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IHAVEANIDEA.ORG > articles >  Agency Profile: La Despensa Madrid

Agency Profile: La Despensa Madrid

Posted on October 7, 2013 and read 3,657 times

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brettihaismall Agency Profile: La Despensa MadridBrett McKenzie
Content Producer
Art Directors Club


“When we are meeting clients for the first time, we bring Nutella sandwiches. If they take a Nutella sandwich, they want to play with us, and we want to play with them.”

I am standing outside of La Despensa, one of the hottest boutique agencies in Madrid, and I am wondering if I came to the right place. I was told to expect something a little different, but I’m not sure if the sides of meat hanging in the windows were even close to what I imagined. My guide assures me this is the correct address, and that if I thought the outside was weird, wait until I went inside and met the mind behind it all.

La Despensa (Spanish for “The Pantry”) was founded in 2003 by Miguel Olivares and Javier Carrasco, a pair of talented creatives who were tired of the network agencies in Spain and wanted to build something completely different; an agency that fit in with their own wild philosophies and would attract like minded talent and clients. Today, that crazy little shop with “ingredientes creativos” has grown to 44 people (and one dog) and two additional offices; Buenos Aires and Mexico City.

“For us, we are all about flowing energy,” says Miguel, when asked to explain what has driven La Despensa for the past decade. “There is something very cosmic, very shamanistic in what we do. We’re not an agency, we are a sect of happiness.”

If this sounds very far out, don’t worry, it is. But is also all part of the plan that helps La Despensa attract the kind of clients they want to have, a plan that includes the aforementioned Nutella sandwiches. “Great advertising is all about trust, with both the consumer and the client,” explains Miguel. “You need to be able to trust something that you have never experienced before. If you accept what is essentially a sugar sandwich, the relationship is already starting to build.”

La Despensa is a rare breed of shop that, when they say “oh, we’re all creatives here,” they more or less mean it. The account managers also happen to be photographers and illustrators, and even the administrator and finance manager jump in on projects. The rest of the agency is a motley crew of copywriters, art directors, designers, and video and interactive talents, along with a great mixture of experience levels, from interns (the fact that the La Despensa is right next door to the Madrid campus of Miami Ad School has been very advantageous for the agency) to industry veterans. “To be honest, it is very hard to categorize any of our staff members, and that’s exactly the way we like it. You can bring us a portfolio of your advertising work, but we are far more interested in what you do outside of the office. Not only is what you do for fun or for love going to help you produce better advertising, it is all going to inspire the rest of us.”

While it might seem that La Despensa has an ‘anything goes’ approach to its projects, there is still a lot of method to the madness. Like other agencies, larger, long-term clients generally have dedicated creative directors and staff working on their accounts, and relationships are nurtured and grown. But just because a particular client has a team of four or five creatives assigned to them, it doesn’t mean it’s off limits to the rest of the agency. In fact, every now and then a project is open to the entire office, and every single staff member is expected to come up with at least one idea for the client.

The team at La Despensa take the cosmic philosophy very seriously; every Tuesday and Thursday morning, the office is transformed into an ashram of sorts, where the entire staff is invited to take part in yoga. “We call it the University of Energy,” explains Miguel. “The yoga is energy management for the entire office. Of course, early morning yoga isn’t for everybody, and the staff who aren’t into it arrive at 10 AM. But even then, our ‘energy managers’ have already filled the office with so many good vibes that even the latecomers benefit.”

Another way La Despensa energizes and inspires its staff is with its open mic Thursdays. On Thursday evenings, anybody can come to the agency and make a presentation. It could be a musician looking to jam, it could be an inventor drumming up interest in one of his creations, or just someone who thinks they would be a good fit for the agency. “We try to see everybody, and even if they’re not good, it’s always interesting for us to have that conversation,” says Miguel.

And of course there’s La Despensa’s instant disco.

Wait, what?

“We were once in a pitch for Burger King, and we were up against some major agencies, a real David and, well, several Goliaths situation,” says Miguel. “We were working like mad for two months, practicing our English to be able to communicate. When the pitch presentation was finished, the clients asked what would be the first thing we’d do if we won. We said ‘wow, we’d have a party!’ And we won!”

The Burger King win resulted in La Despensa installing a disco ball in the ceiling, along with strobe lights, lasers and fog machines, all on a great big breaker switch on the wall. When the switch is flipped, the office is instantly transformed into a disco. “This makes it very convenient for us to celebrate new wins, get over losses and just have a good time.”

(Side note: Yes, I got to flip the switch when I was there.)

trabajo et Agency Profile: La Despensa Madrid

fiesta et Agency Profile: La Despensa Madrid

La Despensa has also become known throughout the Spanish advertising community for bringing the party elsewhere. “One time we all went to El Sol, the Spanish advertising festival in Bilbao,” remarked Miguel. “We didn’t have enough money to pay for accommodation and festival passes, so rather than actually go to the festival, we rented a big house in the woods some distance away, and we had our own festival. We even rented a bus to go to Bilbao and pick up people from other agencies to come to our festival instead.” La Despensa is also known for its Christmas party, which is open to all past employees as well as the current ones. “So even if you leave La Despensa, you don’t leave,” laughs Miguel.

So what’s next for La Despensa? “I really like where things are right now,” says Miguel. “It’s a great ecosystem, and I don’t want to disturb that. Some people think we should grow, but it’s all about the energy. We’re not going to get bigger for the sake of getting bigger. If it feels good and whole, we’ll do it. If not, well, we’ve very happy where we are.”

Gracias to Miguel for showing us the crazy world of  La Despensa! A big thank-you to Getty Images for making this trip to Paris possible.




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