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Daniel Lobatón and Aaron Starkman on Rethink’s New York Expansion

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The newly appointed CCO of Rethink NY and the agency’s global CCO speak to LBB’s Addison Capper about how jokey conversations of potentially working together gradually became more serious

Daniel Lobatón and Aaron Starkman on Rethink’s New York Expansion

It was announced last week that Rethink, the Canadian-founded independent agency known for famous campaigns like Heinz's 'Draw Ketchup’, had hired Daniel Lobatón as partner, CCO of its New York office. Rethink announced the expansion of New York last year - an addition to the 'long-hallway' that currently connects Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. 
 
Daniel joins Rethink after five years at Saatchi & Saatchi New York, where he'd held the CCO role for the past two. Born and raised in Lima, Peru, Daniel is best known for his work on Tide, such as 'It's a Tide Ad', 'Jason Alexander Hoodie', and 'Cold Callers', as well as viral TikTok hit 'Go for the Handful' for Goldfish crackers, and Tiktok's 'You Have to See It' campaign. 
 
Eager to know more about this venture and partnership, LBB's Addison Capper caught up with both Aaron and Daniel. 
 
 

LBB> It's been about a year since you announced the launch of Rethink NY. Why is now the right time to appoint a CCO? Was it about taking your time to find the right person or more a case of the office needing that role now?


Aaron> The reason why it wasn’t urgent from day one is because Rethink has been doing well as a global agency which just happens to have most of its staff in Canada. We believe geography is irrelevant when it comes to creating work that makes a global impact. We’ve done this with campaigns for Canadian clients that then run globally (for example, Heinz ‘Draw Ketchup’, Decathlon ‘Ability Signs’), as well as for our global clients (for example, IKEA, WestJet, TAZO teas).

So that’s why it wasn’t urgent. Here’s what changed. We met Daniel. I first met him when he was a guest on my podcast, IOFA. Frankly we just hit it off professionally and personally. After chatting for a few hours, he just seemed like a Rethinker - he’s kind, fun, relentless and aligned with our mission. We ran into each other again in Cannes and joked about the potential of him leading our New York office because we’re so aligned. That’s all it was. Just joking around. The more we talked the less jokey it got. We hung out some more in Cannes (Daniel, my partner Sean [McDonald] and I) and it just felt right in every way.



LBB> You have touched upon this but can you elaborate on what it is about Daniel that's the perfect fit for Rethink?


Aaron> Daniel’s work has unbelievable talk value. It’s the kind of work that forces people to start a sentence with “did you see the commercial with…?”. (“Did you see the commercial with the Jason Alexander hoodie?” or “the commercial where all ads turn into a Tide ad?”) 

Everything he’s been doing has this kind of vibe, even on the most hardworking product feature spots. That’s why I’ve been such a huge fan of his for many years.
 
 

LBB> Daniel, you've done some amazing, high-profile work during your time at Saatchi & Saatchi. What was it about the prospect at Rethink that was too good to pass up?

 
Daniel> Thank you for your kind words. As always it takes a village and I’m super proud and thankful for all the great work we’ve made with the Saatchi team over the years.
 
I’ve been a huge fan of Rethink and the team for a while now. Every time someone asked me to point out a great campaign out there it turned out it was from Rethink. The idea of learning from their culture and carrying it over to the New York market seems like an amazing brief to solve. So here we are, very excited.
 
 
 

LBB> What were your initial thoughts when you first learned of the potential opportunity?

 
Daniel> I was extremely happy. Aaron, Caleb [Goodman], Sean and myself got along really well from the very beginning. There’s some great chemistry between them and this felt right. It’s a big professional challenge for me and a different type of adventure, which I think is the right thing to do. 
 
 
 

LBB> What were your opinions on Rethink at that time?

 
Daniel> I know every creative knows ‘Draw Ketchup’, but to me the great piece of work is ‘Pour Perfectly’, when they changed the Heinz Ketchup bottle label so it is tilted at the right angle to pour. I like the confidence of that idea. An insightful product pain point turned into something anyone can understand and relate to. I'm a fan. I also think that's the idea that triggered all the amazing work that Rethink and Heinz have been doing together and that's very telling. 



LBB> Aaron, what originally pushed you to open an office in the States?


Aaron> The partners of Rethink agreed years ago that it was in the best interest of the agency to be laser focused on creating the right conditions for Rethinkers to do the best work of their careers. And as the work got more and more attention in recent years, the phone calls increased, and we found ourselves working on a lot of US and global business. So instead of having an “if you build it they will come” approach, we operated under the notion of “if they come, we will build it”. And that has certainly transpired.

 
 

LBB> Rethink has been ascending rapidly in terms of growth and international recognition. Are you hoping for the same type of trajectory in NYC? What can get in the way of this ambition?


Aaron> In order for NYC to truly succeed, we can’t be taking on accounts where the only obvious benefit is revenue. I mentioned before that we want our people to do the best work of their careers. For that to happen for Rethinkers in the New York office, we will continue working with our amazing US clients who all passionately believe that creativity impacts business results. We’re definitely not aiming to be a pitching machine. Instead, we’re going to primarily focus on putting great work out the door, and we’ll try to have fun in the process. If we do that, growth will naturally follow.
 
 
 

LBB> Saatchi & Saatchi NY is obviously part of a massive global network that is owned by an even more massive holding company. Rethink is independent. Daniel, how did this, if at all, play a role in your decision?

 
Daniel> I always listened to indie bands when growing up. That’s the New York I envisioned from Peru. So I guess I want to challenge myself to play in an indie band in New York. That feels like a great new challenge. In the early 2000s we probably would’ve named ourselves ‘The Rethinks’.
 
 
 

LBB> What is the main challenge and task laid out ahead of you? What do you hope to achieve with Rethink?

 
Daniel> One of my first bosses and mentors, Carmine Coppola, taught me very early on that the best way to look at a new agency job is to take whatever you are handed and elevate it one step. Just one. And then the next one. And then the next one. So I think right now the challenge is to clearly define what Rethink NY is and how it behaves and feels. And obviously we need to do that through the work we put out there.

 
 

LBB> Can you give us an update on your US accounts and how many staff are working on your US business?


Aaron> Right now there are 40 Rethinkers working on US business on brands like Tazo, RXBAR, Upside Foods, Molson Coors and Kraft Heinz.


 

LBB> Any parting thoughts?


Aaron> I think it’s worth saying out loud what we’ve proudly been saying in the halls of Rethink since day one. And that is: 

We’re never selling. Ever.

That’s why aggressively pursuing revenue growth isn’t in our best interests. What we are aggressively pursuing is improvement. Good things happen when you get better. And with Daniel here, we are doing that in a big way and I can’t wait for what’s ahead.

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Rethink, Mon, 21 Nov 2022 18:17:30 GMT