By Michael Gougis - Senior Writer
December 18, 2012 - On one hand, the interior of MADE’s new digs ticks all the boxes that scream “modern, hip, creative ad agency.” Skateboards rest in the foyer, a full-size old-school high school gymnasium scoreboard leans against a wall, a statue of the vintage Japanese anime robot Gigantor – the size of a linebacker – looms over the entryway. (It’s hard to say if the statue is “life-sized;” while Gigantor was “Taller than Tall,” or so the theme song says, his actual size seemed to vary from scene to scene.)
As CEO Jun Roxas (a former ranked skateboarder) says, you can do this sort of thing with an ad agency office – it fits the stereotype and reassures the clients that there are, indeed, creative, cutting-edge artists at work.
“Being an ad agency, you can get away with a lot of fun stuff,” Roxas says.
On the other hand, MADE (Mercantile Arts Design Engineering) has recently relocated into a home in a somewhat unusual location: above a Farmers & Merchants Bank branch overlooking a busy retail boulevard – 2nd Street in Belmont Shore.
It’s a very deliberate contrast, and that contrast reflects the dual strengths that have kept MADE alive and thriving for 20 years – a significant accomplishment in a highly-competitive field where burnouts are as common as they are at a drag race. MADE has worked with major international corporations like Pepsi and Mattel, while at the same time maintaining the nimble, creative edge of a smaller firm.
MADE has survived by combining an atmosphere that fosters creativity with a practical focus on what businesses want from their ad agencies – more profits. And Belmont Shore fits the company precisely. The beach is a few short yards from the office, inspiring creativity, but Roxas and crew can look down from the balcony and see how customers and shoppers interact with businesses, reminding them of what their creativity is supposed to accomplish.
“Being a service company, we typically are located in office parks, things like that,” says Roxas, 48, of Coto de Caza. “In a business park environment, you tend to mix with people of like services or people who are focused on the service industry – a business-to-business environment. If we sit with professionals, we’re both business people. We’re not out relaxed and shopping like the people out there.
“We previously worked in Venice, and we were located on a retail street. We loved the energy, the spirit of it. When you’re engaged with the public and the people you are working for, it’s more exciting. One of our clients is Rubio’s (Fresh Mexican Grill). One of those restaurants is right across the street! We can walk in there and talk to the manager or just sit there and listen to the customers and get immediate feedback on what we’re doing.”
The experience in Venice convinced Roxas that the firm needed to be set in a retail environment. But Venice was a bit too crowded, and crowded with other small advertising firms – to the point that Roxas says when he went to lunch, he was concerned about discussing business because the person at the next table might work for a competitor.
“We were looking for someplace similar in energy to Venice, close to the freeway – we have clients in San Diego, in Los Angeles. We needed to be in that proximity. And we were looking for less density,” Roxas says.
“So we went along the coast. We looked at Huntington Beach, Seal Beach, even down as far as Laguna Beach. Then we tripped across Belmont Shore. We fell in love with the place. We literally walked up and down the street for an hour and just could not believe it. We found this space – and F&M really hadn’t put it on the market yet. It really was destiny.”
The proximity to the ocean and the parks of Long Beach was important for a creative enterprise, Roxas says.
“Being along the coast influences you automatically. To look out the window and see blue sky and know that it’s a five-minute walk to have your feet in the sand – that in itself inspires creativity. Ad agencies as a whole are too high-strung, anyway,” Roxas says. “To be able to offer our team all of the perks of being able to create in an environment that is relaxed, where you can go put your feet in the ocean and come back to the office and work, is important.
“We think that balance is what’s attracting creative agencies to Long Beach. There are important reasons to move here. Traffic flow is one. Long Beach as a whole is growing in a smart way. Things are in a good state, so people are coming because they want to, not just because it’s cheap. All of that makes for a great place to locate. It’s one of those situations where you’re almost concerned about too many people finding this place.”
Roxas says that more than ever in the past, creativity is critical to the successful ad agency. It’s not just about the message anymore, but – as philosopher of communication theory Marshall McLuhan might observe – the medium is more critical than ever.
“The ever-changing dynamic of social media,” Roxas explains, when asked about the biggest challenge facing advertisers today. “Information is instant. The consumer receives and sends information 180 degrees differently than they used to. Advertisers and agencies that are not keeping up with their messages are being lost. Now, what we do is we look at every touch point for a consumer and make sure we are up to date. “Today, the first thing you may do when you wake up in the morning is check your Twitter or check your Facebook. And that’s an opportunity to talk to consumers. You have to speak to them. You have content that is engaging with their lives so they will listen to your message. You have to talk to them in a way that is engaging. Balancing that with a message is tricky.”
Getting a message to consumers is one thing. The key in advertising is getting across to them a message that directs them to the client’s product or service.
“We’ve been around for 20 years. For ad agencies, that’s a long time,” Roxas says. “Our strength is in relationships we’ve built with our clients, and we’ve focused on solutions that aren’t just creative, but they actually move the needle and help with sales. There are some agencies that seem like they’re designing for awards – if it’s a creative idea, that’s all that counts. But did it sell more tacos? It can be the most creative thing in the world. But if it doesn’t help your client, it doesn’t matter.
“You can be as creative as you want, as long as you can draw a direct line to the service or product – and the consumer can draw that line as well. When you do that, you are effective. Ultimately, at the end of the day, that’s what keeps you around.”
For more information, visit: www.themadeagency.com.
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