For Savannah Rabin, strategist at R/GA Los Angeles, strategy fuels creativity. Finding the sweet spot in culture to add value to and not borrow from is what she strives for most.
Here, she discusses her career path, what sparks creativity and a deep appreciation of Thai food.
Q> Tell me about your career. What was your path to where you are today?
Savannah> During my last year of school at the University of Georgia, I was recognised as one of AAF’s Most Promising Multicultural Students. Through my school, I was able to connect with Hustle where I interned in the strategy department. Following my work at Hustle, I joined another IPG agency, R/GA in January 2019.
Being a part of R/GA network gives me an incredible opportunity to work with a range of clients, including Nike, and PepsiCo’s Quaker and Frito-Lay brands.
Q> When did you realise you wanted to be a strategist?
S> During college, I was on the path to be an art director until I worked on a six-month research project in partnership with PHD Worldwide. I was tasked to learn about multicultural Millennials, their media habits, and write a report with insights. It was then when I realised that I was exercising my creativity in new ways. I spent months conducting interviews and collecting insights, and I knew it wouldn’t be useful to conclude it all with a surface-level opinion. Writing a point of view requires analysis, but writing an inspiring strategy requires you to be imaginative. This intersection of analysis and creativity is where I’ve always felt most confident.
Q> What do you find exciting in your current role/client work?
S> Strategy is fulfilling for me: I’m close to the work, the brand, and more importantly, to culture and consumers. Today, brands are realising the importance of connecting with culture. The problem is not everyone knows how to authentically join the conversation. There’s a fine line between simply latching on to an existing conversation and adding actual value. The best example of this is when brands saw Wendy’s success on social and attempted to mimic the tone rather than finding their own voice. On the other hand, Oatly has done an excellent job of aligning itself with coffee culture on social platforms by championing its best customer: baristas. I hope to do the latter in my work– finding a sweet spot in culture I can own to add value to, not borrow from.
I’m really fortunate to have a job where I’m constantly learning. The most exciting part of my job is sleuthing around the internet, piecing together a puzzle about something I might not understand yet. Outside of my day-to-day client work, I like to do trend forecasting in music. I recently started a project on the evolution of popular music, and where it’s heading, based on societal shifts (we might be seeing a lot more Rage Pop soon, heads up).
Q> What do you dedicate your time to outside of work?
S> Half of my childhood was spent in the kitchens of Thai restaurants alongside my cousins and grandmother. I have a deep appreciation and personal connection to food, so moving to LA was a real treat (literally). I like to indulge in the vibrant, never-ending food scene. When I’m not eating out, I love to cook. Although I often make traditional dishes I grew up with, like Khai Jiao, Green Curry, and Pad Gaprow, I’ve recently started challenging myself in developing original recipes. A recent experiment resulted in a cross between Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken and Pad Gaprow (Thai basil stir-fry).
Q> What sparks your creativity? How do you share that with others?
S> The best way to spark my creativity is through immersion. Immersing myself in uncharted territories always brings a fresh perspective on something you may have never considered. Recently, I became obsessed with the art of songwriting. I learned that some of the most profound songs can have the simplest lyrics (i.e. Kacey Musgraves, Phoebe Bridgers, Mitski, etc.). I was able to apply this learning to my work, and it challenged me to write compelling narratives in fewer words. These unsuspecting connections are everywhere.
I share this approach with others by sending links – even if I don’t think they’re interested. Honestly, I think in advertising, especially, we like to reference a lot of case studies from different brands and study their successes– which is helpful and a great point of reference. However, I find that cultural innovators are our best beacon for creativity. The closer we can get to our consumers and the world around us, the better we can connect with them.