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Strategies for Crafting Culturally Impactful Campaigns with R/GA’s Langston Williams


The San Francisco-based strategist offers insights while talking us through his 'brief but meaningful' career to date

Strategies for Crafting Culturally Impactful Campaigns with R/GA’s Langston Williams

“Be curious and be vocal,” says Langston Williams, strategist at R/GA San Francisco, about his approach to work and his career and making a social impact in both areas. Langston takes a “mosaic approach” to researching new trends and says Twitter is a key resource.

Q> What inspired you to pursue a career in advertising?

Langston> My path to where I’m at today has been brief but meaningful. I first learned about the advertising industry when I was only nine while at a luncheon in my hometown, Denver. There, I met Kevin Carroll, a consultant who specialises in “turning creative ideas into reality.” The list of companies he worked with included Nike, Starbucks, and the NBA. I distinctly remember being fascinated by someone’s ability to come up with ideas and strategies to boost brand positioning. 

While this abstract idea of advertising nestled somewhere in my subconscious, I majored in Marketing and Economics and, unknowingly, began my journey. Following a couple of internships in tech marketing, I interned at a firm in London that connects brands with agencies. The internship provided me with the opportunity to visit different agencies and understand how they operate. 

After a couple of summers doing business strategy consulting, I took a chance and applied for advertising internships and got accepted at R/GA’s New York office. During my first summer at R/GA, I was working in strategy which was a great learning experience. Towards the end of my internship, a full-time strategy position opened up in our San Francisco office. 

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

Langston> The opportunity to work with brands shaping the future of our society and consumer experiences. As far as projects related to important social issues, the one that stands out most is a campaign I recently worked on that focuses on starting a conversation around gender equality misconceptions and encouraging people to take small steps to help make a difference in the fight for equality. Developing the strategy for this campaign was incredibly eye-opening;  I saw the full breadth and depth of gender discrimination and I found myself reevaluating my own biases. It has been exciting and humbling to see this creative campaign help others do the same.  

From a consumer experience standpoint, our working mission for R/GA San Francisco is to be the agency for the new economy and transforming legacy brands. “New Economy” and “transforming legacy” brands are brands that have aligned their products/services with modern consumers' behaviours and needs. Recently, I have worked on projects for Slack, Airbnb, and Fair. Each client has given me a real snapshot of the challenges and opportunities that businesses are facing. Working as a strategist with innovative clients has grown my experience, knowledge, and ability to understand clients and develop strategies for companies to become equipped for the growing and constantly changing demands of the 21st century. 

Q> How do you keep up with trends in our industry and in marketing?

Langston> Being up-to-date on the newest and most interesting trends in culture and marketing is pivotal. I take a “mosaic approach” that combines a wide range of media sources to form a holistic picture of the industry landscape. 

Twitter is ground zero for me. It has everything you could possibly want, from the latest memes and 140-character thought leadership to breaking news. I also subscribe to various newsletters that range from investment advice, urban planning, and sports to, most importantly, burgeoning trends. 

Also, our internal R/GA Slack channels can be a great source of interesting articles or podcasts. I’ve realised more and more that you never know where the data point or news story that sparks a strategic insight will come from, so I try to cover all my bases.

Q> What advice do you have for others looking to become strategists?

Langston> The best advice I could offer to someone getting started in the agency world is: be curious and vocal. The level of curiosity and interest that exists across the network never ceases to amaze me. There are individuals who have worked in every industry, city, and career imaginable who are excited to share their experiences and stories. The knowledge and advice I’ve gotten over coffees or walks with coworkers is priceless, and wouldn’t be possible if I didn’t push myself to indulge my curiosity on a day-to-day basis. 

In terms of being vocal, I use this mantra “closed mouths don’t get fed; if you don’t ask, the answer is always no.'' I have been fortunate enough to get opportunities to work on unique projects and attend industry events across the country because I voiced my desires to those who had the power to make that happen. 

As a junior-level employee, it can be easy to doubt yourself or wonder if you’re overstepping your position, but the reality is only you know what interests you and where you want to grow. As I’ve gotten more comfortable in the work I do, it has been easier to share my aspirations, and it’s always very encouraging when more senior-level employees show support.

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

Langston> I am getting increasingly more involved in urban policy and planning. As a natural problem-solver, trying to make the world a little bit better has always been of interest to me—and also a point of frustration because sometimes the problems seem so complicated, you don’t know even know where to begin solving them. 

I am attending meetings organised by the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association, a non-profit research, education, and advocacy organization focused on issues of planning and governance. They bring in speakers and also lobby policymakers to work on urban development, transportation, and infrastructure projects. 

Also, I enjoy doing stand-up comedy once in a while, just for fun!

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R/GA US, Mon, 14 Oct 2019 09:02:08 GMT