When Manny Machado first got into advertising almost 20 years ago, planning long-term strategies for his clients meant looking forward three to five years. “Long term, today,” says the CEO of Coral Gables-based MGSCOMM, “is six months.”
The rapid growth of mobile and social media has plenty of brands scrambling to play catch-up—but with robust digital media strategies at the ready, MGSCOMM makes sure its clients—which include Toyota, Tiffany & Co. and Florida Power & Light—are always a step in front of the competition. But then, the agency has always been ahead of its time.
Machado and business partner Al Garcia-Serra co-founded MGSCOMM in 2003, but before putting their initials on the door, Machado had already earned a solid grounding in both advertising and the business he would thrive in—the Hispanic market. “While I worked at this TV show at Univision, I was liaising with all of the advertising clients and agencies, and I realized I had a passion for it,” Machado recalls.
Don’t let his modesty fool you. “This show” was the phenomenally successful Spanish-language Sábado Gigante, a Price Is Right-meets-America’s Got Talent variety show that happens to be Univision’s longest-running program. Machado left the network in 1993, but never forgot the audiences and business lessons he had encountered there.
When he launched his own agency, BVK/meka, in 1994, his specialty—as it would be with MGSCOMM—was helping clients tap the Hispanic market. For years, this was not just a small, oft-neglected niche: Machado had to routinely convince corporations that the market actually existed. When you consider the 43 percent growth in America’s Hispanic population over the past decade, Machado’s vision seems almost frightening in its prescience.
That doesn’t mean it has been an easy sell: “Believe it or not, it’s still sometimes difficult to convince people that there are over 50 million Hispanics in the United States, and to not speak to them would be like not speaking to 14 states in the Midwest,” says Machado. “It has always been a challenge to convince marketing departments that the Hispanic market is an important one—that our babies use diapers and that we use mouthwash and eat cereal. I say ‘we,’ because we are them. That’s what I always say in presentations.”
He paints a compelling vision of snapping up clients as if he were snapping his fingers, but you can put aside your visions of a Cuban Don Draper right now. Machado admits that he is more of a businessman than the pop culture sketch of a creative mad scientist—or, he says, as his business partner puts it, “I am the fireman and the rainmaker of our business.”
Clearly Machado is as persuasive as he is gregarious. Today MGSCOMM ranks as one of the country’s top Hispanic-American ad agencies (in the top 20, in fact, as of Advertising Age’s last ranking), and it continues to grow, most recently acquiring New York City agency Revolución and bringing clients such as HBO Latino, Macy’s and Palm Bay Wines into the fold. Whether it’s creating a cohesive campaign in both Spanish and English for Florida Power & Light, or promoting Tiffany & Co. in Mexico, Machado’s forecast calls for segmentation of audiences to continue. In fact, he says, it goes hand-in-hand with the ever-changing technology at our fingertips.
“Who would have said 15 years ago that we’d now have over 500 channels on cable—with 30, 40, 50, 60 of them Spanish-language channels?” he says. “It’s growing every day. There will always be an influx of Hispanics coming here from Latin America to fulfill the American dream. How we choose to address them and reach them will change, but they will always be part of the equation.”
What will also stay constant, says Machado, is MGSCOMM’s roots in this city. “Lots of folks talk about agencies coming down from big cities and conquering the South,” he says. “I like to say how refreshing it is that a company born and raised in Miami has grown to have such an important presence in a place as big as New York.”
MGSCOMM also has an office in Mexico City and Machado spends time there as well as in Manhattan. But his favorite hometown restaurants—Michy’s, Azul and Meat Market—have nothing to worry about. “I love Miami,” Machado says with gusto. “I know its every nook and cranny. Where else could a Cuban-American boy like me go and still feel like I know people the way I do here? This sounds better in Spanish than it does in English, but I navigate well in my town.”