never happens in a lifetime," he said. "If you don’t go, I’ll kill you!"

In five years at Wieden+Kennedy, Mollá ended up with plenty of swooshes in his book. But the experience spoiled him, and he realized he’d never be happy working at another agency.

So he got together with Joaquín. "We met on sailboat, filled the boat with rum and some food, and spent 10 days sailing the world," Mollá says. After that, they founded The Community together (then called by its Spanish name, La Comunidad). "We opened right away, with no clients."

In 2014, the brothers sold the agency to Sapient but stayed on as joint CCOs. If his life seems exciting, that’s intentional, Mollá says. "If you do boring things, people will get bored."

Here are the 5 executions Mollá says have meant the most to him and his career.

Brand: Nike
Client: Nike
Agency: Wieden+Kennedy
Work: "Live"
Year: 1999

Nike_Live_Cycling from the community on Vimeo.

While TV audiences sit on their couches, athletes train, and this live ad campaign forced Mollá and his team out onto the streets to join them. "We would go to parks, courts, public swimming pools and other training sites with a mobile news unit, stop people to ask if they would like to be in a Nike commercial, and after signing the release, we would broadcast them right then and there," Mollá says. "My partner Andy Fackrell and I were holding all the equipment for the camera. We have never run so much in our lives."

The campaign was created long before social media, but it was picked up by many print publications in Mexico, Argentina and elsewhere in Latin America that told their readers, "If you go out to train, you could be featured in a Nike campaign."

Brand: VH1
Client: Viacom
Agency: La Comunidad
Work: "Teacher Parent Conference"
Year: 2005

VH1_Teacher_Parent_Conference from the community on Vimeo.

La Comunidad was still a relatively young agency, but they’d created campaigns for some big clients, including MTV. This was back when MTV was still known for music videos, but its sister channel VH1 was "the network known for its documentaries on musicians," Mollá says.

To differentiate the two, they showed how VH1 could dig deeper into an artist’s life. "We made fun of music videos," Mollá says, making ample use of tropes like rain and wind. Like the earlier "I Watched MTV Once" campaign, it was risky, he adds, and it helped establish the agency’s reputation.            

Client: Buenos Aires Film Festival
Agency: La Comunidad
Work: "Saddest Painting in the World"
Year: 2007

BACIFI_Saddest_painting_in_the_world from the community on Vimeo.

"This film festival is famous for having edgy, obscure pieces," Mollá says. Like in many art galleries, "a lot of people will say, ‘I don’t get it.’" This campaign embraced the fact that the client didn’t appeal to everyone.

While the ad featured a painting of a cat with a pipe, the oval frame had been hanging in the agency’s office for years—holding a picture of an old woman, a purposefully ironic selection for a young and energetic agency. "It was meant to happen," Mollá says.

Brand: La Comunidad
Agency: La Comunidad
Work: "Why We Sold"
Year: 2014

#WhyWeSold from the community on Vimeo.

La Comunidad received 11 offers to sell the agency over 13 years, Mollá says. In 2014, they accepted one, from Sapient. "They told us, ‘You have storytelling power, we have technology."

People weren’t interested in hearing about that, Mollá says. "Every time we tried to explain those reasons, people only cared about the ‘how much’ part. So we decided to have fun with that."

They called wealthy friends to borrow the trappings of ridiculous wealth—boats and mansions and private airplanes to create this video. They were more than obliging. "Rich people love to make fun of rich people."

Brand: Converse
Client: Converse
Agency: The Community
Work: "Donate Your Shadow"
Year: 2015

the community - Converse - Donate Your Shadow from Circulo Creativo on Vimeo.

In Sao Paolo, the highway is a symbol of progress and a connection to the First World, Mollá says. "But underneath, it’s horrible."

The agency (which had now officially switched to using its English name) reclaimed the space beneath highways, cleaned it up, hired local graffiti artists to paint the spaces and transformed them into venues for music, art and social gatherings. "After a month, we gave them back to the city."

This particular campaign is one of a series of Converse projects that The Community continues to take part in. The brand shares local ideas online so other communities can try them. "In many cases," Mollá says, "these Latin America-focused ideas end up getting used on a global scale."

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