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.