'Make work something you love': Beyond the Brief featuring J.B. Raftus, GSD&M

GSD&M chief marketing officer, J.B. Raftus

For GSD&M chief marketing officer J.B. Raftus, the imperative is finding the right clients to partner and do business with. Some of these partnerships? Southwest Airlines. Popeyes. Walgreens. Those and many other brands have trusted the agency’s knack for driving purpose-led creative—it’s Raftus’ infectious zeal that’s led the way for them, and kept him invigorated.

The Ohio native has spent over 30 years at GSD&M, first making it to group account director before a shorter stint at McKinney and a return to the Austin-based agency. He began his career in New York at Grey, right after graduating from Ohio Wesleyan and bursting out of the bubble of his small hometown of Chagrin Falls, Ohio. Safe to say that with his help over these years, GSD&M has been able to burst onto the scene as one of this industry’s most creative, family-like agencies.

A scout for the best clients—and tacos— and someone who has the backs of his colleagues, Raftus has brought a lot to his agency’s community by living beyond the brief.

If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?

I’d probably start my own shop when I didn’t know anything about advertising. Ironically, that is how GSD&M got started.

Craziest thing you’ve seen happen in a new business pitch?

We presented to the CEO of a restaurant chain at his house, without any of the day-to-day clients joining us. His wife answered the door, holding their barking dog. We schlepped the pitch team all over the house to find a TV we could project on. It was all very surreal.

Who or what influenced you to get into advertising?

A professor who scared me describing the pay in journalism.

What’s your favorite thing about your hometown? What (in)tangible thing have you taken from there?

I grew up in an absolutely idyllic small town: Chagrin Falls, Ohio. Yes, that’s a real place. We called it “the bubble” because we were so protected from the outside world. I couldn’t wait to get out, of course; I moved to NYC immediately after college. But in hindsight, it was perfect—an incredibly caring community where even though everyone knew everyone else’s business, we all had each other’s back.

What is the most spontaneous thing you’ve done lately—or ever?

Traveled to Greece without any reservations or plans once we landed.

What life advice do you give others?

Make work something you love. Then it’s not work.

And eat lots of tacos.

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.

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

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Bennett Bennett

Bennett D. Bennett is a staff writer at The Drum covering agencies, the media landscape, creativity and innovation. An NYC native, MAIP alum and City College of New York grad, Bennett previously was an award-winning copywriter at BBDO New York and lends his unique perspective and voice to The Drum's editorial staff. Previously a member of the Adcolor Advisory Board, he currently sits on the AAF's Mosaic Next-Generation Leadership Council and the 4As Steering Committee.

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