“The pandemic is the biggest digital disruptor” – these are the very first words from Raffy Bariso when we chatted with him on the #MARKETECHMondays interview.
Raffy is currently the executive director for Technology and Platform Services or TAPS, the digital unit of integrated marketing communications agency MullenLowe Treyna in the Philippines; and with the pandemic pivoting everything to digital, the word “busy” has taken a whole ‘nother meaning, with Raffy disclaiming, “busy but rewarding.”
Raffy’s entry into tech and digital has been a straightforward path, starting out as an account executive for a website back in 2004. The journey may not have been dotted with exhilarating career turns that are straight out of the movies, but still can be said to be a work of fate, with the field not being Raffy’s well-intended path.
As a communications major, he desired working for the big names – the multinational agencies in the creative industry – but with little luck, took his first professional gig in the area of digital within a boutique agency; and from there, his expertise grew.
By 2010, he was taking on a senior managerial position for digital projects, and that’s when a former boss peddled his services to MullenLowe, eventually moving into a consultant role for a campaign on food seasoning brand Knorr. MullenLowe Treyna was one of the multinational agencies that invested in building a digital team, and when he started working fully for the firm in 2011, his work spanned creatives, digital media, and social media marketing.
Now at TAPS, he heads its services, which is mainly the use of creative technology to answer clients’ marketing challenges, coming up with products that leverage on the firm’s expertise in strategic narrative, content and media, PR, activations, and production.
Armed with an omnibus of experience in digital 15 years after, he goes on to share his most fulfilling campaigns, his definition of success and failure, his creative heroes, and how he manages a team landscape that has more profound generational differences than ever.
Value-led campaigns under his belt: Knorr and 7-11
For Raffy, the most remarkable campaigns he did were those that advocated and fronted social values.
Most recently, he worked on a family-oriented campaign for Knorr – a short film called “Kanya, Kanya” which means “being on one’s own.” The project was close to Raffy’s heart as it brought the message of togetherness despite circumstances that may cause a family to take space and time apart.
“[It’s about] how sometimes [being] exposed to a lot of technology, and the [pandemic], sorts of divide the family; but [that] at the end of the day, your family can bring comfort, and that comfort can come from like a food, lovingly prepared by your loved ones, or your friends,” said Raffy.
Another remarkable project is that of convenience store chain 7-11, which he revealed as “one of the highlights of my career.” The campaign was launched at the time of the presidential elections in the Philippines in 2016, and with the use of the famous self-service Gulp cups from the brand, the campaign intended to inspire citizens the importance of voting.
With the candidates’ images printed on the cups, the store chain ran an informal vote canvassing, called “Gulpihan sa 7-11,” with the Gulp integrated to the word which means “Fight.”
Raffy said, “My involvement was more on helping us react to the country that was being divided by the elections. This was Gulpihan sa 7-Eleven.”
“It was important for the mere fact that we wanted to encourage people to vote instead of being undecided. We won awards both internationally and locally.”
His creatives hero: the mentor who reframes challenges into solutions
Not everybody is able to name on top of their heads a particular mentor, with most owing their inspiration to a multitude of exemplary individuals. Though not entirely an exception, with Raffy looking up to a number of female leaders, it was clear-cut – his biggest mentor of them all is MullenLowe’s chief product consultant, and formerly president Leigh Reyes.
“I’ve been in the industry for 15 years, and I’ve been blessed being in the same breathing space with a lot of advertising legends, but I think out of all of them, Leigh Reyes would be the person that had the most impact in my career, and actually my personal life.”
According to Raffy, in every meeting that Leigh would be present in, one is able to get a lot of value from such simple interaction.
“What makes her great for me is her generosity as a leader. A lot of the marketing principles that I’ve learned would have to come from her.”
“[During meetings], the way she reframes arguments and challenges, and comes up with solutions, [which] she can put together in a stack, in a new technology. ”
Raffy further said, “When she was inducted into the Creative Guild Hall of Fame in 2015, she said something about being generous with your ideas, [and] that by doing so, you let other people shine, and this reflects back to the whole team and industry.”
Failure for him is, “Everytime I do not apply myself.”
As if Raffy’s creative credentials in digital and tech isn’t enough to call him multi-talented, there comes the history of his passion for the performing arts. He said that for him, failure is when every time he’s not able to apply his passions.
Back in his college days, Raffy actively pursued singing, dancing and scriptwriting, and even described his experiences as that of theatrical series Glee.
“Categorically, I cannot say there are any [failures] that [qualify] as great; however, I failed at pursuing other interests like doing performance arts, scriptwriting, or simply pursuing a career overseas.”
His other passions may have taken a pause, but only for the reason that he already found one of his great loves: advertising.
“[The] opportunities I’ve turned down in the past, I realize [I’ve done them] because I enjoy what I am doing in advertising.”
“So the best thing for me [now] is to maximize my time in learning from everyone I work with, so that I can create opportunities that can help further my contribution in the agency.”
For the great success on the other hand, Raffy said it would be his tenure and post in MullenLowe.
“I have been here for almost 10 years and so much has changed. MullenLowe Treyna has given me a room to grow and maximize my potential, so staying around has been an easy decision.”
Raffy as a leader in a youth-dominated field of digital
Raffy describes his team as “most being really young, and in their early 20’s.”
He shared what he loves about Gen Z’s: “They really seek out mentorship, and information, and want to have that kind of high-touch interaction with you. And I think, I feel pretty privileged that I get [to have that kind of interaction].
Raffy says he considers himself a little green on the job, as only prior to two years ago on his appointment as digital lead at MullenLowe, he was used to working alone.
“[Stepping into the position], there’s a side of me that I’ve already known, and just sort of confirming those things for me; and there are portions of myself [as a leader] that I have come to discover.”
Even in the mid of achieving full growth into the senior role, Raffy abides by his approach that centers around “vision.”
His personal mantra is that of American author Seth Godin, which goes, “The secret of leadership is simple: do what you believe in. paint a picture of the future. go there. people will follow.”
Raffy said, “I had to set [a] vision for my team. [This] sets the tone and direction for everybody, and [from them], I have to sell that vision, [so that] I can build that trust, and they can get behind my goals.”
He also upholds that sense of responsibility for his team, to nurture their talents, because he believes “it starts from the top.”
“Let me tell you first that I am not perfect. It is easier to spot the mistakes, and call them out; but as they happen, you should reflect if there are bad habits that you tend to pass down to your team.”
“When you see them able to stand on their own during meetings, execute decisions without you, failing and learning from their own mistakes. That’s a moment.”
Watch the full video of this interview on our YouTube channel, going live today at 6:30 pm PST.
If you’re a marketing leader and you want to share your career experience to inspire the marketing industry, please reach out, we want to hear your story.