Ming Chan is a rebel with an unusual cause: He wants to challenge the premise that ad agencies must be on the Westside. Chan founded his digital agency, named 1st Movement, in Pasadena to set himself apart – literally.

“We want to be different,” Chan said. “And I guess I’m a little bit rebellious.”

He picked Pasadena partly because it is close to his home but mainly because Chan believes the future of advertising lies in technology more than creativity. And Pasadena is more tech-friendly, being the home of Caltech and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Clients of 1st Movement include tech giants Cisco and Adobe.

“We want to be one of the first technology-led agencies,” he told the Business Journal.

The clustering of ad agencies has a long history – just look at Madison Avenue in New York. In Los Angeles, the large agencies started on the Miracle Mile, then moved to Century City and then Santa Monica. In 1999, Chiat/Day moved to Playa del Rey, inspiring a stampede south into El Segundo and even Torrance.

There’s a reason for such clustering, said Eric Johnson, president of ad agency Ignited, which is in El Segundo, and co-president of trade group ThinkLA.

Geography “is not necessarily a factor for pitching business, but for attracting talent, proximity to other agencies does matter,” Johnson said.

Chan admitted that recruiting ad execs to the Pasadena office is sometimes challenging. First Movement has 26 employees.

“It’s hard to recruit top talent because most of them are on the Westside,” he acknowledged. “We are throwing a curveball at the industry.”

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