Trends and Insight in association withSynapse Virtual Production

R/GA's Mike Baker on His Pursuit to Live a Fully Creative Life

Advertising Agency
New York, USA
R/GA copywriter on making the move from strategy to creative, working on the Super Bowl 50 Halftime Show and his love of food, family, photography and friends

Mike Baker is a creative at R/GA in New York. Here, he discusses how he made the transition from strategy to copywriting in pursuit of living a creative life in his personal and professional life. 

Q> Tell me about your career. What was your path to where you are today?

Mike> Before advertising, I was solely focused on a career as an independent music artist. Hailing from the San Francisco/Oakland Bay area, I’ve been a member of a hip-hop collective called the Honor Roll, or HNRL for short, since the early 2000s. Before that, I’ve been rapping or emceeing since ’95.

I moved to New York in 2011, not knowing what I’d be doing, but fell into the advertising-space when a wonderful friend named Shannon Washington gave me my first agency job a month after relocating to the Big Apple. I was at an experiential agency called Mirrorball for four years as a community manager before I left for another agency called Barbarian, with an eye towards a strategy role. As a senior media & distribution Lead, I worked solely on Pepsi for some memorable events like the Super Bowl 50 Halftime Show, Empire on Fox, and the Crystal Pepsi relaunch.

After Barbarian, I went client-side for a spell, but that was no fun, so I hopped over to R/GA for an associate strategy director role in the agency’s content studio. Early on, I realized that I wanted to create all the time, rather than putting one hat on at work (strategy), and another (creative) during my personal time. So with the help of a few very crucial folks in my life, I was able to transition from strategy to creative, full time at R/GA. And now, here we are.

My career path has been an unconventional one, to say the least, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Q> What do you find exciting in your current role/client work?

Mike> The thing I find most exciting is the breadth of work I’m able to work on at R/GA. The agency is made up of different “Groups," which act somewhat like their own agencies, with their own team members and clients. I sit outside of these teams in a department called the Talent Pool, which is group-agnostic. This allows me to work across the agency wherever my help is needed and allows me to build professional and personal relationships with more people than normal.

It’s a huge agency, and I love that I’m able to connect with more people than normal within its walls. I get to touch clients I wouldn’t normally be able to work on if I was just in one particular group, and for that, I feel pretty blessed. Whether it’s working on social posts, or scripts, OOH, or whatever, I get to experience work at a high level, in very distinctive ways, and it only helps in strengthening my skills as a copywriter.

Q> When did you realize you wanted to be a copywriter?

Mike> I realized I was a copywriter early on. Going all the way back to my first agency job as a community manager, I was writing all my own copy for the brands I was managing and kept that going working on Pepsi at Barbarian.

Once I spent some time at R/GA, I realized I wanted to solely be creative. Also, it dawned on me that if I could write songs and albums, I could most-likely write other stuff too, so it felt natural to transition to this role.

Q>What advice do you have for others in this position?

Mike> My advice is to never stop writing, and don’t second-guess yourself. It doesn’t matter what you’re writing, just do it every day. Keep that sword razor-sharp by doing it all the time. If you like to write haikus, or witty IG captions, or movie scripts, it doesn’t matter. It all helps.

Also, having experience in different things and passions outside of work is super important. Master the things you love so you can be an authority in the room on various types of work like pitches or campaigns. There’s nothing more exciting and fulfilling than being asked to help out on a project because people know you have a genuine excitement for it. It’s like Christmas when that happens, no lie!

Q> Tell me about one of your biggest growth moments ?

Mike> One of my biggest growth moments was deciding to transition from being an associate strategy director to a copywriter. Having such a big title was a big deal to me, but I didn’t feel like that role was right for me. Taking such a lower title could’ve messed with my ego if this didn’t feel absolutely right. But it did, and it’s afforded me more opportunities within R/GA than I would’ve had if I hadn’t made the move. Sometimes you need to step back, regroup, and take action in unexpected ways, and this has paid off more than I could’ve ever imagined.

Q> Do you have any passion projects outside of work?

Mike> Outside of R/GA, my passions include my music, which I continue to do to this day. You can find my music on all your favorite streaming services — just search for Mike Baker the Bike Maker. Also, I’m a huge movie head, and got my B.A. in film, so you can always find me at the movies when there’s not a pandemic going on. I also love food, family, photography, and friends! How’s that for some good ole alliteration?

Work from R/GA US
The International ANDY’s awards