CHICAGO – Spaniard Ruben Figueres, who washed dishes and distributed towels in a gym to make ends meet before entering the advertising world and becoming an advisor to Chicago Mayor-elect Rahm Emanual, now aspires to be part of President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign.
“I don’t think I could get much higher in my professional career,” Figueres told Efe in discussing his goal to be part of the team that will seek a second term for Obama in 2012.
His advertising agency, the Alario Group, already has had initial contacts with an eye toward being one of the firms tasked with preparing the political ad campaign directed at Hispanic voters.
However, the 37-year-old Spaniard prefers to remain cautious and only says that the new challenge “is brewing behind the scenes” but we will have to wait until summer to know whether it will be confirmed.
“I’m interested first as a ‘fan’ of Obama and then (in terms of my) professional career,” said Figueres, who was part of a select group of people who advised former White House Chief of Staff Emanuel in his successful mayoral bid.
Figueres worked on Emanuel’s campaign with well-known political strategists like Stanley Greenberg and David Axelrod, both key advisers to Obama during his 2008 presidential campaign.
“I’ve got anecdotes from that experience that I’ll tell my grandchildren,” he said, recalling his work designing the policies and initiatives of interest to Hispanics.
The same group has already begun meeting in Chicago to prepare the reelection campaign and Figueres could be among them.
The son of a paper manufacturer and a former local beauty queen, Figueres said that as a child in Spain he was a “kid fond of playing jokes and a sports devotee.”
After earning a degree in management from Esade business school in Barcelona, he went to Miami in 1995 as a backpacker with the aim of learning English “so that I could get ahead in the corporate world.”
With the objective of getting hired by Leo Burnett, the world’s biggest advertising and marketing agency, he moved to Chicago in 1998 and went through the tough initial experiences of virtually all immigrants.
“I don’t want to give any details so I don’t scare Obama,” Figueres quipped, “but I lived ... with nothing, using every trick to survive,” and so he washed dishes, was a door guard at a bar and passed out towels at a gym, “the most stable and best job” he had because they allowed him free use of the facilities and he could meet future potential tennis students.
After sending off resumes and letters to all Burnett’s departments without getting any response, one of his tennis students opened a few doors at the agency just when he had made up his mind to return to Spain.
One day before he was due to travel back to Spain, he received “the dream call” from Starcom, Leo Burnett’s Hispanic media department, which wanted to hire him and was ready to help him get a three-year work visa.
Soon his name began to be heard in professional circles in Chicago and other job offers arrived, including from the marketing and sales department of Telemundo Chicago, which he left in 2002 to start his own agency.
“Not bad for someone who left Gandia (his Spanish hometown of some 30,000 residents) at age 18 seeking new opportunities,” Figueres said. EFE