Although raised in Rome, Costanza Rossi’s creative career began in London. From day one of her first placement, she was exposed to one of the most renowned creative departments in the world – Saatchi & Saatchi London under the leadership of David Droga.
After honing her craft in art direction in London at various creative shops, she moved to Amsterdam, before returning to Italy where she has worked at Publicis for 10 years. There, she has played a key role in making the agency the second most awarded in the world, and fulfilled her passion for fashion and design, working on Diesel and Bottega Veneta.
After the pandemic, London was calling again and in September 2021 she took up her current position as head of art at Grey London, where she’s worked on a diverse range of campaigns for clients from Coca-Cola to PETA to Dole.
LBB’s Alex Reeves caught up with Costanza.
LBB> Growing up in Rome, how did you develop your sense of aesthetics and creativity more broadly?
Costanza> Growing up in the eternal city, surrounded by ancient beauty, Italians - especially those from Rome - always had a knack for aesthetics. The way we dress, the way we set the scene, architecture, landscapes, nature – it is a feast for the eye that rubs off on you. So yes, I do believe that you develop a sense of appreciation for beautiful things, whether that’s a dish, a glass, or a typeface.
LBB> Your first placement was at Saatchi & Saatchi with David Droga. What did you take from that experience?
Costanza> If I remember correctly, it was a very short time, two months max. We entered an all-white-men creative department. To think about this today is unreal. But there were some extremely talented people and within two months we saw campaigns that went on to win Lions that year. A fantastic learning curve.
LBB> Having worked in Italy, the Netherlands and the UK ad industries, how would you say the characters of these countries shape their advertising?
Costanza> The style of advertising entirely depends on the country’s culture. Design, humour, casting, location, clichés – everything depends on what resonates in local culture.
Italy is very design-oriented. We like to relish in the beauty of our country: the beauty of food, the beauty of how people look and dress. Unfortunately, we’re not good at storytelling or the use of humour. Most Italian advertising is pretty safe and uneventful. Which doesn’t mean there is no talent; it just means that the market is different from the rest.
When I lived in the Netherlands I did mostly international work, so I can’t speak much about the local advertising culture. But from what I’ve seen they have a more down-to-earth approach. A lot of realism and a good dosage of Dutch humour. I do enjoy Dutch design though, which feels like a more light-hearted version of Scandinavian design.
What I can say about the UK is that it’s the Mecca, the dreamland of advertising. It has mastered craft, emotional storytelling and has humour to die for. The UK will always be my favourite. But that doesn’t mean that great inspiration can’t come from anywhere in the world.
LBB> Why are you a head of art and not simply a creative director more generally? What do you think that role brings to an agency?
Costanza> We live in times in which the ad industry is slowly rediscovering the importance of craft. For too many years have we neglected how to elevate a great idea through execution. Design, style, photography, casting, location – all of these have a special place in my heart. I believe good craft makes the difference between mediocre and great. That doesn’t mean it has to be the best of the best in film or photography. In fact, I very much enjoy experimenting with new talent when under budget constraints. But then, obviously, I also enjoy working with the grandmasters of our industry.
I have always spent time looking for new visual talent whilst coming up with creative ideas. I believe that any agency that wants to take pride in its work needs to invest time and effort into crafting their ideas well. It makes the work more iconic and more memorable. I bet that the top five campaigns we all remember are mostly remembered for both their look and feel, as well as the idea.
LBB> What campaigns have you been most proud of in your career and why?
Costanza> I really enjoyed working for Diesel and Bottega Veneta. It might have to do with my knack for fashion and design. ‘Be a Follower
’ is certainly one of those campaigns I’m most proud of. The way we mocked the high life of influencers in favour of good old denim was super irreverent and yet smart and zeitgeisty. And working with toilet paper was really fun. Diesel ’Enjoy before Returning’ is also another campaign that set the tone for the whole industry on how far you can push a brand. And I loved the work we did for Bottega Veneta with ‘Bottega for Bottegas’. Travelling around Italy with Luca Guadagnino to visit all these beautiful Bottegas and to get in touch with their passion and craftsmanship made a lasting impression on me.
LBB> You've said that having good mentors and colleagues is key to success. Who do you particularly look up to?
Costanza> I find the world of fashion incredibly inspiring these days. Collaborations have generated much more interesting spaces for fashion brands. And therefore I would say as inspiration I lean into those figures. I would love to have a brainstorming session with Alessandro Michele and found Virgil Abloh a total visionary person crossing between fashion, art design and culture.
LBB> What have you recently been most proud of and why?
Costanza> I am extremely proud of the Coke Christmas mini-series we did last year. We managed to pull off such a massive piece of work in a super short space of time. It was the first time a brand ventured into a streaming platform. Huge efforts to get Prime Video, Imagine Entertainment and Prettybird all on board. And I’m incredibly happy with the results.
LBB> Where do you see Grey London's place in the advertising landscape right now. What are its particular strengths?
Costanza> We have come a long way in the past few years. We fixed our working culture, hired great new talent, new business is picking up and awards are coming our way too. I’m really excited about what lies ahead of us.
LBB> You're into your interior design. Who's home (famous or otherwise) should we have a nose around if we get the chance?
Costanza> Should you ever stop over in Milan, go to Dimore Studio on Via Solferino. Not a home but an out-of-this-world interior design showroom apartment in the Brera district that looks like someone’s home.