Rhandell Rubio
Jul 27, 2011

CREATIVE Q&A: Publicis Jimenez Basic's Alex Castro

Alex Castro, creative director at Publicis JimenezBasic, takes time off his busy schedule to share his stories on how he cut his teeth in the advertising industry, being impressed with people having a great sense of humour, and going home at 5 pm to prove a theory.

Alex Castro, creative director at Publicis Jimenez Basic
Alex Castro, creative director at Publicis Jimenez Basic

How did you get into advertising?

I was in my junior year in communications when the 'advertising' subject was included in our school curriculum. We also had a new professor — a former advertising practitioner from Manila who told us how lucrative agency work can be — a copywriter can make thousands just by writing a headline of seven to ten words! Naturally, I lapped every thing he said and  after graduation, I was singleminded with what I wanted to do — to join an ad agency in Manila and be an advertising great! I went the usual route — writing my resume and mailing them to ad agencies I picked at random from a telephone directory. All of a sudden, I was being interviewed by all sorts of agencies! It was an exciting, exhilarating time for a ‘promdi’ graduate like me.

What was your first ever ad?

It was for a print ad for a brand of sports shirt called “Go Barefoot”. I still remember the headline I wrote. “Get ready…Get Set…Go Barefoot!”. My client loved it, despite it being such a predictable headline — and made sure my boss knew it.

What was your first ever job?

I worked odd jobs in Baguio, where I attended St. Louis University, and my very first regular job was as a folk singer at Mr Gingerbread Man, then one of the coolest folk joints in the city. I did mostly Baez, Dylan and Peter, Paul and Mary stuff. Tito Mina shared the Thursday sked with me. I got paid Php10 a night with free dinner and this went on for 2 years.

My first agency job? It was this teeny-weeny agency owned by 3 Chinese siblings, Peggy, Becky and Sonny Sun called PBS Promotions with offices at United Nations Avenue. When things got better, we moved to a suite at the Roman Super Cinerama Building. I was paid P450 a month. That was a pretty neat arranegement because after work on Fridays, I would just cross the street, go to the Philippine Rabbit Bus Station and hop on a bus for a ride back home to Pampanga.

What was your worst job ever?

Doing PA work for artists, which I did for awhile as a promotions supervisor for a recording company. I carried singers’ wardrobe and accessories for their pictorials and it was both a very exhausting and humbling experience.

What does it take to impress you?

People who impress me are people who make me laugh. It’s very hard to make people see the lighter side of things, and people with a great sense of humor definitely turn me on.

Where do you go to be inspired?

I move around a lot. Travel was an essential part of work when I lived in Bangkok for four years. I was constantly working around the region. The sights, sounds and smell of a new place excite me. To this day, when I am bored, I take the car out for a spin and drive aimlessly until I find an interesting place, park the car in the plaza of some town and explore the place on foot. I can spend a whole morning visiting ancient churches, ancestral houses, old monuments. Their art and architecture inspire me…

If you can spend one day with a celebrity or historical figure, who would it be? Why?

Maybe spend it with an ancestor—Isabelo del Rosario (b. 1878/d.1901), a Kapampangan patriot and a Katipunero who was executed in Mexico for his role in the Philippine Revolution. Kapitan Bicong’s last request was to play his violin for one last time. With that final wish granted, he proceeded to play a moving version of “Danza Habanera de Filipina”. After which, he smashed his violin to smithereens on the gallows’ post where he was to hang. I often wonder if  I got my sense of drama from him…

What is your guilty pleasure?

Collecting art and antiques. I’ve been an incurable collector since my creative director at Ace Saatchi turned me on to antiques, and I have not stopped since — accumulating everything from Mabini paintings, folk santos to ecclesiastical art and ephemera. My collection of old photos even became the basis for a pictorial history book which I published in 2006.

If you have to come back as an animal, what would you be? Why?

I would come back as my cat, Uma. He sleeps 10 hours day, eats only gourmet catfood, and has the house all to himself five days a week. I would like to live his pampered life of leisure.

What is the last book you read?

Pinatubo: A Volcano in our Backyard, written by my good friend, Robby Tantingco. It’s a look-back at the Pinatubo eruption that happened exactly 20 years ago and its tragic aftermath. We, in Pampanga, were all profoundly affected with much of our material heritage lost in the destructive lahar flows. That is why, I value more my roots now and have become a staunch cultural activist.

Which ad do you wish you had made?

Those Cherokee Jeep Ads—which show two outlines of animals intersecting and forming the outline of the vehicle—are  startling, yet surprisingly simple. They stop you on your track, engages you to think—and you get it—the merged qualities of the creatures are found in a Cherokee jeep! I think it was done by a Malaysian agency, and won at the Cannes.

On youtube, you would find me reviewing the classic Philippine Coke commercials of the late 70s and 80s (Add a Coke & A Smile, Coke is It!), a tribute to the simple joys of youth. I wish I’d done those, a perfect blend of music and unforgettable imagery..

Worst haircut you’ve ever had?

When ducktails were the rage in the 1980s, I had not one, but two, courtesy of Hair 2000—that salon along Evangelista St., that a lot of creatives went to.

Describe your typical day.

I am the agency’s early bird---I am at the office before  7:00 A.M. The quiet mornings hours are ideal for my writing duties (I still personally write a lot of copy) and admin stuff.  I usually take my breakfast in the office, you know, whatever is available, cereals today, Jollibee the next. After 9:30, the real work begins—with endless creative clearances, meetings, client calls and brainstorms. At 5 o’clock, you would often find me calling it a day—“It is time to disengage..”, I would often say, and this has become an office byword here. I read somewhere that there are more successful people going home at 5 PM, so I am just helping prove that theory…

Can you suggest a question for our next Q&A candidate?

What was the worst thing said against you as an agency person?

Yes or no. If given the opportunity would you be the first human guinea pig to land on Mars? And why? (Question provided by Leo Burnett Melbourne’s Jason Williams)


Yes.  Because anything I will achieve will benefit humanity.  BUT on one condition:  That there should be a guarantee of my return to Earth.

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