The Moodie Davitt Report brings you the latest instalment in our popular series Ten Easy Pieces*, in which we get up close and personal with leading travel retail personalities via ten snapshot questions.
Meet the multi-talented, multi-lingual Irene Revilla. As reported, Irene left the world of communication services and big airport advertising projects for the fast-paced world of multi-media publishing at The Moodie Davitt Report.
1. Where were you born and raised?
I was born in Madrid. I might be a bit biased, but to me it’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world (probably after Paris – my absolute favourite place). Both my parents worked which meant I spent a lot of time with my grandparents, something I feel very lucky about. My paternal grandmother practically raised me, and when my younger sister was born, I was sent to my maternal grandparents’ village, where I lived for a few months. I went to school with the other village children and felt very loved and looked after.
I was always happy to spend holidays with grandparents and other relatives and was probably very independent from an early age. I simply loved going to different places and seeing different people.
My mother has always been very forward-thinking and open-minded. She was the first of her family to go to university, at a time where it wasn’t so common in Spain. She always pushed my sister and I to learn languages, to travel to experience different cultures, so I guess my love for languages and travelling comes from her.
2. What prompted your decision to study Business and Marketing at the University of Madrid?
I was always a good student but didn’t have a clear vocation. I was under quite a lot of pressure at school and at home to become an engineer. That’s what you did in Spain when you got very good grades.
Of course, this proved to be a huge mistake as I really didn’t enjoy it at all. It was all very technical and I am more of a free spirit when it comes to education, revisions etc. So, I left the course quite quickly and opted for an Economics and Business Administration degree because it seemed more fun than engineering. (I believe anything is more fun than engineering.) After that random decision I ended up loving my university days.
3. You studied in France and quickly moved to London. Why?
I had the chance to study part of my degree in France. It was the first time I was away from home for a long period of time, and, of course, this was before mobile phones and email was just starting. I doubt that I spoke to my parents more than once a month, but we didn’t really think it was anything other than normal.
I lived in Poitiers, and shared an old apartment with Danish, Spanish, English and Canadian girls. It was such an amazing experience; I have such great memories from that time. I returned to Madrid speaking fluent French and with an obsession with French cheese!
After I finished my degree I lived in Paris for a while and then moved to London because it seems like a very international place. Once again, I didn’t really have a very organised plan. I had a couple of very uneventful sales jobs until the day I was offered a job at Kinetic WW, an out-of-home media agency. I worked in the airport media planning division. Then it was called Portland Outdoor and WPP had just bought it. They had a great office off Regent Street with very famous Thursday evening parties in the downstairs bar. Those parties often included a vodka luge.
I believe those were the golden days of outdoor media and the beginning of airport advertising.
4. How difficult is the world of travel marketing for a woman?
There have been times when I felt I was expected to do certain things because I was a woman. I remember a senior executive asking me to make him tea as I was the only woman in the meeting, and I wasn’t even the most junior. But I never let this bother me and I never made him that cup of tea, by the way.
That incident was really an exception. I haven’t faced too many difficulties; or at least I don’t think any difficulties were directly related to my gender or nationality.
I was probably a lot more hot-headed and impulsive when I was younger. With time and experience I have become more pragmatic and have realised that there are some things that we can change and some things we cannot. So I try to focus on the things that I have control over.
5. What prompted your move to Asia?
I had been with Kinetic for a couple of years and we were expanding our airport media planning division. Kinetic was going to open a regional office in Singapore and already had someone who was supposed to lead it. I remember I was in a taxi with my boss when he received a message from this person in Singapore, and he was resigning. My boss told me he didn’t know what he was going to do with Singapore and I asked him to send me. I hadn’t given it any thought, I just blurted it out.
A few weeks later I was on my way to Singapore for what I thought was going to be an 18-month role and I ended up staying over eight years!
I was very lucky to live first in Singapore and then Shanghai; although on hindsight I probably did it in the wrong order. I went from the super orderly and clean Singapore to the madness of Shanghai which was a massive shock to the system.
Shanghai is a city with 25 million people, an incredible combination of traditional and modern China. The food is also interesting. I remember that during my first annual company dinner I was a bit wary of the food until I saw this dish that looked like gnocchi. By the time I realised that it wasn’t gnocchi but worms it was already too late!
6. Let’s look at the HSBC global airport programme. What was your role in the project and how did you feel being part of such a vast campaign?
I was very fortunate to work on HSBC’s Global Airport Programme almost from day one. My role involved providing travel and consumer insights as well as assisting with negotiations and evaluating potential new markets. I literally travelled the world with HSBC. It was very rewarding and very challenging.
It is the most visible brand in airports. Even now that I no longer work in the project, I check the advertising every time I travel and report any major issues I see.
Working with this client gave me a great opportunity to travel and also to get involved in very interesting projects like their most recent global rebrand.
I think that when you are focusing so much on something you don’t realise the real impact of the project. I think you realise how huge it is when people not related to the advertising world, recognise it and talk to you about it.
7. Why did you decide to move away from airport marketing and join The Moodie Davitt Report as Publisher?
After almost 15 years in airport media I wanted to try something else, but still remain in the airport environment. I have worked with a few travel retail clients and it is an industry that I love; very dynamic, with a very specific audience and it is full of opportunities.
I am lucky to have found a role that mixes two of my favourites: airports and travel retail. I must admit I am also a big fan of travel retail from the consumer perspective.
I think the greatest challenge is how fast-paced it is. In my previous roles my colleagues and I had months to plan campaigns; now everything is a lot faster. There is also the difference between consumer and trade marketing. But in general, I am very impressed by the strong partnerships between The Moodie Davitt Report and the travel retail industry.
I am very excited about being Publisher. I am lucky to have found a role that mixes two of my favourites: airports and travel retail. I must admit I am also a big fan of travel retail from the consumer perspective.
I hope I can bring my experience to make a difference, but I also realise I have a lot to learn!
8. Tell us about your love of travel. What are your destinations and why?
OK, well that love of travel is really a love/hate relationship. And it’s complicated! I love to travel but I hate flying; the bigger the plane, the better as far as I am concerned.
Through my work I have also travelled extensively to a lot of developing countries. I have seen some very poor countries and I have seen some very wealthy countries, some democracies and some dictatorships. And I have met some pretty interesting characters including Fidel Castro, Colonel Gadaffi, Robert Mugabe, and let’s not forget Prince Philip!
I think these experiences open your mind, and make you aware of what’s happening in today’s world. I support a few charities about causes that I feel strongly about: children, the elderly and cancer. I am very happy that at The Moodie Davitt Report we also support some charities and look forward to get more involved in those projects.
I love travelling really and sometimes I feel the need to go somewhere. At the moment I am missing Asia quite a bit, so I can’t wait to go to Shanghai for our Trinity Forum.
Unfortunately, I hate flying almost as much as I love travelling; not very convenient I know. I’ve had a couple of bumpy flights, and on one occasion the plane I was supposed to be in crashed. So, no, I am not in love with flying. I tend to prefer bigger planes. My nightmare scenario would be flying between China and India on an A320 (which I’ve done before).
Luckily, I am a very good sleeper, and I tend to fall asleep quite quickly when I fly. Last year my mother and I went to Singapore and China for a girls’ holiday and my mother was very disappointed and bored because I slept all the way.
It’s hard to pick favourite destinations but obviously Paris is my favourite city. Singapore and Shanghai will always have a special place in my heart. And I’ve had some wonderful holidays in Bali and Koh Samui.
9. What do you consider your best, and worst, attributes?
I believe I am a self-taught perfectionist. Everything I do has to be in the correct format, the right font, and so on. But there is also an element of organised chaos at times.
I wasn’t always like this; I think working with luxury brands like Chanel, which I handled at the same time as HSBC, teaches you a lot about attention to detail and the importance of presenting documents in a beautiful way.
I think my worst attribute is patience, or lack of! I am trying to work on that – with mixed results so far.
I learned a lot from my HSBC client who is a perfectionist and had very high standards. She had a great, very positive influence I believe. Yes, very positive, and we have remained friends.
I am always on time and do not like people being late. I tend to clock watch if I am waiting for someone. And I believe I am dedicated. If I commit to something I stay with it until I have finished.
I think my worst attribute is patience, or lack of! I am trying to work on that – with mixed results so far.
10. Switch off time for Irene Revilla. What do you do in your spare time?
I have always loved reading. That started during my childhood and I still read, especially when I travel. I have now switched from books to reading on my iPad as it is more convenient. I recently realised that there are two more books on the Crazy Rich Asians series, so I have just bought them and can’t wait to find some time to start reading them.
I love cycling; well indoor spinning cycling really. I spin at the gym and it suits me. I am also a recent convert to yoga. I tried it for the first time several years back before this era of social media madness and 24-hour availability. I think it suits me better now. It makes me relax but I need a gym environment for motivation.
I also enjoy music. I listen to a wide range of music but my favourite is jazz, which, like the yoga, helps me relax.
And I love to cook. My partner Roberto and I cook often at home. He’s Italian and makes wonderful food, in a very organised way. When he chops vegetables, they are all the same size. Plus, he always leaves the kitchen spotless. I’m more of an adventurous cook; I like to experiment with new recipes and ingredients, especially for desserts. I like to make cakes and play with the ingredients. I very rarely follow a recipe properly; I prefer to change little things here and there. I also love cooking Asian food, but I tend to do it when I am alone as Roberto is not a huge fan.
Of course, I really love Spanish food as well. My mother has recently discovered WhatsApp and is a constant source of Spanish recipes. She’s a very good, albeit very chaotic, cook.
It’s fair to say that I use my spare time well. I’m Spanish; I enjoy life.
*PREVIOUSLY FEATURED TEN EASY PIECES PERSONALITIES INCLUDE: