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Bring Out Your Dead: Vasava

By Rebecca Bedrossian

This is a mystery. It’s a creative conundrum that involves Vasava (a renowned communications studio in Barcelona, co-founded in 1997 by Toni Selles and his son Bruno); Spain’s main automobile manufacturer, Seat; an ad agency; and the literary classic Don Quixote.

THE LEGEND

In 2012, Seat decided to revamp the Toledo, one of its most popular cars. Toledo is also the capital city of Castilla-La Mancha, a region inextricably intertwined with Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes.

Wishing to capitalize on Toledo’s centuries-old heritage, Seat hired an ad agency that then approached Vasava with clear direction for a graphic execution. The campaign already had its story and tagline: Vuelve la Leyenda (“the legend returns”) captured the essence of Toledo, an overt reference to both the car and the man from La Mancha.

The project sounded simple enough, but the challenge was giving it a modern feel. “After all,” says Bruno Selles, “it’s technology, a car, that we’re selling.”

Bruno and his design team began working on the Toledo campaign in much the same way they would any other. A few designers received guidelines from the agency—though not the original client brief, in this case. After a few days, the designers reconvened, discussed executions, and decided on what to present.

THE CHOSEN FEW

Vasava presented three proposals: The first features ornate scrolls and scripts, the second evokes a coat of arms, and the third is simple and less symmetrical. All three executions give the story context through the use of classic calligraphy, which harks back to the ornamental flourishes found in traditional Spanish ironwork. They are beautiful typographic solutions—quite unexpected in automotive advertising.

The third execution is Bruno’s favorite. “It’s freestyle. It has a dynamism that the first two executions lack.” To make his point, Bruno mentions lockups at the end of a trailer, something like the swashbuckling mark of Zorro. And it’s true, the third proposal is heroic—much like the chivalry of Don Quixote.

Normally, Bruno and his team would present the concepts to the client. In this case, they presented to the agency that, in turn, presented Vasava’s work to the client. Bruno expected to hear which direction Seat preferred so that his team could further refine it. He did not expect rejection.

When asked how he felt about losing a job, Bruno is rather nonchalant. “It’s canceled. When you do lose, and you see the final work, you usually see why. The work is better.”

Vasava’s three proposals associate the Toledo automobile with the city of Toledo, via the use of classic calligraphy that calls to mind Spanish ironwork.  

COMEDY, THE NEW CLASSIC?

But when Bruno eventually saw the ad for Seat’s Toledo, his jaw dropped. “It’s a total disaster, this thing they came up with…the proportion of the characters to the car [is] not right, the use of marble in the top corner. It’s patch over patch in Photoshop, and there’s no good relationship to the type.”

The only common denominator between this final work and Vasava’s proposals was the use of Vuelve la Leyenda. Were Vasava’s solutions too sophisticated for the target audience?

The Seat ad is more of a satirical take on the Don Quixote legend. It is disruptive, but is that really a good thing?

Since Vasava neither saw the brief nor spoke to the client, these questions remain unanswered. This is still a mystery.

The legend of Don Quixote reflects comedy and tragedy. And one could say the same for the Toledo ad. But at least Seat got its contemporary twist—if only through some clumsy digital manipulation.

Vasava’s Bruno Selles doesn’t care much for the chosen design, which puts a comic spin on the classic Don Quixote.