2 Minutes With ... Joe Baratelli, EVP and CCO at RPA

On Mick Jagger, Honda and 'Outdoor Rink'

Joe Baratelli is chief creative officer at RPA, one of the largest independent full-service agencies in the U.S. Joe has helped national brands build their businesses with memorable marketing. Such efforts include Honda, Farmers Insurance, Apartments.com, La-Z-Boy and ampm convenience stores.

He has also shaped award-winning campaigns in the public-service category, including work for TobaccoFreeCA, Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation, the Los Angeles LGBT Center and UNICEF. 

We spent two minutes with Joe to learn more about his background, creative inspirations and some recent work he's admired.

Joe, tell us...

Where you grew up, and where you live now. 

I'm from Detroit. The west side. (Those from Detroit know the distinction.) Now the Westside of Los Angeles. (That has its own distinction.) Los Angeles and Detroit always seemed similar. Both are sprawling metropolises made up of different smaller cities and destinations connected by freeways. Both cities grew up around car culture. 

How you first realized you were creative.

I never really thought about this. I guess it's always been a part of me. My mom knew the value of the arts. She went to the Ringling School of Art for Fashion Illustration. Having ideas and expressing those thoughts visually were always encouraged. Knowing techniques and ways of doing things can be taught. I knew early on there was a living to be made. Receiving encouragement from family members and instructors empowered me to believe I had the talent to pursue a creative path. 

A person you idolized creatively early on. 

Andy Warhol. A commercial artist who takes the ubiquity of current popular culture subjects and uses mass-production techniques, along with media, to push the direction of fine art, to become a reflection of society itself. His path and success intrigued me. 

A moment from high school or college that changed your life.

When I studied in Florence, I took a film class on Federico Fellini. We would go to the instructor's friend's palazzo to view and discuss. A totally different sensibility than the movies I grew up with. Uncovering layers of meaning visually. An eye-opening experience led to an appreciation of cinema in general and an anything-goes approach to storytelling. Which I apply to campaigns and projects to this day.

A visual artist or band/musician you admire. 

Mick Jagger, just for his energy, vitality, and longevity alone. We used Mick back in the '90s when creating for the VH1 brand.

The best part of that campaign was when SNL spoofed 'em.

A book, movie, TV show, or podcast you recently found inspiring. 

The Century of the Self, a turn-of-the-20th Century BBC documentary about Edward Bernays, a nephew of Sigmund Freud, and the history of public relations. That or Succession. Both are eye-opening in revealing how the world of media we've created works. Which I find inspiring. 

Your favorite fictional character. 
  • Ferris Bueller
Someone or something worth following in social media. 

Michael Wyetzner on YouTube breaking down NYC architecture for Architectural Digest.

How Covid-19 changed your life, personally or professionally. 

It pushed the technology and expectations of using teleconferencing to be the norm. Allowing people to be in two places at once. Working from anywhere has allowed me to now be "bicoastal." I've been spending more time in New York. 

One of your favorite creative projects you've ever worked on.

"Outdoor Rink," promoting the Honda sponsorship of the NHL, a spot I directed in Minneapolis. So fun to be with NHL greats. Hall of Famers Pat LaFontaine, Mike Richter and Minnesota local Neal Broten and a bunch of kids on an open sheet of ice. 

A recent project you're proud of. 

"Forever Determined," shows Honda special history and their never-ending drive to take on challenges. 

Someone else's work that inspired you years ago. 

"How Many Licks," starring Mr. Owl for Tootsie Roll Tootsie Pop. That spot still runs today. I'm such a fan, this is my key to the Brooklyn apartment. 

Someone else’s work you admired lately.

The "Everything is Broccoli" in Las Vegas commercial. Great casting.

Your main strength as a creative person. 

Offering creative solutions, no matter the problem. Not just creative development, but offering unique ways to look at business and operations issues as well.

Your biggest weakness. 


One thing that always makes you happy. 

Taking shoes off at the end of a hard day. 

One thing that always makes you sad. 

Hearing about people, especially kids with health problems, having to deal with complicated healthcare. One of our agency's passions is to bring some hope and optimism to these issues.

What you'd be doing if you weren't in advertising.

Living in a cabin near a river, fishing, tending a garden and chopping wood for fuel.

2 Minutes With is our regular interview series where we chat with creatives about their backgrounds, creative inspirations, work they admire and more. For more about 2 Minutes With, or to be considered for the series, please get in touch.

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Jessica MacAulay
Jessica MacAulay is a contributor for Muse by Clio. She's also a recent graduate of the University of Colorado Boulder's College of Media, Communication, and Information.

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