2 Minutes With … Rachel Rakowski, Head of Gaming at We Are Social

On piecing together the marketing puzzle from many perspectives

Rachel is global head of gaming at We Are Social, leading a team of 50 experts across the agency's 19 offices. She has worked with brands like Red Bull and McLaren, as well as developers including Blizzard and Jagex. She has more than 10 years of experience spanning production, strategy, marketing, branding, monetization, partnerships, business development, esports tournament ops and game design.

We spent two minutes with Rachel to learn more about her background, her creative inspirations and recent work she's admired.

Rachel, tell us …

Where you grew up, and where you live now.

I grew up in the small town of Spring Hill, Fla., just north of Tampa. I moved to the U.K. in 2017, and I'm living by the seaside in Brighton these days. It's like Florida with its perpetual rain, but a bit more gray and occasionally snowy. 

How you first realized you were creative.

When I was very young, I could pick up anything art-related and excel at it as though I'd been doing it for years. Music and drawing came naturally. I could hear or look at something once and figure it out.

A person you idolized creatively early on.

I idolized John Williams and his incredible film scores. Having the ability to convey or evoke a specific emotion without words is a powerful tool. I wanted to understand how to harness this power to tell better stories, not just through music, but through as art, writing and marketing.

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

In college, over a two-month period, everything that could go wrong did. I nearly died, became homeless and was diagnosed with cancer. I needed to empower myself, not rely on others to get me where I wanted to be. That perseverance and determination has gotten me where I am today. 

A visual artist or band/musician you admire.

I love John Williams, Russell Brower and Joe Hisaishi. Their ability to make you feel the music and understand it on a deep level is incredible. In visual mediums, I love Paul Kwon and Yann Blomquist's conceptual art.

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

I recently read the first two books of The Kingkiller Chronicle Series by Patrick Rothfuss. It's a story about a boy named Kvothe who had to overcome adversity to become an arcanist and "master namer." It's a story I can relate to, as my own life had similar tribulations.

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

The "Drive to Win" series we created at Logitech G. Through our partnership with Playseat, we created Logitech G Edition racing seats. We featured people from all walks of life, from everyday people to professional racing drivers, and showed how they used our products to fuel their drive to win. 

A recent project you're proud of. 

Call of Duty: Soap Codes with Activision/Blizzard. We worked with the client to create an in-game soap item based on one of the beloved characters, John "Soap" MacTavish. Gamers could win this item by commenting on socials with the soap emoji.

Someone else's work that inspired you years ago. 

People buy with emotion and justify it with logic. If a piece can make me feel for the character or world I'm about to jump into, I'll almost always pick up that game or product. A great example is the Wrath of the Lich King cinematic trailer by Blizzard Entertainment.

Someone else's work you admired lately. 

"Doritos: Cancel the Crunch." The key was taking a player pain point and making Doritos the champion in overcoming that obstacle. All gamers know the pain of listening to friends chow down on snacks in the middle of a match. So, the noise cancellation technology was a genius way to get players to interact with the brand, even if they weren't purchasing the product.

Your main strength as a creative person.

I was told that being a generalist and moving around from place to place would be the death of my career. Those moves, however, have allowed me to gain first-hand experience in a variety of roles and understand how each piece contributes to the greater puzzle from a multitude of perspectives.

Your biggest weakness.

The ability to let go and let others do things their way. I've been in the games industry for so long, I have gained a strong understanding of what works and what doesn't. So, when a member of my team wants to try something out of the ordinary, it can be difficult to let them do it their way. But I've learned that if you give people the chance to impress you, they will deliver. 

A mentor that helped you navigate the industry.

Joeyray Hall has helped shape me into the person I am today. He told me that to be a great leader, I would need to understand how each person's contribution helps create a great product. I shaped my whole career around this guiding principle.

How you're paying it forward with the next generation of creatives.

The best way to pay it forward as a leader is to be empathetic, kind and create a positive environment that encourages growth. I want to set a good example by prioritizing my team's mental health and progress as individuals. I want my team to be happy, motivated to push the boundaries of the status quo and to succeed in their own right.

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

I'd likely be working for a game company leading marketing or esports.Those have always been my two greatest loves. Bonus points if it was motorsports marketing within games, as that's my specialty. 

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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