By Walter Ang
Melvin Mangada walks into the frame, his hair a lion's mane of wavy tendrils softening his tall frame. The background is his all-white lair, energy crackling in the air. The man is wearing a black sports jacket oh-so-casually paired with stone-washed jeans and blue Prada sneakers. A beam of red light shines against the wall behind him, sculpting a box with the letters "TBWA/SMP" for all to see. Everything looks and feels in place. The camera clicks away and you can almost hear him purr.
He's got every reason to preen. He is the "M" in those last three letters, the initials of a triumvirate who have been roaring loudly these past few years in the advertising industry. As executive creative director of this four-year old ad agency, Mangada has been leading his pack of copywriters and art directors towards one conquest after another.
"When I was approached to join TBWA, my only condition was that creative output must be regarded as the most important aspect if we were to build this agency from the ground up," shares Mangada. His singular focus for creative excellence has certainly paid off. On its first few months of existence alone, the agency had already won an Ad of the Year award from the Creative Guild (a group run by and for creative professionals in the ad industry).
Mangada is an apt candidate to execute the agency's guiding principle of "disruption" as a form of advertising communication since he imbibes this concept on a seminal level. A case in point is their address. With his partners Tong Puno and Jimmy Santiago, Mangada set up shop away from the maddening crowd of the Makati central business district. "That's one of the first things we did to shake things up," volunteers Mangada.
The result is a warehouse's shell transformed into a pristine space where, unlike ubiquitous offices filled to the rafters with rigid cubicles, people work together on interconnected desk spaces or a long table anchored in the middle of the floor. "We tore down walls and doors. We wanted an open, transparent space conducive for sharing great, creative ideas."
With their home based all prepped up, the agency was poised to disrupt jaded Filipino television junkies who'd seen it all. Under the leadership of Mangada, the agency's commercials got people talking. Sneakers, fried chicken, filmfests, pain relievers, anti- fungal creams are just some of the many products that have shot to stardom (and corresponding sales) due to Mangada and his team's touch. Bottomlines notwithstanding, he has also spearheaded donating the agency's talents to causes such as Hands On Manila, Buwan ng Wika, Mindanao Council for Women and Eye Bank.
Acknowledgements, accolades and new accounts started pouring in, but so did the long hours and lost weekends. However, with winning Agency of the Year the second time in a row this year, Mangada has decreed a slight pace change at the workplace. "Work is no longer allowed during weekends," he offers. "We'd like to relish what we have worked so hard for."
He treated himself to a well-deserved vacation in Europe recently and, true to form, did not go to the popular tourist areas. "I spent more time in the small villages outside Barcelona and the Tuscan countryside. Travel is a form of education you can't get from any institution, especially if you live with the locals. It helps with my creativity."
Also, he now has a little more time devoted to picking out artworks and paintings for the office. Original plans to turn the ground floor of their warehouse into an art gallery were scrapped when the agency had to expand exponentially with the number of new clients coming in. The gallery may not have come to fruition, but artworks are still generously spread out over the space, mostly from Mangada's own collection. "[The] ones that don't fit in my apartment anymore!" he laughs.
Down time is also spent scouring garage sales in the city for original mid-20th century designer chairs. "I'm fascinated by the concept and design of these functional items," he intimates. As he moves to perch on one of his finds (discovered in a sari-sari store), Magnada announces his latest work-related endeavor: chairing this year's Creative Committee for the bi-annual Advertising Congress.
To be held in Cebu, Mangada's committee is in charge of the Araw Awards, the "Oscars" of the local ad industry. He's no stranger to this milieu, having been invited as a judge for several international advertising competitions already, not to mention romping off with the most number of awards in the previous Ad Congress in 2003. And that was the just first one his agency had attended. When asked how he think TBWA/SMP will fare this year, an impish, feline smile spreads across his lips and his eyes sparkle.