Uprising in association withLBB & Friends Beach

Uprising: Raisa Soare on Why the Creative Ladder Needs More Women at the Top

Advertising & Integrated Production
Bucharest, Romania
Cheil Centrade’s group creative director on toxic competitiveness in the industry, the gender pay gap in Eastern Europe and the line between clients’ needs and creative needs, writes LBB’s Zoe Antonov

Raisa Soare grew up a tomboy, in her own words - “short hair and playing backyard soccer with [her] cousins.” For many years she dedicated herself to playing sports and climbing cherry trees, until she discovered books, video games and femininity. The now group creative director at Cheil Centrade comes from a small town at the border of Romania and Bulgaria, called Giurgiu, that she sees as very typical Romanian countryside. Raisa believes that during that time of her life, she was surrounded by Romanian authenticity, until she moved for school. 

“Looking back, I think the only clue related to my future career I had was my fascination with real stories,” she explains. “I was never a fan of traditional fairy tales or princesses, I was rather interested in people’s stories. Mia (my grandma) had a story about how they [her grandparents] built the country house we were living in, my great-grandma’s version of the same experience (they always remembered things differently) and my grandpa’s story about courting grandma (spoiler alert: they got married). I imagined them all vividly.” Although Raisa didn’t have a clue back then, those stories proved to be driving insights in her life. These stories, and the awareness she had about her roots made her the go-getting and ambitious woman she is today. That ambition was fueled by the desire to prove herself, Raisa says, as she knew she came from “a small rather poor town, in a small rather poor country.” She continues, “Fifteen years ago I moved to Bucharest and since then, that desire flourished.”

Most of the time, Raisa believes she has nurtured the curious child inside her, which has largely helped her keep her head in the clouds, especially when it comes to her new projects. When she isn’t in her imaginary world of ideas and creativity, she is always keeping up with the world outside of the advertising bubble. As a self-described extrovert, who makes friends easily, Raisa considers herself lucky to be in touch with plenty of people from different backgrounds that enrich her life and experience in various ways.

When it comes to her first steps toward her current career, one can say that her inclination towards real and human stories led Raisa to take on a pretty traditional and straightforward path to advertising. “I studied communication and public relations in university, then I took a master’s degree in advertising. I was lucky again to have inspiring professors, but what I missed the most was the actual contact with ad agencies.”

“There were some years of theory and valuable information, but by the end of my studies, I knew nothing about the actual workflow and hadn’t entered the door of any agency.” This is what made Raisa deliberately look for a way into the industry - she went out in the world and did what she does best, which is establish friendships and connections. “I connected with people in the industry, asked them for advice and took the opportunities that came my way. This is how I got an internship and once I was in, I worked hard to prove myself and tried to outdo myself with each new project.” Her first internship was at Proximity BBDO in her senior year, and she looks back at the priceless lessons that the four months there with fondness. “I earned no money, but I learned tons,” she says. 

When it comes to actual money paying jobs, Raisa took her first one at the age of 19, as a promoter. “Dressed as Juliette, I shared flyers and liquid detergent samples for a couple of months. I learned how little people care about advertising, if there’s nothing in it for them.” This is also why Raisa knows that the power of kindness is key to an industry that sometimes can be alienating to both consumers and creatives and why she believes that every project that she worked on helped her ultimately become a better person and learn something new. “I created 360 campaigns for Timisoreana, Ursus, L’Oreal, Lidl, Samsung, and even a Romani restaurant. With each new project and new account, I learned things about different industries and target categories I didn’t know. I got smarter.”

“But there are some projects I’m fond of,” shares Raisa. “#22EpicNights is a 100% original audio-video project dedicated to nightlife. It’s a year-long campaign for Samsung, we launch 22 music clips shot exclusively with Galaxy S22 Ultra, at night. Besides the entertainment side, the beauty of this campaign is that it really changes someone’s path in life - the artists on this album are all young and raw, new entries on the music market, and some of them shoot their first music clip as we speak. They are all so excited. It’s still early to say if this is going to change my career somehow, but it’s going to change theirs for sure. I think that’s the juice in our job.” 

Helping others in various ways through her work is one of the driving forces in Raisa’s career. She’s most fond of those parts of her job that transcend the outline of advertising - campaigns that have a social, political or environmental impact, and those that have an honest meaning. On the flip side, the most challenging part of her day job to her also has to do with crossing imaginary lines, but this time it’s the one between clients’ needs and creative’s needs. “I think almost every client brief is written with a creative execution in mind and part of our job is to guess that execution, then to sell a better idea from scratch.”

Another challenge in adland for Raisa, or perhaps something that gets in the way, is the disparity between men and women in the industry. “When I started in this industry, I could count the women in the creative department on my fingers. Clients would ask for men copywriters only to work on their beer brands, because women wouldn’t understand mother-in-law jokes (trending topic in Romania since the ‘90s).”

“It gets me really riled up to see this become a cliché, people rolling their eyes when they hear about gender inequality and the pay gap in advertising. We’re not there yet, guys. While the needle is moving in the right direction, the lack of women at the top of the creative ladder is still a huge problem for our industry. It’s not history yet.”

For Raisa, the current trend of paying the necessary amount of attention to inclusion and solidarity in advertising is what can get this problem somewhat fixed. “Even if some clients tag along to it just to be perceived as cool brands. Even so, it takes courage to promote inclusion, to open the conversation to sensitive topics, especially in a hostile country. I’d like to see more local brands saying yes to that.” 

What frustrates her in the industry are pitches. “Not pitches per se, but the lack of transparency in their process,” says Raisa. “There are times when clients won’t reveal how many agencies were invited or any other details that might help us have a clearer view of our chances to win.” While this is happening, agencies become so competitive that to her it seems they forget they are “all tarred with the same brush, so clients take advantage of that.” This is why Raisa believes that “forgetting from time to time that there is a competition won’t kill us!”