After seven years at GRID Worldwide, Marco Santarelli has been appointed Partner: Creative and Strategy at RAPT Creative. The young business – it opened its doors just eight months before the global Covid-19 lockdown – has bucked the trend to grow dramatically and today employs 46 people and lists 17 brands as clients. We asked Santarelli five questions to find out more about his industry experience and determine his ambitions for the agency.
- Educational background?
Born and raised in Johannesburg, I completed a Bachelor of Business Administration, BCom Marketing and BA Communications before joining Joe Public for two years. From there I joined Mortimer Harvey for two years, Ireland Davenport and Ogilvy for a combined two and a half years (I followed Vodacom when it left the former) and finally GRID Worldwide where I stayed for seven years.
In that time, I’ve worked on numerous brands including Absa Bank, Telkom Group, Sasol, Sanlam, Santam, Betking, Pernod Ricard, Nissan, DSTV, SuperSport, Alexander Forbes, Singapore Airlines, Stanlib, Liberty, Net1, Atlasmara, Freshpack, University of Johannesburg, Michelin, Marble, Saint, Vodacom, British Airways, Avios, Jägermeister, Clover, eBucks, Cobra, Foodcorp (Bobtail, Yum Yum, Piemans, Supreme and Nola), Incolabs, Nike and FIFA.
- What were the most exciting campaigns you have worked on – the biggest, the most successful, too?
The biggest would have to be the launch of the new Absa brand in South Africa and across the African continent. One aspect of this was the first drone show on the African continent. To see the new Absa logo revealed in the skies of Johannesburg by the flying marvels will forever be a special memory.
The most exciting was actually one of the first campaigns I worked on – the Clover ‘Way Better’ campaign. It will forever be one of my all-time favs, as it truly was the most spectacular creative output that really resonated with the target audience and stood out.
- What is the biggest challenge facing brands today in Africa?
That would be the speed at which brands need to operate today. The speed to be the first get to market and then the speed at which it needs to consistently evolve to keep up with the environment and culture in which its target audience and it exist. Culture, consumers, technology and the way in which consumers are consuming brands are always changing. Any brand that doesn’t keep pace loses out.
And then maintaining relevance is also becoming more and more challenging as consumer behaviour constantly adapts to shifts in societies, cultures and environments. I believe that brands are finding it harder and harder to stay true to what and who they are.
- What’s your passion?
For me the passion is everything it takes to build and maintain the business – from identifying potential new clients, to preparing and delivering the pitches, to building and nurturing the relationships, to finding a way to add value to what we do, to working with people who want to grow and learn and be the best they can be, to having a finger in every piece of the agency pie. That’s what gets my motor running.
I’m adaptable. I get my inspiration from anything at anytime and anywhere. What works in the medical industry, for example, could be very relevant to a problem I’m having, or an opportunity I’m looking for. Just because it didn’t have its roots in advertising doesn’t mean I shouldn’t appropriate it and make it work for me. And when it does, that’s the big rush.
- In five years’, you’re still at RAPT. What does the agency like and what has it achieved?
RAPT is a hungry, independent agency with ‘Top 5 in SA’ ambitions. I left GRID because I was seeking a platform to elevate my career and my personal journey, to make my mark on the industry.
RAPT – currently on a massive upwards trajectory with the same set of values that I ascribe to – is the ideal place. From the outset, founder Garreth van Vuuren was set on rewriting the playbook. His enthusiasm and vision have taken RAPT from zero to hero during the Covid years. And the outlook couldn’t be brighter.
Five years from now, I would like to see an agency that continues to evolve to not only take advantage of new business opportunities but betters itself and the lives of those who worked for it every step of the journey.
I want to be part of a leadership team that has empowered the agency to continue to grow from strength-to-strength so that the RAPT Creative brand and the brands that it works are successful on the global stage and are globally recognised for their creativity as well as their contribution to the communities in which they live.
I’d like it very much if the agency is in a space where it can’t be categorised or put in a box; an agency that continues to evolve.
It should be a home where the industry’s future generation of heavy-hitters continue to work and contribute. A place that fights for creativity to stay alive.
RAPT Creative must continue to grow, to be a business and creative force to be reckoned with, and its people must give back to the industry, help lead it, help evolve it and influence it to contribute to a better South Africa, a better world.
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