‘Ask how you can help someone else’: Beyond the Brief featuring Annie Elliott, RPA

Annie Elliott, ACD at RPA

This year’s SXSW was one of the more memorable in recent history, especially for job-hunters and their MacBooks, as LA agency RPA infiltrated their AirDrops with recruitment invitesif you got one of those, send your thanks to ACD Annie Elliott.

Innovation isn’t new to this creative and social media maven—Elliot’s first industry stint was back in 2009 with Kastner & Partners working on Red Bull. Her path has crossed through experiential, digital and traditional projects for Intuit, Honda, Chili's and Bank of America. It jetted off to the Northeast for a time to join Hill Holliday's creative staff in Boston. It's made a sharp turn south to Brazil for over a year and a half, including time as guitarist and lead singer of a 12-piece rock band, Awkward Annie.

Now, at RPA, she helps oversee creative direction on Southwest Airlines and Dole, two brands as vibrant and fun as the woman who works on them. Just like the agency she works for, Elliot is people-first in everything she does. This includes teaching at The Book Shop, a local LA portfolio school where she herself finessed her book.

The insights from these experiences and the inventiveness of her work make Elliot a creative worth keeping an eye on—at award shows and the next time you attend South-By. An insightful collaborator, this star creative knows very well how to live beyond the brief.

Everyone “hates” advertising. What do you think the world would be without it?

I don’t agree that everyone “hates” advertising. People hate bad advertising. And that’s a result of agencies and brands not putting themselves in the shoes of other people. And I think people hate being interrupted with ads that don’t appeal to them, which is why getting your message to the right people is so important. At its core, an advertisement is just a public message about products and services. So when I think of a world without advertisements, I imagine a farm or something with a self-sustaining vibe. Which is cool if you’re into that. It just makes for a less innovative business ecosystem.

Your favorite campaign (that isn’t yours) and why?

Spotify: “Thanks 2016. It’s been weird.” When I first saw this campaign, the first thing I did was look for ways to talk trash about it, because I was so jealous I hadn’t thought of it myself! Spotify managed to take something that’s typically dull like data and make it fun. The little facts told stories that anyone could relate to, all while highlighting the product itself. And it could have come across super creepy since Spotify basically points out that they have been observing you. But the whole campaign just felt so true to how Spotify does business. Providing insight based on behavior is what makes Spotify so much better than other music services. Pretty clever.

What’s your passion outside of advertising?

Travel is a huge passion of mine. I have incredible memories and a slew of friends from around the world. And language is a large part of my life. I lived in Brazil for about a year and a half during the World Cup and became fluent in Portuguese. Learning a language as an adult is a kind of rebirth. As your vocabulary grows, so does your world. You begin to understand cultural references and sayings. Language changes the way you think about how you say things. The same thought said in a new way shows how powerful words are.

What life advice do you give others?

The best life advice I can give others is to ask how you can help someone else. Living by this rule has improved every aspect of my life. In my professional life, I naturally get put into roles that play up my strengths. I was also invited to teach at The Book Shop School (for creatives who are building portfolios). Having a service attitude has taught me how to be a collaborator and now I’m building an app with 12 other people at my agency. Whatever it is you want, you have to start by giving it away. Counter-intuitive, but is a game changer.

To celebrate its 100th Anniversary, the 4A’s has partnered with us at The Drum to pull back the curtain and look at an industry full of problem solvers, creative types and analytical minds. But what keeps them going once the briefs are written, the campaigns executed, and the pitches won (or lost)? We’re interviewing 100 people at 4A’s member agencies — across all disciplines, levels, regions, and agency types — to get a glimpse into what drives them at work and what fuels them in life.

See the industry pros we're featuring here.

To pitch someone from a 4A's member agency for Beyond the Brief, please complete this linked form.

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Bennett D. Bennett

I am a NYC-based writer who calls BBDO NY home — putting copy together for major brands (and fiction for myself and others) and pushing for more inclusive, smarter work environments everywhere. I've previously sat on the ADCOLOR Advisory Board, and currently am a member of AAF's Mosaic Next-Generation Leadership Council and the 4As Steering Committee for High School Initiatives.

All by Bennett D.