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Agency Profile: TBWA\Madrid

Posted on October 20, 2013 and read 4,159 times

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brettihaismall Agency Profile: TBWA\MadridBrett McKenzie
Content Manager
Art Directors Club


You don’t have to look too hard to hear about the disastrous economic climate that has gripped parts of the European Union in recent years. Soaring unemployment, collapsing real estate markets and burdensome austerity measures have made life difficult in numerous countries in the region, but few had been hit harder than Spain. And while some economists say the worst of “la crisis” is over, the Spanish nation has a long, rough road to full recovery ahead.

That said, commerce and creativity do march on, and with tightened belts and trimmed rosters, Spain’s advertising agencies have continued to produce great work for their clients. And one of the agencies that has been weathering the storm while keeping its spirits and creative output high is the Madrid office of TBWA\España.




TBWA\Madrid is located on a narrow street in the Jerónimos district of the city. A block to the east sits Parque del Retiro, one of Madrid’s largest and busiest parks. Go south and you reach the Museo del Prado, Spain’s main national museum, and a short walk northwest takes you to Gran Via, arguably the trendiest shopping district in town. In a sprawling city where agencies are spread out across the map, it would appear that TBWA knew all about location, location, location.

One of the country’s larger agencies, TBWA\Madrid has a staff of around 130 people, with just over a third of them in the shop’s creative department. This includes the digital department, which used to reside in a separate office until it was folded into the main team. “We were very happy with the decision to bring digital into our office, as well as with the results of the move,” says Juan Sánchez, TBWA\Madrid’s Chief Creative Officer. “This has allowed us to produce better, more integrated work than ever before.”

“I think that one of the things that makes TBWA a great place to work is the excitement level here,” says Monste Pastor, one of TBWA’s creative directors. “People here are not only excited about selling things, but rather with the opportunity to communicate with people through brands, to make them think about life in new ways. Sure we have to come back down to earth and do everyday work, but nobody loses sight of the fact that we can do things that change people’s minds, and that’s what drives us here.”

Although the structure of agency teams is continually evolving, TBWA\Madrid still maintains the classic writer/art director team, with a creative director overseeing them. “We have some pretty big clients here, such as McDonald’s and Playstation,” says Juan. “But unless it’s absolutely necessary, we don’t put three or four teams on a single project. We find that one team, reporting to one CD, keeps things small and gets the best results.” This is not to say that these teams are frozen in time; TBWA will often shuffle the teams and the partnerships to get surprising new results. This includes having digital people who might not have worked on a traditional campaign before now creating outdoor ads, and teaming very senior and very junior creatives together.

The creative department of TBWA\Madrid also has a lot of freedom of movement; nobody is expected to be in early or to work late if it isn’t necessary, and meetings are kept to a bare minimum, only including the most essential people. This frees up people to concentrate on the work, as well as to have a life outside of the office. The Spanish economy has put the kibosh on TBWA holding any ostentatious activities and events for the staff — they have neither the time nor the extra funds to plan anything big — but you’ll certainly see the team down at one of two neighborhood bars at the end of some days, or playing foosball or PS3 (apparently Tekken is still has a following here). These aren’t planned activities, but rather an extension of a camaraderie developed through the office.

There is something TBWA\Madrid will put up the money for: award show tickets. The agency doesn’t send one or two people to the ceremonies, but as many as they can, as a reward for a job well done. The office also probably needs help bringing home all the hardware; for the past few years TBWA\Madrid has won more major awards — including Cannes Lions — than any other Spanish speaking agency in the world. In fact the very day we visited TBWA the agency was preparing to attend a national award show that night to collect more shiny goodies for their trophy case.

TBWA is one of the better-connected global networks in the advertising industry, and the Madrid office takes full advantage of this fact. They are in frequent contact with many of the other offices, especially Los Angeles, London and the Latin American locations, and often take part in global SWAT teams, where people from around the world come together — in person or digitally — to solve problems on bigger brands. Its close proximity to the UK means that many of its international team-ups happen with the London office.

The faltering economy has been tough on just about everybody in Spain, but it has been especially hard on young people. Breaking into the advertising industry is a challenge in the best of times; during “la crisis” it can be nearly impossible. TBWA\Madrid has been making efforts to remedy this, by going after smaller clients and then hiring ad school graduates to staff them. “We realize that it’s now harder than ever for talented creatives to get the experience they need, and so we are trying our best to get the young people working on something, anything that they could use to strengthen their portfolios and careers,” says Montse.

So in these very uncertain times, what does the future hold for TBWA\Madrid? The agency has weathered the economic storm better than most Spanish agencies, and Juan chalks much of this up to the attitude and the environment of the workplace. “One thing we have concentrated on is simply being happy,” he explains. “Happiness doesn’t cost much, but it makes the tough times more bearable. As long as we can maintain this, I feel that TBWA\Madrid has a bright future ahead.”

Gracias to Juan and Monste for taking the time to show us TBWA\Madrid! A big thank-you to Getty Images for making this trip to Madrid possible.




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